Advent Devotional: Christmas Eve
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness –
on them light has shined.
For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His authority shall grow continually,
and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time onwards and for evermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
– Isaiah 9:2, 6-7
Glory to God in the highest! God is born in human flesh. The world will never be the same.
This is a night of celebration and of joy. But sometimes no matter the tone of the liturgy, the pageantry, and the twinkle of candlelight that fills the sanctuary, our hearts are not light.
I don’t know why, but I know I’m not the only one who cannot help but grieve on Christmas Eve. It’s a complicated day, filled with laughter and memories, and for so many, a deep longing for those who no longer sit at the dinner table and take up space on our crowded church pews. I have a special vantage point from where I stand on Christmas Eve; I watch you light your candles carefully from your neighbor, I see the looks you exchange with your families, I see some of you wipe away tears as the lyrics of “Silent Night” catch in your throat. I want you to know, you are not alone.
You are not only surrounded by those who probably struggle with the same complicated emotions, but you are loved by a God who cares deeply for broken hearts and broken people. The Christ child came into a fractured world, full of darkness, cold hearts, and apathy. He is Emmanuel – God with us, ONE OF US, with us in a concrete, tangible, way, that even Isaiah couldn’t have predicted.
In the Christmas hymn, O Holy Night, there is a line that speaks to my very soul: “A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.”
Every year at Christmas Eve, I remember two women who joined the church triumphant much too soon, one on the cusp of adulthood, one after a dozen grandchildren and great grandchildren. They both demonstrated such faith in the face of terminal cancer, and certainty for the new life to come, that it changed my own relationship with Christ. They put the “thrill of hope” back in my faith, reminding me that Christ has promised eternal life and that we are loved beyond what our human brains can grasp.
This evening offers a thrill of hope to all. Hope that in whatever darkness the world faces, Christ will shine his light. Hope that whenever hate rears its ugly head, his followers will reflect his love.
Tonight, remember that God entered the world just as we all did, a helpless child of woman. Remember that despite our luxury and the decorations that we surround ourselves with that the world was changed in a dirty stable with only livestock and a very poor unwed couple to witness it.
And if you are one of the many who is grieving, remember that God’s first action upon entering our world in the flesh was to cry out, and with his tears and ours comes the thrill of hope for God’s kingdom to come. Praise be to Christ, our newborn king.
Rev. Kelly Staples