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Christmas Eve and Day

Started by Donald_Kirchner, December 24, 2014, 11:53:04 AM

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Don Kirchner

"Heaven's OK, but it's not the end of the world." Jeff Gibbs


"Just Like One of Us"

They came up the hillside panting with eagerness and effort. They stumbled over the roots of the olive trees and bumped against stones, but they kept together and made their way by the starlight that glittered down through the scudding clouds. Many a night spent searching for sheep that had burst through the thorn hedge or for an ewe that had got lost among the wilderness of stones, had taught them the art of moving in the dark.

That night it was something else that drove them, something the like of which they had never experienced. Their thoughts were in a ferment and when they spoke of it, the words came tumbling and stumbling like their feet. It was too much all at once: the light that had been brighter than daylight and yet not daylight; the splendor that had penetrated right through them and made them feel the most miserable of sinners, just because it was so indescribably splendid. And then he was standing there speaking to them in a voice that was like all the consolation in the scriptures and all the promises of the Most High, put together, as sweet as the footsteps of the messenger who comes across the hills bringing good news, and full of the jubilation into which the mountains burst when the Lord comforts his people and takes pity on them in their distress.

He had announced the best, most joyful news there could be, that the Messiah had been born up there in David's city. At that moment the heavens were filled with the jubilation of the hosts, there was rushing and sparkle and singing, a brightness and resonance and splendor that no words could describe.

In so much that was beyond their comprehension there was one thing at least that they could understand. That was the sign that he had spoken of, the sign that God had given them as a seal on it all. It was that which they were now on their way to see: the child they were to find, newly born, swaddled and lying in a manger.

They reached the path that followed a long stone wall and after that it was easy to find their way. That wall was the facing of one of the many terraces with fields that ringed the town, and it was in those fields that Ruth once gleaned, as it was written in the scriptures and as every child in Bethlehem had heard its father tell. She was a Moabite, Ruth, and yet she became King David's ancestral mother. That was strange. Did not the scriptures say that a man who was circumcised should never have intercourse with a foreign woman? But if the Messiah had been born that night of David's line, then that made him the Messiah of the unclean and the despised as well.

They had reached the big open space by the north-east comer of the town. The houses ahead of them lay dark and silent, but there was a light in one of the grottos in the rock, the flickering light of an oil lamp. That was most unusual.

The shepherds knew the grotto well. They had driven their animals in and out of it innumerable times. Ordinarily, the opening beneath that outcrop of rock was black and dark and the door in the semi-high stone was kept shut. Now the door stood ajar and the light was falling through the gap.

They did not find the explanation until they stepped in under the vault of rock. There were people there that night, evidently poor wayfarers who had been turned out of the inn. They had lit an oil lamp which stood in a niche in the rock. The flame was scarcely more than a wan little globule at the very end of the lamp's beak, but it shone brightly enough for men with eyes accustomed to the dark. In a glance they saw the whole scene: the pale face of the woman leaning back on the straw and looking at them with kindly eyes, the man straightening up from the wretched little bundle in which he had been rummaging, the animals in the corner looking at the light with big unfathomable eyes, and then the child, the sign that they had been promised they should see and which now lay there before their eyes.

Awkwardly they stood there looking. The baby lay tightly swaddled as all infants are, a little new born human being, bedded on straw in the stone manger that was hewn out of the rock, right in under the
roof on the left.

The woman was still regarding them with the same confident, good gaze. Stammering, they began to tell their story. It' sounded so extraordinary and they could scarcely get it out, feeling that they were bound to be laughed at. But the woman nodded slowly as though she understood, and they felt encouraged and spoke more freely. Then some strangers came in who seemed to be, friends of the husband,, and they told them as well all that they had heard that night. They were diffident no longer. They had recovered their initial enthusiasm. They saw great amazement on the others' faces, amazement but not derision. And the woman's eyes were wise and good.

They felt strangely at ease there. The damp straw, the droppings on the floor, the smell of the animals and the chill from the night outside-it was their own poor world. And in the midst of all this poverty was the sign that had been promised them. Amazed and happy, with hushed voices and fumbling tenderness, they gathered round the manger.

'Just like one of us,' said the eldest of them.

Then they had to go back to their animals. As they walked away between the big trees outside the grotto, they again thought of something strange. It was said that this was the place where Samuel held a sacrificial feast with Isai and his sons; that it was here he had poured oil over David's head and anointed him king. This, then, was where the glory of David's house had begun, and here it was that he who was to be the last and greatest of all the rulers on David's throne, had been born that night.

So they praised God and they sang the prophet Micah's song about Bethlehem-Ephratah, the song that every child in Bethlehem knew by heart. And when their shrill, hoarse voices reached the part where it

'Therefore will he give them up, until the time that She which travaileth hath brought forth . . .'

They burst out into fresh praises. They considered themselves lucky in having been able to see what Isaiah had foretold: 'for unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given': and most of all they praised God that he who should be called Wonderful Counsellor and Mighty God had come just as one of them, as poor and forgotten as the meanest of his brothers in Israel."

Bo Giertz, "With My Own Eyes: A Life of Jesus," translated by Maurice Michael (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1960), pgs. 23-24.

A blessed Feast of the Nativity to all!
Don Kirchner

"Heaven's OK, but it's not the end of the world." Jeff Gibbs


And for Christmas Day, what my pastor, Rev. Lee Maxwell, stated, "This is what a Christmas Day service should be like!"

Praetorius: "Mass For Christmas Morning"

Don Kirchner

"Heaven's OK, but it's not the end of the world." Jeff Gibbs

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