Silent Night, Holy Night
Son of God, oh how laughs
Love out of your divine mouth,
For now the hour of salvation strikes for us.
Christ, in Thy birth!
Christ, in Thy birth
[original words by Joseph Mohr, 1816/1818]
Author and poet Kathleen Norris acknowledges the exhaustion many of us feel after “we scurry for weeks, baking, shopping, working extra hours, rehearsing and presenting Christmas pageants.” She believes, however, that it is in admitting our weariness that we find hope:
“It is not merely the birth of Jesus we celebrate [now] although we recall it joyfully, in song and story. The feast of the Incarnation invites us to also celebrate Jesus’ death, resurrection, and coming again in glory. It is our salvation story, and all of creation is invited to dance, sing, and feast. But we are so exhausted. How is it possible to bridge the gap between our sorry reality and the glad, grateful recognition of the Incarnation as the mainstay of our faith? We might begin by acknowledging that if we have neglected the spiritual call of Advent for yet another year and have allowed ourselves to become thoroughly frazzled by December 24, all is not lost. We are, in fact, in very good shape for Christmas.
It is precisely because we are weary, and poor in spirit, that God can touch us with hope. This is not an easy truth. It means that we do accept our common lot and take up our share of the cross. It means that we do not gloss over the evils we confront every day, both within ourselves and without. Our sacrifices may be great. But as the martyred archbishop of El Salvador, Oscar Romero, once said, it is only the poor and hungry, those who know they need someone to come on their behalf, who can celebrate Christmas.
[At Christmas] we are asked to acknowledge that the world we have made is in darkness. We are asked to be attentive and keep vigil for the light of Christ. . .. We, and our world, are broken. Even our homes have become places of physical and psychological violence. It is only God, through Jesus Christ, who can make us whole again.
The prophecy of Isaiah [62:1–5] allows us to imagine a time when God’s promise will be fulfilled, and we will no longer be desolate, or forsaken, but found, and beloved of God. We find a note of hope also in the Gospel of Matthew [1:1–17]. In the long list of Jesus’ forebears, we find the whole range of humanity: not only God’s faithful, but adulterers, murderers, rebels, conspirators, transgressors of all sorts, both the fearful and the bold. And yet God’s purpose is not thwarted. In Jesus Christ, God turns even human dysfunction to the good.
The genealogy of Jesus reveals that God chooses to work with us as we are, using our weaknesses, even more than our strengths, to fulfill the divine purpose. . .. In a world as cold and cruel and unjust as it was at the time of Jesus’ birth in a stable, we desire something better. And in desiring it, we come to believe that it is possible. We await its coming in hope.
Kathleen Norris, “Christmas Eve Vigil” in God with Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Christmas
Loving God, you fill all things with a fullness and hope
that we can never comprehend.
Thank you for leading us into a time
where more of reality is being unveiled for us all to see.
We pray that you will take away our natural temptation
for cynicism, denial, fear and despair.
Help us have the courage to awaken to greater truth, greater humility,
and greater care for one another.
May we place our hope in what matters
and what lasts,
trusting in your eternal presence and love.
Listen to our hearts’ longings
for the healing of our suffering world .