December 25, 2016
4pm and 6pm at Saint Mary’s, Pylesville
10am at Saint Matthew’s, Baltimore
When Night Ends
There is a story that some centuries ago, a wise old rabbi asked his students how they could tell when night had ended and day was on its way back.
One student responded, “Could it be when you see an animal in the distance and can tell whether it is a sheep or a dog?” The old rabbi answered, “No!”
Then another student chimed in, “Could it be when you see a tree in the distance and can tell whether it is a fig tree or a pear tree?” And again the old rabbi shook his head, “No!”
The students were now becoming frustrated. One of them called out, “Well, then, when is it?”
The old rabbi responded, “It is when you look on the face of any man or woman and see that she or he is your brother or sister. Because if you cannot do that, then no matter what time it is, for you it is still night.”
O Holy Night
Well, on Christmas, we celebrate a very special night.
We sing, in that beautiful Christmas carol, O Holy Night. And we call it Holy because what happens on this night is intended to mark the end of night.
The birth of Jesus Christ is the moment when “day is on its way back,” to use the words of the wise, old rabbi. I see this happening in several ways.
Day Returns: Brothers and Sisters
First, the infant in Bethlehem embraces all human beings.
It is significant that the child attracts and reaches out to the poor, lower-class, uneducated shepherds. And he attracts and reaches out to the affluent, upper-class, educated wise men.
With his outstretched arms, Jesus sees everyone as brother and sister. And so, with him, the day is on its way back when we see our oneness with all other persons – be they refugees fleeing persecution or persons with a different political opinion or family members from whom we are alienated.
The Christmas carol O Holy Night invites us to look on the face of others and see that they are our brothers and sisters. Just think of the words:
“Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His Gospel is peace.”
Day Returns: Self-Worth
And then the infant in Bethlehem affirms our worth as persons.
God, taking on our humanity in Jesus, proclaims our inherent value as human beings. No longer do we need to question our self-worth.
The birth of Jesus has so fused the human with the divine that the night of a diminished sense of self is over. The day has come to feel assured of our own value as persons.
And again, the Christmas carol O Holy Night conveys this. Just think of the words:
“Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth – the soul felt its worth”
Day Returns: Hope
And finally, the infant in Bethlehem gives us hope.
Sometimes we can grow weary trying to keep up with the stresses of everyday life. Sometimes we can grow weary as we look at the problems facing our country and our world.
In the midst of this, the infant offers us the hope of “Emmanuel,” a name which means “God is with us.” He offers us the assurance of sustaining us through each minute of “night” until “day” starts to come back.
And again, the Christmas carol O Holy Night lifts up this hope. Just think of the words:
“A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.”
So, the night begins to end and the day is on its way back.
We can experience this shift because of the infant in Bethlehem. No wonder we sing:
“O holy night, the stars are brightly shining;
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth!”