“When a profound silence covered all things and night was in the middle of its course, your all-powerful Word, O Lord, bounded from heaven’s royal throne.” (Wisdom 18)
Imagine that the year is 1250 – almost 800 years ago. It’s Christmas eve and the Abbess and founder of the Poor Clares, she who will become St. Clare of Assisi, lies ill in bed at the convent in Assisi. She is alone. She has sent all the other Sisters – even those who were taking care of her – to the chapel to attend the Christmas midnight mass.
It was then – as now – a special time and St. Clare wanted all of the sisters to be there. St. Clare prayed to God that he keep his promise always to be with her. Suddenly the wall of her small cell became what we would now call a large screen TV and there in front of her, St. Clare saw and was able to attend in a special way the midnight mass at which she so longed to be present.
You might say it was the first televised midnight mass. And it is for this reason that St.Clare is the patron saint of television and why she is sometimes portrayed with a TV set at her feet. God was faithful to his promise to be with St. Clare – and in a most spectacular way. But God has promised us all that he will always be with us.
But this is the night the promises made by God to the Jewish people and to Mary are fulfilled with the birth of a child in the village of Bethlehem. And in the midst of this most holy night the world springs to new life with the promise of joy and peace that this birth announces.
One writer described this holy night as one in which we want to wrap ourselves up in the glow created by the good tidings, beautiful decorations and delicious treats. All these take time to do and perhaps we won’t get everything done.
Our Christmas cards may not have gone out on time or maybe not at all and perhaps this season of Advent was not always well spent preparing for this special birthday.
But the Christ Child does not mind. He will be here whether we took the time to invite him or not. And he comes on this his birthday bringing wonderful gifts – gifts of peace, love and forgiveness – for us to unwrap.
Even if we spent the past four weeks of Advent lamenting the crass commercialism our society has made of Christmas, and generally being so stressed out that we become grouches – like the grinch who stole Christmas – even if these are true, the Christ Child does not care. He will still be here.
You see, God fulfills his promise whether we put up a tree, a crib, a stocking, or nothing at all; whether we will spend this Christmas in a place decorated to the rafters with cedar boughs and velvet ribbons or in a bare room.
In fulfillment of God’s promise, the Christ Child comes to every one of us – no matter what our situation – whether we will be with family or friends or by ourselves – the Christ Child comes to us –we will not be alone.
And he brings us a message. A message which says that:
Christ is born this day not just to save us from our sin, our greed, our pride, and all the failings we recognize in ourselves and those around us. Christ is also born to save us for a life of eternal joy, a life that we will one day in the fullness of time understand and appreciate.
The joy and peace of our Christmas day is really meant to be but a taste of that time to come.
God has fulfilled his promise, let us fulfill ours to him by accepting the message of the new born child. Christ tells us that love is better than hate, peace is better than war, and that happiness awaits those who follow love and peace.
As St. Basil wrote many centuries ago – “Let us dance with the angels and sing, today a Saviour has been born to us.”