Christmas Eve is my favorite. There is something about the anticipation that captures my imagination. In my mind, the shepherds and the angels got to Bethlehem tonight. I realize that if Christmas is the day Jesus was born, there was no baby there tonight. But years of Christmas Eve service with its candles and carols, choirs and manger scenes have convinced me that tonight the sky will be filled with the impossible light that signals the arrival of God's ultimate gift. Tonight is magical, in the very best sense of the word. Magical as in Magi and people who follow a star that leads them to a surprise. Not what they expect to find. The magic that is a quiet moment in the night, a still piece of the year when everything stops to breathe and remembers an ancient story of love so surprising we can't really grasp it and must take it in small doses of understanding. Does it really matter what day of the year we choose to stop in this moment? If I were a wiseman (man as in mankind, a species not a gender), I would choose every moment of my life to remember. But I am more of a shepherd, needing the direct order of an angel, than a king from afar who follows a star. And tonight, the angel tells me to fear not. I and my sheep (unruly thoughts, in my case) are headed for Bethlehem.
Some think Christmas has gotten out of hand. That it belongs to the admen (more species) and the greedy. Since, for the most part, I have the liberty of choosing the world I live in none of that bothers me. Keeping the Christ in Christmas, for me, has nothing to do with what words we say at this holiday, or what colors are displayed in schools or stores. I'm pretty sure Jesus had neither decorated tree nor candy canes in his stable. It has a lot to do with treating people with respect. It has a lot to do with loving this holy day myself without insisting everyone else must love it, too. A sidebar...why would we want to keep Christ in Christmas? Christ is beyond a holiday, beyond the dogma of any church, beyond the tiny fragment of insight that I can muster. End of sidebar.
Tonight when we light the candles and sing silent night, there will be magic. When the organ stops and only voices are raised, I know I will arrive at the manger. I will stand beside my mom as she spends her first Christmas without my dad, and by Bob who has stood beside me every Christmas since we were teenagers. Babies will be there tonight with parents who are seeing the story in a whole new light. There will be children who hear the story with an acceptance that any theologian would envy. The magic will happen because the story is about love and hope and peace. The miracle this world needs so desperately. What I need most of all. It won't make sense by the standards of logic. Whether I call it a miracle or magic is semantics. God works magic, and it is miraculous. May hearts be filled with peace and hope and love. This night and all nights.