One of the carols people like to sing, especially at the Midnight mass begins with the words:
“It came upon the midnight clear.”
My friend Bruce Prewer has a few lines inspired by this that can spark some important Christmas Eve thoughts for us:
It came upon the midnight clear
the groans and screams of a woman in labour,
the travail of a new type of human race being born,
and then the crying of the new born baby.
The birth of this baby marked a change in the nature of life on this planet. It was a wonderful night – not without pain and suffering, but a night that brought to birth the brightest of human hopes; that this God among us would enable us to be saved from all the worst that humanity can be.
We know what the worst of humanity can be like and we know that even while we sing carols about “peace on earth and goodwill towards all humanity” many of our brothers and sisters are suffering at the hands of cruel dictatorships, or the madness of civil war and others are left with far too little food, water and medical supplies to keep themselves healthy.
Things were little different on the dark midnight long ago. Caesar and Herod ruled Palestine with an iron fist, a generation later, Herod, Pilate and Caiaphus kept the people cowered under their rods of wealth and power.
So what happened in the birth of this baby that changed the nature of life on our planet? Well a short sentence in Titus 2 – verse 11 – says it all for us:
For the grace of God has appeared
that offers salvation to all people.
The birth of this baby – Jesus – is remarkable for two things; it shows us a God who comes among us as one of us; and the life and teachings of this Jesus calls us all into new ways of living in relationship with our God and Father.
It is this that transforms us and the communities in which we live. It is in this transformation that we are saved from the worst that humanity can be.
And while we know that not everyone has experienced this transformation – how else can we explain the terrible things that still happen in our world – what we do know is that in the same way that a small amount of yeast can turn the world’s largest scone into soft white bread, so a few transformed lives have the power to transform the society in which they live.
So what is happening in this midnight hour is that a bright light is ushered into the darkness of our life on this planet – and when a light shines in the darkness, the darkness goes away; it cannot exist.
This is what we celebrate. This is why we sing Alleluias. May you carry this joy with you today and always. AMEN.