Scripture: Isaiah 9:2-3, 6-7 (NRSV)The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined. You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder. For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
Reflection:I was seven years old when my parents first let me go to the 11 p.m. Christmas Eve service. As we walked out of church with our candles burning singing Silent Night, the snow gently fell. It was a quiet and beautiful night filled with wonder and love.
I often think of that experience and the eagerness, joy and peace I felt that evening. I can still picture how the light of the candles looked on peoples’ faces and how I felt connected to each person present there that night.
In the Christmas story, we hear about a magnificent light, Jesus, who entered into a sad world – one where individuals were left out and marginalized and where people often felt hopeless. Often times, the sadness, destruction, violence, challenges and injustice in our world and in our lives can overwhelm us, and we can become depleted and hopeless. But, if we really think about it, without the challenges, hope feels superficial. We rarely pray with fervor or cling to hope when things are going well. Rather, as the apostle Paul writes, “Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”
So, we come to worship on Christmas Eve, knowing the story of a birth so long ago, and remembering it through word and music. This ancient and unchanging story gives comfort in a shifting and often gloomy world. Despite the changes in our lives, this story stays the same – with the same characters, the same plot line, the same point. This ancient and unchanging story gives comfort and hope even when our lives and the world seem unsettling.
We come to worship on Christmas Eve, knowing that God’s story is our story. We do not venture on this journey alone, no matter how difficult parts of the journey are. There is no guarantee for a life without hardship and challenge, but we do get reassurance of God’s abiding love, amazing grace and light to show the way.
Christmas is a time when we come to light candles to remind us that Jesus, the greatest light of all, has entered our world again. May our candles shining brightly in our faces remind us of our call to live like Jesus and welcome the children, love the outcast and build the beloved community.
Compassionate Creator, during this holy season, help us to notice the beauty around us and to give thanks for the blessings you have bestowed upon us. May the familiarity of the Christmas story comfort and inspire us to be filled with eagerness, love and wonder. Amen.
Rev. Kate VanDerzee-Glidden is the associate pastor at the First Church of Christ, Congregational, in Glastonbury.