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The angel said, “Don’t be afraid.  I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody worldwide:  A Saviour has just been born in David’s town (Luke 2: 10-11 from The Message Bible)

Merry Christmas to you!  May you know the peace and hope found in the birth of Jesus Christ and may that same peace and hope guide you through the new year.

In the relatively new hymnal of the Anglican Church of Canada, Sing a New Creation, there is a hymn entitled Holy Child Within the Manger.  It was written by Marty Haugen but because it is a Christmas Hymn, it probably does not garner a lot of attention as it tries to elbow its way into the long list of traditional carols of Advent and Christmas. It is hard to push aside O Come O Come Emmanuel or Silent Night to make room for something new.  But if you do come across this hymn, take a moment to read through the words. I find them quite striking:

                                                                           Once again we tell the story

                                                                        How your love for us was shown,

When the image of your glory 

Wore an image like our own

Come enlighten with your wisdom,

Come and fill us with your grace.

May the fire of your compassion

Kindle every land and race

Our Advent preparations and our Christmas celebrations focus on spiritual transformation. With all the other festivities and celebrations taking place at this time of year, we often we lose sight of this. This is a time not wrapped up in gifts and glitter but really about a child wrapped in swaddling clothes who will show us a new way to live and to see the world.  This child will challenge all that we do and how we walk on this planet.  This child will awaken our relationship with the One who first breathed life into us and the entire earth.  This child indeed will enlighten us with a wisdom that is beyond our daily routines to touch on the deepest purposes: centering our lives on the grace and compassion of God.

On a wintry and dark night, I was driving to one of the churches that was part of the three churches that made up my first parish.  It was Christmas Eve, it was cold, it was snowing, and the roads were rather slippery.  This church was found on a quiet country lane, where there were few homes as the church was surrounded by fields for growing crops.  No streetlights here to help guide the way as I drove along.  The thick and heavy darkness felt oppressive as I was trying to keep to the road with my headlights guiding me as best as they could.  Eventually I was able to see light shining out from the windows of the church.  A light of welcome, to be sure, but it felt more than that.  It was light pushing back darkness of all kinds.  Other headlights were soon seen on that same road as others were arriving to sing the familiar carols, to give thanks for the birth of Jesus, to celebrate the true light coming into the world.  The lights of that church seemed to be a beacon of recognition of the incarnation of God; that indeed even in the deepest of darknesses the light and hope of God can be seen and known.  We need to hear this message amongst all else we will hear at this Christmastide.  That indeed the light has come: the light of all people.

Christmas is about pausing in our busy lives to reflect upon why the Christ child came to us. It is a pause button in our world to remind us that God is not distant or far removed from us but known in our midst. The birth of Jesus was God’s ultimate sign of Emmanuel or God with us.  

How do we live our lives differently because a child has been born for us?  How are we changed because a child is born who will grow up only to be killed but will rise again?  How are we transformed by the good news that God calls us beloved and seeks for us to come closer?

From the hymn, Holy Child Within the Manger:  

                                In our lives and in our living

                                Give us strength to live as you,

                                That our hearts might be forgiving

                                And our spirits strong and true.

May your Christmas celebrations be filled with the true coming of Christ into this world, into our thinking and into our living.  Peace and hope to you.


IMAGE: Angels, the heavenly host fill the sky proclaiming the birth of Christ 

iStock 853486836

Credit: Olga Ptashko