This afternoon the hustle and bustle of Advent will draw to a hushed close, the calm ahead of the joyous celebration of Christmas. Weary shopkeepers will dim their lights and lock up. By nightfall, the streets will be mostly quiet, except those approaching churches, many of which will be standing-room-only on a holy night. Even those who seldom - or ever - attend church are drawn to feel the power of the real news of Christmas Eve.
For some, this night is a crushing reminder of those who have passed on and now sit at the right hand of the Lord. Christmas is, of course, a glorious celebration of the birth of the King of Kings, but more important it is a celebration of the comfort we should draw from Christ's continuing presence in our lives. We share in the joyous exchange of gifts in humble remembrance of the gifts brought to the baby Jesus by the Wise Men, in thanks to God for His great gift to us.
As friends and family gather in celebration and neighborhoods are blanketed with the sounds of silence, let us especially remember our brave and dedicated troops abroad, who work for hope and peace in troubled lands, as well as the families who wait for them at home. And let us also remember the least among us, who desperately need hope and peace in their lives.
We pray there is no news tonight, this Christmas Eve, save the story of the most humble beginnings of the One who the prophets said would come, whose birth we celebrate on Christmas. As the hour draws near, the stars will rise on a silent, holy night.
"And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.'
"And ... the shepherds said one to another, 'Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.' And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger."