O Holy Night
Christmas Eve, 2020
Rev. Patricia Wagner
We have been waiting for this night all year, this holy night, when the world will come right, if only for a moment, the weeping will cease, and the warring will pause, and grief will abate.
When heaven’s peace, like snow will blanket the earth. And hospital corridors and corridors of power and prisons of misery and streets of protest, and those who’ve filled all these will know peace, for a night.
When their and our souls will be in synch with the rhythm of the holy from which we come and to which we return, as so many have this year.
My soul magnifies the Lord, just sang the Morgan three, sang Mary, in this passageattributed to a woman who took angelic word as truth. That she, young and poor and lowly caste was the locus of the creative power of the universe.
The power who scatters the proud in the conceit of their hearts, brings down the mighty, exhaults the humble, and fills the hungry with good things.
That reversal, that righting of the universe is the Lord’s intention, as manifest in the Savior of us all, born in humility.
We are all this holy night, brought down, to the place our souls, perhaps unknown to us, want to be.
Rev. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, pastor, teacher, theologian, was in Tegal prison, in Germany 75 years ago this Christmas
for supporting a conspiracy to end the life of Adolf Hitler.
Strange work for a pastor, but He’d finally seen no other way to end the rule of this Herodian man who exterminated the innocent.
Bonhoeffer who had known acclaim, lived two years in a cell alone, hungry, cold, isolated and then, his execution was ordered even though the cause was lost three weeks before Hitler would take his own life, the prisoner walked calmly to the gallows, his last word, condolence to his executioner.
In a year when we have felt ourselves locked into a room of disease, injustice, discord and loss, we hear Bonhoeffer’s last Advent letter written to his young fiancé, Maria Wedemeyer, and her reply, written Christmas night, 1944.
“I think we’re going to have an exceptionally good Christmas.
The very fact that outward circumstance
precludes our making provision for it
will show whether we can be content
with what is truly essential.
I used to be very fond of thinking up and buying presents,
but now that we have nothing to give,
the gift God gave us in the birth of Christ
will seem all the more glorious.
The emptier our hands, the better we understand
The poorer our quarters, the more clearly we perceive
that our hearts should be Christ’s home on earth.”
And now Maria’s response, written on Christmas night
I’m in the dark depths of night, and my thoughts are roaming far afield. Now that all the merry-making and rejoicing and candlelight are over and the noise and commotion of the day have been replaced by silence, inside and out, other voices can be heard…
The chill night wind and the mysterious darkness can open hearts and release forces that are unfathomable, but good and consoling…
Can you think of a better time than night-time? That’s why Christ, too, chose to come to us—with his angels—at night.
Into the silence of this night, into our bleak midwinter, into our own particular poverty Christ comes this night, to lay claim to us, to our very souls. That you, that we, might magnify the Lord, might be vessels of light and hope, justice and mercy.
This year is not lost to God. Those you love are not lost to God. You are not lost to God in darkness says this birth. The light that comes from heaven to earth this holy night is for you, you who have little, you who have more than enough, your life is God’s stable. Christ is born. He appears that your soul might know its worth.
On this Silent night, holy night, Wondrous star, lend thy light; with the angels let us sing “Alleluia” to our King:
“Christ the Savior is born! Christ the Savior is born.”