I am sitting here putting finishing touches on the candlelight communion service for Christmas Eve. So much work has gone into the planning and writing. But now the house is quiet, the rain has stopped and a thought so haunting has found its way into my head once again. It stirs my heart every Christmas for the past few years.
What would I have seen and heard on that night if I had been there?
Would I have heard the breath of heaven or simply the wind rustling the leaves? What about the angels? Would I have heard them or just the yammering of those in the streets? Would I have seen the star in the sky or just two kids who were poor and tired? Would I have felt the peace on earth, or just the oppressiveness of a busy town? Would I have understood that God was with us, or would the holiness of that moment just pass me by?
The story of the nativity is more than just a beautiful tale to be told at Christmas. It’s one that should cause our hearts to stand still as we begin to comprehend exactly what God has done. But is that even possible? Can we really comprehend this idea that He humbled Himself to be with us, to be Emmanuel? For each of us, we have to take a moment and think about what it must have been like on that night so long ago.
I believe that for everyone who was present that night, the scene was entirely different. No two people experienced it in the same way. God is like that, you know. He presents Himself to each of us and then leaves it up to us to see Him as we choose. There’s a song that sort of describes it perfectly. “Some may call it foolish and impossible but for every heart it rescues it’s a miracle.” Isn’t that true? What some call impossible, others call a miracle. I wonder, what would I have called it on that night?
Let’s be honest, there weren’t a lot of people who saw and experienced what took place that night. It’s not that the opportunity wasn’t there. No, they just chose to not see or hear. The choirs of angels who were singing were drowned out by the crowds coming in. No one was looking up at the sky to see that amazing star because they were too busy looking ahead at their own plans. No one noticed Mary and Joseph because they were too busy thinking of their own needs. No one noticed the peace that transformed the earth because they were fighting wars of their own making.
It’s easy for us to read the verses in Scripture and say we would have been the ones to have opened the door or noticed the star. We would have felt the divine presence had we been there at Bethlehem that night. “I would have seen,” you might say to yourself. “I would have known who He was. I would have known it was the Christ child.” Really? Would you?
Ask yourself – what you have seen and heard this Christmas season.
What did you see? When you went out to shop for gifts did you just see long lines of people or did you see the pains of life in their eyes? Pains from worry about money or fear about health. When you opened your news app did you see violence and chaos, or did you see that lost sheep without a shepherd.
What did you hear?
Did you hear only the blast of irritating music everywhere you went, or did you hear the silent sighs of the brokenhearted? Did you hear the bickering of the parents and children or the pleading of a family for a savior to intervene? More often than not what you see and what you hear is not the reality. It’s not based on any one event. It’s actually based on you. If you did in fact hear the cry from those in pain, the pleading of the broken, if you saw the sheep without a shepherd, then, and only then, might you have noticed all that took place in Bethlehem that night so long ago. But, if you didn’t see the lonely, broken, lost, and needy this season, then you probably would have been with all the others who were present but missed it all.
Oh little town of BethlehemLooks like another silent nightAbove your deep and dreamless sleepA giant star lights up the skyAnd while you're lying in the darkThere shines an everlasting lightFor the King has left his throneAnd is sleeping in a manger tonightOh Bethlehem, what you have missed while you were sleeping - Casting Crowns
*illustration by Brett Blair