Christmas creeps up on us gradually, gains momentum, and ends with the most glorious message of all.
It begins very subtly. You may see a clerk unpacking angels in August. By Labor Day a few candles and wreaths might be spotted in the back of the store. Before Halloween some of the Christmas displays are already vying for your attention next to the pumpkins and screeching ghosts in the big box discount stores. Thanksgiving is almost nonexistent with the brilliantly lit trees and ho-ho-hoing Santas pushing Tom Turkey out of the picture.
The day after Thanksgiving, or Black Friday as the merchants are now calling it, opens the Christmas season with a bang. The race is on! Retailers are fighting to see who can get the first shopping dollars by opening earlier and earlier on Thanksgiving Day. Shoppers begin a marathon of shopping that will last for the next four weeks. In between mad dashes to the mall, people are sandwiching in holiday parties, cleaning and decorating the house, baking traditional cookies and candies, attending concerts, and wrapping packages. In addition, many are preparing for trips to be with family.
The whole month of December is a huge whirlwind. That is why Christmas Eve is my favorite night of the year. It is the moment we stop and remember what all the hectic activity is all about. All the work is done (if not, then just leave it and try better next year). The decorations are completed, the baking done, the gifts wrapped and under the tree. I enjoy the stillness of the night. The world feels at peace waiting in anticipation for the joyful gatherings of the next day. It is also a time to stop the madness and remember what the season is all about.
It is the birth of a pure and innocent child who would one day bring hope and light to a weary world. It is the time to sing Joy to the World for the Lord is come with joyful hearts. It is a time of lights and enlightenment. It is a time of family, friends, and love. It is a time to reflect in prayerful meditation the birth of our Lord.
The power of this night even stopped a war. In 1914, during World War I, the German troops put out a few Christmas trees decorated with candles and began singing Christmas carols. The British echoed the carols in their own language. Then the two sides began putting out signs saying they would stop shooting if the other side would. Word spread up and down the front lines and gradually the two sides ventured out from their trenches. They met in the middle and exchanged gifts of food, tobacco, and alcohol. The first order of business was to bury the dead then they got together and passed Christmas day playing football.
When the commanding officers heard of the impromptu truce they ordered the troops to begin shooting. Although the truce was short lived it all began because of the birth of a small child one Silent and Holy Night. A child who was sent by God with the power to perform miracles—even the miracle to end wars.
Christmas Eve is the night of mystery and magic, love and laughter, peace and prayer. My wish for you, my friend, is that you may feel the majesty of the night and carry that with you throughout the coming year.