Early this morning, during the Vigils of Christmas Eve, a single voice sang out into the darkness the Martyrology or Christmas Proclamation, situating the birth of Jesus Christ in place and time. It is a haunting chant, and its singing is attended with a simple but moving ceremeny as two large gilt candlesticks are placed beside the lectern to mark the solemnity of the moment. After the Martyrology, we kneel in silence, for with the coming of the Word of God, human words are exposed for what they are — inadequate, unnecessary.
Why do we do this? After all, we are a very small community. Couldn’t we just settle for another reading from one of the Fathers of the Church and abandon this ancient tradition which requires some effort to maintain? We could; but if we did, we might lose sight of something important. The birth we celebrate tonight took place two thousand years ago in a troubled country under less than ideal circumstances to a couple who must have been exhausted, both mentally and physically. It wasn’t warm and cosy. I daresay the stable was dirty and smelly and Joseph was terrified at the thought of playing impromptu midwife to Mary, while she was wishing her mother could be with her as she underwent this new and painful experience of giving birth. In other words, the Martyrology reminds us that God works through very imperfect situations, using very imperfect circumstances and people we might think wholly unsuitable. The strange thing is, his purposes are achieved, perfectly.
Today, if we can, let’s try to find a moment or two of silence in the midst of all our busyness to take in this great fact. Christ must be born in our hearts through faith; and it doesn’t matter if we think our faith weak and wobbly or we are distracted with the arrangements we need to make for our Christmas celebrations. God can cope with all that, just as he coped with the messiness of Christ’s birth. Our salvation matters too much to him to let any obstacles get in the way.
For Bro Duncan PBGV Fans
Last year Bro Duncan wrote the Christmas Eve blog. You can still read it here.