Spirituality for Today – December 2014 – Volume 19, Issue 5

Christmas Eve

Rev. Raymond K. Petrucci

A photo of Christmas scene

No other evening can compare with Christmas Eve. The night air is electric with more sensitivities, more meanings, and more spirit than one adequately can express. This eve needs to be cold, snowy, filled with multi-colored lights, evergreens, and the sound of church bells. The past and the present contribute to the significance of the holy event celebrated on this night. Is there any other night where the sacred and the commercial combine and where the truth of the Nativity and countless stories of the centuries since link to express the moment when God and man united cried out to the world. Liturgy, prayer, and countless secular media productions are dedicated to the birth of Christ and how it affects humanity?

Christmas Eves are not the same for everyone and personal experiences vary from year to year. I ran across an old story by the late Bill Bright who founded the Campus Crusade for Christ. He narrated a story about a Christmas Eve many years ago in Korea. Fittingly, it was a story about a pregnant woman on a journey from her town to the hospital which she hoped to reach before her child would be born. She did not make it. No one driving past her would stop to bring her to the hospital. She took shelter from the cold under a bridge. Her time to give birth had come; she gave birth to a baby boy. The young mother wrapped her newborn in her own clothes in order to protect him from the bitter cold. The next morning, she and her child were found. The mother had died sacrificing herself in order to save her baby. The baby survived and was adopted by a kindly and caring couple who raised the boy in a loving environment. The boy was told about that Christmas Eve years ago when his mother died from exposure in an attempt to save his life. The next Christmas Eve, the teenage boy traveled to the location of his mother's sacrifice. He sat under that bridge and took off his own clothes and thought of his mother saying, "Mother, was it this cold for you?" His future will unfold because of a mother he never knew, but also because of a faith, hope, and love that sustained her that fateful night. One can hope that all of these gifts from mother to son will sustain this young man for his lifetime. The ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said, "To love someone deeply gives you strength. Being loved by someone deeply gives you courage." This love has been his gift. Perhaps, his mother's last thoughts that freezing Christmas Eve may have been of another mother traveling to a distant town, rejected at the normal places for lodging, and then having to give birth to her own son in a cold stable.

How wondrous is the power of the Word of God made flesh? No matter what our personal situation might be on a Christmas Eve, the birth of the Savior brings a comfort and peace which is absent from any other forms of comfort and peace that the world has to offer. The reason, of course, is love, the love of God for his creation, the love of people for one another. Humanity's work is to surrender to that love, to bathe the soul in its saving power and then to put into action the gift of that love. I am reminded of a Christmas time occurrence in the life of the author Sue Monk Kidd. She spoke of this momentary encounter, "Once, when I visited a monastery around Christmas, I passed a monk walking outside the church. 'Merry Christmas,' I said. 'May Christ be born in you,' he replied." If there be an initial mission of the newborn Savior and the Holy Family on that first Christmas Eve, I feel that it could be expressed in that monk's reply. Jesus Christ has been born into the world in the hope that he may be born in the minds and hearts of all people. Think about that as you drive from store to store to buy the right gift or as you place money in an envelope for a relative or other loved ones. You ought to be motivated by the Christ born in you and your gifts should bear with them the unspoken hope that Christ will be born more and more visibly in the lives of those who receive your gifts. Perhaps, one does not think much about discipleship, Pentecost, or evangelization on Christmas Eve, but what more could one wish for their family and friends than to be alive in the spirit of that newborn child in Bethlehem nearly two thousand years ago. The Incarnation is a statement of divine presence and how that presence can transform human nature. The secular world and, indeed, the pluralistic society that is America thirsts for a spirit that gives a fulfillment to the longings of the heart and soul for an eternal destiny in God's love and a very earthly evidence of the highest qualities of human virtue rooted in the teachings of Christ.

Whether the event takes place in a home, under a bridge, or in a stable, the miracle of Christmas touches the depth of human perseverance and hope. In the fullness of the celebration, the gift and effects of Christmas are found in the powerful presence of love. On this Christmas, speaking for all of us at Clemens Productions, our prayers and best wishes are with you, your family, and all your loved ones.

Merry Christmas!