Tonight, of all the nights in the year, is the night to feel like a child again. This is the night to view the world with wonder. Look! What is that in the sky? Look! What is the miracle around the corner, just hidden from view? Is it the soft baby, drowsing under the gaze of his mother? Or is it the children creeping up to admire him?
This is Christmas Eve. This is the night when everything starts over again, everything becomes new. The baby opens his eyes to see his mother smile. The children reach toward him to touch his soft skin.
Tonight in church, I saw such a sight. The baby could have been any baby, swathed in layers of fleece. The children were dressed with care in plaid skirts and velvet jackets. I leaned down to whisper to one little girl, "why don't you go back to your mommy?" She wandered down the aisle and veered aside as her mother reached for her. I took her hand in two of my fingers and led her back to her mother. At the back of the church, the baby was awake, now held in his mother's lap.
These children are all beautiful. Tonight we have proud grandparents displaying their grandchildren; I remember when the parents were children here themselves.
When the time comes to sing Silent Night, our Sunday School children all join in. They practiced it for weeks so they could sing it for the Lessons and Carols service last week. Now they know it.
Later, we'll have the older folks coming for the service with choir and brass quartet. The music will be splendid. We'll leave, yawning. The children at the early service will be well asleep, by then. Their parents will still be wrapping gifts, preparing for tomorrow morning. In many homes, there will be clear signs that Saint Nicholas stopped by. Cookies eaten, milk gone, carrots taken away for the reindeer to snack on. I used to marvel at footprints, left in ash from the fireplace.
Tonight, what wonder! The world goes around, year by year, and there are new children born, and young children growing, and older children remembering, and each year Christmas brings with it the hope, the wonder, of a new life. Year by year, the Baby Jesus finds a home in each heart that opens to him.
May my heart, and your heart, make a home for him. The wonder of it! God, the God who made this universe and all the others, the God who made time itself, is willing to dwell with us, to love us. Who would have believed such a thing? It is beyond our understanding. Look! What is that in the sky? Look! Look at the baby sleeping under the gaze of his mother. Look.