While Mortals Sleep

The heavens tore open that night as a peasant girl labored in darkness. Music flooded the space between heaven and earth.

A flaming, blazing ball of gas appeared from nowhere, pulsing, burning overhead, while magi watched, puzzled, in a distant country.

Awestruck shepherds ran to find their Creator suckling, needy.

And we, the citizens of Bethlehem, awoke in the morning, unaware. Eyes fixed to the ground instead of lifted to the light.

God With Us. The blazing, fearful holiness before whom men and angels fall, came to us, humble. Ordinary. Waited 30 years to reveal himself while we worked and fought, laughed and mourned beside him.

We still sleep and wake, not perceiving. Waiting, wishing for a rescue that already happened; for Someone who already came.

The unspeakable miracle of God With Us is drowned out by parties and shopping and scrambling to keep up. We strain to give our children a magical Christmas, yet gloss over the unfathomable, joyous reality of it.

It is easier to tell the story than to live in its promise.

So we cling to our idols of self-determination and refuse to see that we are embodied miracles of stunning complexity. Our pride drives us to claim rationality, yet all of science trumpets irreducible infinity, and we choose to look the other way.

Come in, come in from the cold night of unbelief. See not the babe of lullabies, but the God who gave everything to join us here in the dirt and darkness of our stables; the One who wears the wounds of love and longing even now. Come expectantly, like the shepherds. Seek honestly, like the magi. Accept humbly, like Mary and Joseph.

Lift your eyes from the dark alleys of Bethlehem to the shining courtyards of heaven, and rejoice.

Oh little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth, the everlasting light
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.
For Christ is born of Mary, and gathered all above
While mortals sleep

the angels keep their watch of wondering love
Oh morning stars together, proclaim thy holy birth.
And praises sing to God the king, and peace to men on earth.

Phillips Brooks

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