I listened this morning to the Nine Lessons and Carols broadcast live from King's College in Cambridge, England. (Church services just take on an added dimension when done in a British accent, don't you think?)
As I got ready this morning while listening to the program, I realized that despite the near-hysterical reactions some people have to nativity scenes and Christmas carols -- and even Santa Claus -- millions were listening with me on every continent to commemorate and celebrate the Holy Night of Christ's birth.
The dividing line is pretty much the same as it was some 2,000 years ago. For peasant shepherds, two aged prophets, a handful of insightful sages, and a humble couple from the backwaters of the Roman Empire, it was the glorious culmination of centuries of waiting and watching, the appearance of the Word become flesh, God with us.
For others, it was a time of fear, jealousy, irrational hatred -- and even murder. St. Matthew tells us that all of Jerusalem was troubled when the wise men came to Herod and reported that they'd seen the star that signified the birth of a new King. You know the rest of the story -- the wanton slaughter of the innocents to try to eradicate this threat to Herod's power.
Even Simeon, the grizzled prophet who embraced the infant Jesus when he was presented in the Temple, knew that nothing in the universe would ever be the same now that the Messiah had come:
“This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
St. Luke, 2:34b
And so here we are two millennia later, still witnessing the divide along the fault line that is Jesus Christ. He still causes joy and hope for millions and fear and hatred for millions. Which means his message is still potent and his Person still one that is not easily ignored.
Grace, mercy and peace to you all, and God bless us, every one.