Lk 2: 1-14
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David.
He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
Have you ever fallen in love with a song and played it over and over? That happened to me recently and I cannot recommend enough Bob Chilcott’s version of “O Little Town of Bethlehem“, sung by Will and Kate James. It moves me to tears.
I’ve been pondering why, and I think it has to do with the truth of the lyrics, particularly this Christmas, wedded to the deeply poignant melody – lyrics about hopes and fears, angels keeping watch while we sleep, and how silently the wondrous gift is given. “No ear may hear his coming”.
Perhaps we can’t help but wish that Christmas would change everything, but deep down we know that Christmas is a subtle and mysterious promise, a rose blooming, a light to guide our way. Mary and Joseph embraced their beloved Jesus, picked themselves up, and moved forward into the unknown with faith, hope and love.
On this holy day, we’re reminded – and hopefully reinvigorated – to do the same, opening our hearts so that the dear Christ may enter in. Merry Christmas!
O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep, the silent stars go by.
Yet in the 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.
O morning stars together proclaim the holy birth
And praises sing to God the king and peace to all on earth!
How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of his heaven.
No ear may hear his coming, but in this world of sin
Where meek souls will receive him still the dear Christ enters in.
—”O Little Town of Bethlehem” lyrics by Phillips Brooks