As the Christmas story continues to be told and dramatized and sung, I have an abiding sense that the cave where the Prince of Peace was born was – for a moment, the center of the universe. His parents were there, of course, as were some local shepherds who were drawn in by the voices of a throng of angels and archangels, who were hovering above. Light emanated from the manger, and a celestial light led three dignitaries from far-off foreign lands to the place of birth. It was the same divine light.
All representations of God’s creation were drawn to the Christ child – and all who came were blessed and transformed by the precious gift. Some two thousand years later, people still flock to church where the story is re-told, the light shines and the celestial voices are honored. They come because they want to be transformed and blessed.
This past September 11, I went to the center of Newark – to Penn Station, to offer blessings on the anniversary of our national tragedy. The sounds from above were announcements of arrivals and departures, which were hardly angelic. People were drawn to the train they were trying to catch, or the office they were trying to get to. Every third person was consulting a light from their smartphone. And yet in spite of the early morning chaos, I could see and feel God working -- the divine Spirit drawing people together as a human family. The many people who came for a blessing could see and feel God’s presence as well. God is always at work.
There was also a lot that was driving people apart. The franticness of schedule, the self-absorbed and siloed commuters – not to mention a policeman in the concourse who had an AK47 draped over his shoulder (it was, after all, September 11).
There is much in the world that is driving people apart. ISIS, Ebola, the slaughter of innocents in a school in Pakistan, grand jury rulings in this country that yet again expose a culture that has much more work to do in order to achieve racial equality. And on and on and on.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5). That divine light is always drawing us in. Binding us together and setting us free. May you see that light this Christmas – in the manger, on a Christmas tree, on a bus or in a car, at the mall, at the breakfast table – and be blessed and transformed by its presence.