Is this night different from other nights? Tonight, is there something different?
Or is it business as usual?
Refugees freeze at the border - Soldiers march on another border - In crowded intensive care units, people grapple with death - A child will be born somewhere in the wilderness.
Nothing is different tonight.
But look at how many people are connected to each other tonight!
Emperor Augustus and his governor Quirinius ...
Mary and Joseph with their first child, just born ...
King David, great, great, great, grandfather ...
Shepherds and ...Angels (well – angels are not human beings, I know).
And since we are still missing in the queue, we join them.
We come as spectators, pilgrims and strangers - curious, disappointed and people full of hope.
Then we set up the crib - with the characters who have been waiting for so long to be there again.
Magical landscapes are created. Or barren deserts. Or an apartment building. Or a refugee camp. Or a prison. Or a bombed city.
Right in the middle - the crib.
Sometimes you have to look for the crib - it seems lost.
Or maybe it's just hidden so that we can find it.
Tonight, something is emerging.
The night belongs to Christmas.
Silent Night Holy Night. All is calm, all is bright,
There are many stories about the cold, and about icy nights.
And many stories are about hearts of ice.
In the Gospel, Luke does not talk about a night.
Strangely enough, Luke only reports that the glory, the splendor of God comes to earth.
But someone else long before Luke had laid the trail into the night.
Isaiah - the prophet of Israel:
The people that walked in darkness has seen a great light; on those who live in a land of deep shadow a light has shone.
Darkness is more than just night. The stars are missing. The moon is missing.
Darkness is the world in the dark - people's lives are lost.
Darkness is waiting without a glimmer of light - night is without day.
Darkness is death - it haunts and hides between every line.
Amazed and astounded, we hear the angels singing their praises.
Is there anything left to singabout? And is there something left to be joyful?
When God comes, the sky becomes bright and the earth becomes beautiful with splendor.
For there is a child born for us, a son given to us and dominion is laid on his shoulders; and this is the name they give him: Wonder-Counsellor, Mighty-God, Eternal-Father, Prince-of-Peace.
Yes, there is something to be seen tonight?
A child saw the light of day – just now. A little note in the gospel. Not more.
The child doesn't have a name either.
We have to wait a little longer.
The story is only about a child. About one child among many.
Nothing special. Nothing sacred.
If it weren't for the angels, If it weren't for the words, If it weren't for the shine - we wouldn't know anything.
We wouldn't know anything about God either.
But we are to see the diapers - and the crib. We are to smell the straw – straw smells like summer:
Mary wrapped the child in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them at the inn.
Just like that: Mary put the child in a crib.
A child dreams. You can watch the child do it. Hour after hour.
You can't get enough of it. A child begins - with the first small steps.
It doesn't have a past yet. Future only. A child grows. It grows into life.
It is conquering the world.
There was no space in the hostel! What if there is no more space in the world?
No place for people? No place for a child?
This night makes things in the world different.
We celebrate that God himself becomes one of us humans.
God is leaving the throne we wanted to ban him to - far away from us!
God doesn't just become human - he becomes a child.
God dreams. God grows. The angels come to him.
They sing to God the song of his honor.
They sing to us the song of peace.
Listen to Isaiah:
Wide is his dominion in a peace that has no end, for the throne of David and for his royal power, which he establishes and makes secure in justice and integrity.
From this time onwards and for ever.
What the masters of this world mess up is sung anew in heaven:
a child carries the world.
Love is almighty – only love.
Love just starts small, it doesn't need a past - just a future.
Sometimes love is all defiant - it always grants closeness – love conquered the world.
It's all very different tonight.
If we look for God, we will find him in a manger.
If we long for God, he leads us to people.
If we love God, justice and equity will grow among us.
Everything will be very different tonight.
In my head, in my heart, in my world.
I'll be different tonight.
And the peace of God, which makes the nights bright, gives clarity to our lives.
In Christ Jesus our Lord.
Wolfgang Felber SJ