I have attended a lot of Christmas Eve services over the years. This year I attended Christmas Eve Mass for the second time at St. Andrews Catholic Church in Roanoke. There’s something incredibly refreshing about a Christmas Eve service that is deeply rooted in liturgy and tradition. There are no screens, flashing lights, or anything else that most of us have in church. All of that is replaced with ornate architecture and design work, high-arched ceilings, an amazing pipe organ, and incense.
The pastor’s Christmas message was one of the better ones I’ve ever heard. It was brief, but the story of Christmas isn’t a long one.
He began his message with the shepherds.
In the same region, shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock. (Luke 2:8)
Shepherds didn’t live a glamorous life. They worked long hours, and overnight, they didn’t get to sleep much because of the risk of their sheep wandering off or wild animals attacking. During the long hours they sat out in the fields, they had a lot of time watch the sky and the stars.
They didn’t understand the stars and the heavens like we do today, but they knew that there had to be someone up there responsible for the lights in the sky. And as the pastor said, the wonder they felt staring into the night sky is no less than we still feel today when we’re away from the city lights and can see millions of stars.
One night, those stars were overwhelmed by an even bright light in the sky as a host of angels ripped the sky apart.
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, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David.
This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in cloth and lying in a feeding trough.”
Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:
Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and peace on earth to people He favors!
And suddenly their lives were interrupted. They were no longer just shepherds. They were now responsible for the greatest story to be given to mankind in all of history.
When the angels had left them and returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go straight to Bethlehem and see what has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” (Luke 2:15)
The word interrupted was used in two different Christmas Eve services I attended over the weekend. And it’s the perfect word to use to describe the Christmas story. The shepherds had to either leave their sheep behind, sell them off, hire someone to watch their sheep, or take them an unknown distance to Bethlehem. Mary and Joseph had their entire lives turned inside out. Mary was pregnant and not married. Joseph was engaged to a woman who was pregnant and it wasn’t his child. A few years later some mystics would learn of this child and help hide him from the king they worked for who wanted to kill him. And when the baby was older, he interrupted a lot of people’s lives by asking them to give up their way of life and follow him.