From the study window it looks miserable outside. The days are at their shortest and the curtain of darkness is rapidly falling on this day, helped by the pouring rain. Six more sleeps until Christmas: I am sure that some excited children will be making note of that tonight. The preparations are well under way. The day is upon us and we all wait, expectantly.
But what if Jesus was to be born in our day? Then surely everyone would want a selfie with the baby in the manger. Just like then perhaps, there would be suspicion over the circumstance of this birth. A virgin indeed; say the cynics and Jeremy Kyle would run a special edition. Herod, the despot, might try to close down the internet so that news of this birth, a threat to his governance; so better to try to curtail any excitement, even find a means of calling this politically incorrect, so as to quash any uprising. And, right above the place of the birth, the international space station miraculously stops in the tracks of its orbit of the earth. Major Tim gives a report from above identifying the birth place by GPS. I must be getting bored!
However, the birth of the Saviour in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago is still of great significance to life on planet earth today. We still have families in poverty and oppression. We still have evil men and dictators in the world. We are even more fascinated by the cosmos and the universe than ever before perhaps. And, we are still fascinated by story. The story of Christmas and Jesus is the greatest story ever told. Surely then, we should tell I;t again and again and remind people of how it really was and is.
I found this aspect of the Christmas story, as told by Pere Thomas, courtesy of Henri Nouwen, thought provoking:-
Thomas keeps telling us in his sermons that the days before Christmas must be days of deep prayer to prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ. We must be really ready to receive him. Christ wants to be born in us, but we must be open, willing receptive, and truly welcoming. To become that way we have Advent and especially the last days before Christmas…
It really is hard to set aside prayer at this busy time of year. However, Thomas reminds us well that God’s gift, of His Son, is a gift that has to be received. To be born in us! What a pity if we fail to welcome him in our haste to prepare for a festival void of Christ; just like his arrival in Bethlehem where there was no room at the inn.
Prepare the food, prepare the gifts, prepare the home and enjoy the festivities by all means. But, prepare the heart, with prayer, for his birth in us, this Christmas.
An Advent Prayer by Henri Nouwen
Lord, lead us out of the prison of our sin into the freedom of your saving love; lead us out of the darkness into the light of your grace; lead us out of the shadow of death into the promise of eternal life. Amen.
Advent Prayers from the Divine Hours
The Vespers Office – to be observed between 5pm – 8pm on the hour or half hour
Call to Prayer
“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
Prayer for the Appointed Week (Advent week 3: Saturday)
Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and; because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honour and glory now and forever. Amen.
The Concluding Prayer of the Church
Almighty God, who after the creation of the world rested from all your works and sanctified a day of rest for all your creatures: Grant that I, putting away all earthly anxieties, may be duly prepared for the service of public worship, and grant us well that my Sabbath upon earth may be a preparation for the eternal rest promised to your people in heaven; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
 Pere Thomas, in Advent and Christmas, Wisdom from Henri J.M. Nouwen (Missouri: Liguori Publications, 2004), 38-39
 Wisdom from Henri J.M. Nouwen, 39
 Phyllis Tickle, Christmastide, Prayers for Advent Through Epiphany: The Divine Hours (USA: Doubleday Publications, 2003), 97-99