Christmas Day (Dawn)
St. Mary of the Angels 12/25/13
Titus 3:4-7; Luke 2:1-20
(combined Gospel readings)
The average snowfall for December is 6 inches. We have almost doubled
that already. Much of it has melted now but the early snowfall
reminded me of a poem by Alan Harris which
I first read a year ago entitled, “Listening to Christmas.”
He begins his poem by asking:
ever heard snow?
howling wind of a blizzard.
[crunching] of snow underfoot,
actual falling of snow?”
Then, he goes on:
ever heard Christmas?
traffic noises in the city,
bells and hymns and carols,
as they are,
the laughter of your children
open their presents –
And then, going deeper, he questions:
been by yourself
sat and listened to the silence within,
without letting the mind
race to the
next Christmas chore?”
And, finally, he responds,
the pulse of all humanity
outflowing of love
your brothers and sisters
a soft sense
Listening to snow, listening to Christmas, listening
to the silence within -- these are the
deeper invitations of this Christmas Season.
All year we have been listening to noise:
The noise of the two bombs exploding at the final
line of the Boston Marathon.
noise of politicians filibustering in
order to close down and disgrace our nation.
The noise of talk show hosts who think that
Pope Francis is a communist and that poor people are inferior.
Even the noise of cheering or jeering crowds
at Sunday afternoon football, a game I love so much to watch!
joyful noises: Like Fenway Park throughout all of September.
afternoon, I attended The Christmas Holiday Pops Concert with Keith Lockhart
conducting the orchestra and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus at Symphony Hall. This
is becoming a family tradition. It was
an engaging, lively, creative concert and ended with a sing-a-long of familiar
Christmas songs. We concluded with
“Jingle Bells,” a happy, noisy song, but I thought a rather superficial note to
end on and felt somewhat “let down.” However,
after a standing ovation, Keith returned to the podium and led orchestra,
chorus and audience in “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”
Above the stage a picture of our world taken
from outer space was unfurled. Immediately, a more sober and reflective mood
settled on the audience. Last year, we
all sang out of the grief of Newtown. This
year, I thought mostly of the terrible civil war in Syria, and, more at home, of
the Boston Marathon Tragedy.
The Christmas story, too, has its happy
of angels and shepherds. Interestingly, the
census taking power of Caesar Augustus did not count either of them! The angels
flew above Caesar’s power. The
shepherds, scattered over the hillsides, were beyond and beneath his
power. So, the angels sang, and the
shepherds glorified and praised! There was
a noisy, exciting rushing to Bethlehem!
we are told, that “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her
heart.” There, in her inner silence, she
pondered the deep mystery of God’s humbling and vulnerable birth in this tumultuous,
violent and noisy world.
silence can we touch that “outflowing of love for all [our] brothers and
sisters on the earth” and touch that “soft sense of Oneness with all that
such a love and peace which will embrace all people and bind us to the larger
world, we, too, like Mary, need to take some time to enter our own inner
silence, and so to experience more fully the great love which God shows us, and
the deep peace which God offers us through his birth as Emmanuel.
end with the final exhortation of Harris’ poem:
“In the silence of a snowy night,
listen intently, holding your breath,
and you may hear
snow on snow.
undisturbed by thought,
listen to the silence in your heart,
and you may hear Christmas.”
J. Hughes, SJ
Brighton, Mass. 12/25/13