I light the candles scattered among our nativities, and my soul whispers the familiar word that dominates my thoughts.
As our family keeps watch, I consider how that first Christmas was for the watchers.
Joseph, watching for a roof to shelter his betrothed, great with child. Watching for a place fitting to birth the Prince of Peace. Weariness from the journey did not deter him. This night - this holy night - was for watching in awe as the Creator came to His creation, helpless and tiny.
Mary, keeping watch over her newborn son and pondering the miraculous in her heart. Her song was sung long before. She praised God before her delivery. She praised God before her deliverance. This night - this silent night - was for watching over the Lord of All.
Shepherds, watching over their flocks that night. They worked though all of Israel groaned with the years of waiting to hear from God. Carrying out their duties as usual, not knowing that their lives were about to be radically changed. Not men of much learning, but wise enough to leave the work behind and follow the Lord's proclamation. This night - this glorious night - was for watching God keep His promise in the most unexpected of ways.
Magi, watching the brightest star appear in the sky. At just the right time, it appeared to herald the incomparable work of God. Though they didn't have the Scriptures, they couldn't deny Him. They left everything behind to find Him. This night - this wondrous night - was for watching God's brilliance overtake the darkness.
I watch the flames flicker, shadows dancing over the birth scenes. Despite Joseph's weariness, Mary's weakness, and the disappointing circumstances they found upon their arrival in Bethlehem - despite it all, God came.
And the world, not watching, missed it.
I close my eyes, think long about my own weariness, weakness, and disappointing circumstances. Then I glance again at the Babe, and I remember that God will come.
And so I keep watching.