The following poem was written by Laurence Hausman, a British novelist and playwright from the early 20th century.

Light looked down and beheld Darkness.

“Thither will I go,” said Light.

Peace looked down and beheld War.

“Thither will I go,” said Peace.

Love looked down and beheld Hatred.

“Thither will I go,” said Love.

So came Light and shone.

So came Peace and gave rest.

So came Love and brought Life. *

This poem has been quoted in sermons and adapted by John Bell of the Iona Community to use for liturgies and meditation in Advent. It has been expanded to include the themes of candle lighting for Advent wreaths and as a benediction as you will hear it tonight. 

There are many ways to tell the story of Christmas. Sometimes we witness it told by children 

dressed in bathrobes with shepherd’s crooks, some in flowing draped gowns with tinsel halos and cardboard angel wings, and some coming as kings with jewelry boxes and perfume bottle gifts. We tell the story in carols sung by a single voice, by carolers wandering neighborhood streets, or massive choirs with organ and orchestra. We see the way the love shows up in movies and stories of people in modern times who these two thousand years later take note as the holy enters their lives and relationships.

This year, like everything else, we tell the story simply, listening once again to Luke’s words. This year, we consider two stories from Luke; the traditional view of overflowing lodgings for travelers and a stable out back. Of Mary and Joseph, alone with only the animals for company as Mary labors, as Joseph assists and comforts, as Christ is born unheard, unnoticed until angels spread the news. 

And then we consider a second story born of close, recent readings, noting that the innkeeper is only imagined but not mentioned in our reading of Luke’s story, and the stable is also discovered only in between the lines. This reading notes the practice in the middle east of Jesus’ day and long into the future in many places of keeping animals inside on the lower level of the home. 

Archeologists and scholars have discovered in studying scriptures of long ago that the family lived on the lower level of such homes with their animals, with the upper level, the inn, reserved for guests. In this telling, the upper room is full, likely even crowded and Jesus is born in the midst of the flurry of activity of feeding and lodging distant relatives. He’s born over in the corner with the sheep and the cows, and laid in the manger where the animals usually feed. And in this telling we also hear angels singing their alleluias.

I tell this story of contrasts tonight to remind us of the many ways and places Jesus enters our homes and hearts this year in 2020. Some of us gathered here tonight come alone, from our living room, kitchen, or bedroom to hear the age old story. And some gather tonight and tomorrow with family in crowded spaces where they’ve had plenty of companionship but little time for peace and privacy in recent weeks in the busyness of working and studying and playing and cooking in and among a crowd. 

In either case, Jesus comes. And he invites our presence with him and to one another in the days to come. He comes in the silence and the stillness, in the joy and the shouting. He enters into our lives bringing that hope for a cure for the illness that plagues our world. He brings peace for our division and quarreling. He brings light to guide our way. This addition to Hausman’s poem by Rev John Bell of Iona Scotland is affirmation of the love he brings. 

So he,
the Lord of Light,
the Prince of Peace
the King of Love
came down and crept in beside us.

My friends, wherever you are tonight, and wherever you celebrate tomorrow, Jesus is there beside you. Amen. 

Pray with me:

 Be near me Lord, Jesus.
 Be with me. Be with us in the stillness
 and in the noise and clamor of the city streets
 Be with us in silent meditation and public witness.
 Be with those who have an empty place at the table
 and those who are so busy at essential work 
 they hardly have time to note this special day.

 Be near us Lord Jesus, and love us we pray.
 Nurtured by your loving care help us; 
 To grow in faith and love for my neighbor,
 To reach out to the lost and the forgotten,
 To comfort those who are ill or falsely accused,
 To welcome the stranger into my heart,
 To hear the voice of our shared humanity
 on the lips of those whose traditions are different.
 As you love, so may we love and work for peace good will toward all. Amen. 

*Laurence Hausman, (1865-1959)

**John Bell, Wild Goose Worship Group, Cloth for the Cradle: Worship resources and readings for Advent, Christmas and Epiphany (Wild Goose Publications, 1998