This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). Matthew 1:18-23 (NIV)
My family thought me crazy, but last night I set the alarm for three AM to see the lunar eclipse. It’s not like I haven’t seen one before, they come around fairly regularly. But, this one, arriving on the winter solstice and promising to be a “red moon” as well sounded like something worth going outside in the middle of a chilly winter night. And it was. The moon itself was intriguing with its red glow looking like an ornament fresh off of someone’s Christmas tree. I watched it for a while, but then, got distracted by the stars surrounding it. We live in a semi rural area with no streetlights. With our yard and house lights extinguished the stars looked like you could reach out and gather them in your hand. Their brilliance was breathtaking. Constellations stood out with such clarity that there was no need for a star guide. I could have stood there all night taking it in. Then, I got the bright idea to take a photograph. I went in the house and quietly rummaged around to find my tripod and longer lens all the while trying not to start the dogs barking. I got everything together and stepped back outside. I had to put the tripod on hood of the car to get it to the right angle, and finally figured out how to see the settings in the pitch black so I could put the exposure on night sky. I almost knocked the whole thing over in the dirt in my eagerness to take the photo but was disappointed by what I got. A tiny smudge of red in a sea of black. Not one star was caught in the image. I tried several times and then, gave up. Gazing at the view, I tried to plant it in my memory. Then, I went and woke up husband so he could see it too and help me remember the incredible sight. Not that he was happy about it mind you. So, I woke up youngest son as well. It was too amazing not to share. It made me think about how on the longest night of the year, something so beautiful and spellbinding would emerge. There are times in our lives when the trials are heavy and the future looks bleak. When there is no joy. Or so we think. But, if we look hard enough, we can find that speck of hope that glows with a brilliance and takes our breath away. Jesus came to give us that to us. That’s what we celebrate at Christmas. Not the gifts under the tree, the decorations or the food on the table. They are only a dim reflection of the true meaning of the season. What we celebrate is the arrival of the Christ Child. God With Us. Emmanuel. The One to save us from our sins. It is our job to share that light. Particularly in the midst of the longest and darkest night.