‘Tis the Night Before Christmas 2014

Christmas Eve 2014

The Rev’d Gretchen Sanders Grimshaw

Parish of St. Paul Episcopal Church, Newton Highlands


Tis the night before Christmas, two thousand fourteen

On the threshold where hope and pure love intervene.

For tonight is the night when the promise comes true

And again we are offered God’s life, fresh and new.


It all started in Bethlehem, so Luke has said,

With a simple boy’s birth in a donkey’s straw bed.

And the child both alike and unlike any other;

A Savior, a prophet, divine, but our brother.


This birth is a milestone from heaven above,

When our God shifts from giving, to sharing, our love.

It might not seem much, this new face of God’s talents,

But actually everything hangs in this balance.

For when God gives love it’s a gift in God’s name,

But sharing requires God’s flesh in the game.

From now on all things are pre-sharing or post,

This moment that God has decided to host.

A moment in time when the forces all square,

And yet, barnyards of chaos deliver the prayer.

This tale, from its start, though a bit flabbergasting,

Is aimed at the promise of life everlasting.

This story of God born in flesh in a manger,

Could not be more true, and yet could not be stranger.


But still here we sit two millenniums hence,

And we wait for the cry, intimate and immense;

The cry of the child in that raw, humble crèche;

The cry that God utters as God shares our flesh.

We wait with excitement, surreal but sincere,

For we know that this hope is ours now, free and clear.


And in this beloved community…..

We know about hope here, the power of yes

The power that comes when we act as we’re blessed .

We know what it feels like to think that you’re done,

And then there in that manger, back at square one,

Comes a star in the east that you never saw rising

And then there’s new life, and who knew? How surprising!

Then there you are, your community’s brimming,

Your programming no longer sinking, but swimming.

Your music’s a high note, your youth stick around,

And everyone’s cool to be both lost and found.

The sabbatical’s over and all lived to tell,

And there’s new living water refreshing the well.

The Lab’rinth is here, and Katherine is back!

And the stewardship drive seems to be quite on track!

We’ve a fabulous intern, a long time in coming,

He preaches and teaches AND fixes the plumbing.

Our budget is no longer breaking the bank

Good work of our finance committee to thank!

Our Treasurer rocks, our wardens are tops,

And coffee hour lasts till we’re bumped by the mops.

Our vestry is humming, and altar guild too,

And flowers arrive every Sunday on que!

Our youth team’s amazing and let’s see, good grief,

Our pastoral care team is beyond belief.

And if you did not get a personal mention,

Please know you are part of our holy ascension.

Six years ago we were scrounging for crumbs,

We had plenty of room for the pews had no bums.

And now we are more than we ever could wish,

Like the ocean is more than the sum of its fish.


So look around. We are living proof that…

Nothing is too much to ask on this eve,

Nothing can be too far fetched to believe.

So be bold, be adventurous, shoot for the moon,

Rememb’ring that God’s time is, sometimes, not soon.

But dare to dream big, pass the limits of reason,

For this is the “nothing’s impossible” season.



If you think what you wish for is too much to dare,

If you think there’s no chance, if you haven’t a prayer,

If the height of the mountain you scale is too great,

And the odds seem to be stacked too high on your plate…

Remember this night, years, two thousand, ago

When a young teenaged girl gave her all even though

She’d no status, no privilege, no power, no clout;

She was poor, she was homeless and almost about

To deliver the gift of all gifts without knowing –

How great was the fruit of the seed she was sowing.

She wasn’t the type, neither royalty nor gentry,

And yet she was chosen to offer God’s entry.


So we’re all here right now, on the edge of our pews,

Awaiting the dawning of all this Good News.

It’s Good News because from an angel it hails,

And next to that message, well all else just pales.

For an angel of God is exceedingly rare,

Showing up mostly when we’ll need more than a prayer.

When God asks us for super human behavior,

Like building an ark, or birthing a savior.

Then that angel appears; and most all you will know,

Is that all of the plans you have made…… let them go!

Yes, an angel’s a sign that you’ll soon be connecting,

In ways that no earthling is ever expecting.

Then they lift up their voices from heav’n above

And descend upon earth on the wings of pure love;

A love that’s so great that a heart can’t but rise,

Even though what they’re asking of us surely lies

Beyond all our comfort, far past all our skill,

And bitter might seem the raw taste of the pill:


But Hark! says the angel, to God you belong!

And clear is the message, so simple the song:


You know that song the angels sing:

It’s all about the grace, yes the grace, no trouble……….


Behold, favored one, such an angel is rare,

But it’s happened before, so you’d better beware!

‘Cause these pews are our manger, this night we are due.

We are pregnant with eager hearts, ripe to renew.

And we wait for the cry that will signal the birth

Of our God who has joined us to walk on this earth.


Although each year our hearts hear this story anew;

For every year changes our own point of view.

Maybe last year we heard it in Joseph’s shocked shoes;

a good man not ever expecting that news.

Or maybe last year we were Magi, just seeking;

But this year the Star in the east it is speaking;

Or maybe the Inn Keeper feels like us more,

We’ve got no more room for a knock at the door.

Maybe we’re Herod protecting our throne,

Or maybe a Shepherd afraid and alone.

Or the family mourning the loss of their Mary,

Who left with no more than the pack she could carry.

The point is……

This story we tell is as old as the Star,

And yet still it finds us, where ever we are.


The one thing, however, that never will wave

Is that love is not cheap, and be spent so to save.

It’s all about turning the world on its head;

Where faith is our blood, and the body our bread.


The Good News, as we know, is that God will deliver

And the gifts they will flow like the rush of a river.

They may not come just as we ask or expect,

But each prayer is known, every list double-checked.


Christmas is our greatest hope for the world,

(And maybe the second time round, God, a girl?)

But nevertheless now the waiting is done,

For tomorrow we’ll wake to new light from the Son.


So tonight we rejoice for the star in the east,

That reminds us that those who feel last are not least.

And we hear God’s clear voice through the struggle and strife,

Merry Christmas to all, and to all brand new life!



© December, 2014, The Rev’d. Gretchen Sanders Grimshaw



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