‘Tis the Night Before Christmas 2016


Christmas Eve 2016

The Rev’d Gretchen Sanders Grimshaw

Parish of St. Paul Episcopal Church, Newton Highlands


Tis’ the night before Christmas, two thousand sixteen,

And fin’ly the heat in this place has turned green!

But the warmth of this night does not come through the flews,

It comes from the gath’ring of hearts in these pews.


We’ve come to share Christmas, the birth of the Son

Who was flesh and yet perfect, like all and like none;

He straddled two worlds, that the worlds might align,

Earth’s fully human and heaven’s divine.


He came as the gift wrapped in Mary’s embrace;

Peace with two hands; faith with a face;

Into a world that was battered and broken,

Speaking a language that’d never been spoken.


Although, the Gospel According to John says,  


Jesus (“the Word”) was there from the beginning,

Before evening or morning or serpents or sinning,

Before oceans or mountains or sunshine or snow,

The start of this story was eons ago.


‘Twas the night before God would create all that is;

Not a creature was stirring, just primordial fizz;

The chaos was thick in the not-yet-there-air,

When all of a sudden God whispered a prayer.

And though nothing existed, somehow it was heard,

And Creation commenced with not more than a Word.


And the Word it was Radiant, the Word it was Light,

And creation was born like a poem to recite;

More rapid than eagles God’s courses they came,

As God spoke each creation, called each one by name:

Now light, and now darkness, now dome of the sky,

Now water, now dry land, now vegetable pie; (okay, that’s poetic license!)

Now midnight, now morning, now fall, and now spring,

Now blackbirds, now catfish, now each living thing!

And thus was created the world’s livelihood,

And all from the “Word;” and the Word it was: Good!


The “Word” was the engine behind all creation,

Each mole and each whisker: divine acclamation.

So the Word it was: Jesus! before he was flesh,

Before he was born on that morn in that crèche.


And so though we might think that Christmas is grand,

To the Gospeller John, it’s a mere ampersand.


And yet it’s the moment when God changed the game

By joining our flesh and our flaws and our shame;

And too, for the first time, our God felt the weight;

How the human condition can thus complicate,

God’s original hope for God’s blest humankind,

To whom from the start, just one job was assigned.


Our only charge right from the start:

Was love the Word with all our heart.


But….. soon we children of the Word

Began to feel ourselves preferred,

And we began to worship stuff,

And never seemed to have enough!


So, Noah loaded up the ark

With every neigh and squawk and bark!

For making humans God regretted.

Thus, was all Creation vetted.

The flood it wiped the whole earth clear,

In hopes that we would finally hear:

The only way to get it right,

Was love, just love, with all our might.


But even then we humans, flawed,

Were not convinced to turn to God.


Not even with a flood, God thought,

Did humans finally get the plot.

What next to do? To thus impart,

that God is etched upon each heart?

What sort of Godly CPR

will make them love with all they are?


And so God, having sworn no more to flood,

thought: How to teach this flesh and blood?

I’ve tried it all, but few comply.

I’ve only one thing left to try.


Perhaps instead of devastation,

I can try a new Creation.

Perhaps I’ll dare to share their skin,

I’ll walk their walk, without the sin.

I’ll show them how to love each other,

Tend a sister, feed a brother;

What it means to live with kindness!

No more existential blindness.

I’ll live on earth, I’ll share their lives,

Prove nothing but the love survives.

I will join their human race;

My love will have their human face.



Here we are, two thousand years hence,

And still just as willfull, and selfish and dense;

We’re still filled with fear and primordial dread,

And the karma we owe is still deep in the red.


And yet again this night we wait

For love to come and seal our fate.

We wait with childlike hope and awe,

Our own hearts laid bare in the straw.


We wait with the cloud of our faithful tradition,

For neighborly love to replace competition.

We wait for the madness to wither and fade,

An end to the pandering pompous parade.

We wait for the courage to stand firm with love,

For the vultures of war to be trumped by the dove,

We are waiting for truth to be valued and spoken,

A demise of the lies and the promises broken.

We wait for the values that might make us great

To show up in the plans of the next Head of State.


We wait for a sign that the end is not near;

That the folks on the margins have nothing to fear;

That Muslims and Christians and Hindus and Jews

Will be welcomed, respected and never refused.

That every child born, every featherless bi-ped

Whose breath is from God, and whose blood is, thereby, red…

Will be valued and cherished and treated as well

As the best-ever guest in the Trump Grand Hotel.


So we wait for the day when all dignity matters,

We wait for the sound when the glass ceiling shatters.

We are waiting for light. We are waiting for grace.

We are waiting for justice to pick up the pace.

We are waiting for wrong to be bested by right,

We are waiting for peace to inherit the night.

We are waiting for whimsy, a break from the grind,

For wellness and healing of body and mind,

For our calling, our purpose, our oyster’s pure pearl;

And how about next time the “Word” is a girl!


Yes we each wait for something, and this is the Eve

When the Word comes to life and the Word is: Believe!


Though sometimes I wonder in all this insanity

Why God did not just remake all humanity.

Given the violence the greed and the hate

Why not just start over; why not re-create?

Why not just make humans more humble, more kind,

Softer of heart, wiser of mind,


Why not just upgrade the human ecology?

Jesus is proof that God has the technology.


And yet,

Christmas suggests that our God disagrees;

Despite all our failings, our flaws, our dis-ease,

There’s been no attempt to remake or re-coin us,

Instead, our Creator preferred here to join us.


His 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.

When God gives us love, it’s a gift in God’s name,

But sharing requires God’s flesh in the game.



this evening God steps without any resistance,

Into the muck of our human existence;

Into this mess, a Divine Pioneer,

Campaigning for freedom to love without fear.

His platform is simple, his message is sure,

Join up with the movement, the “Love-All-Ways” tour!

But costly the ticket, the price of admission:

A life full of love that could lead to sedition.


So you see, this bright night is the start of a movement,

Not a moment in time, or an act of improvement.

There is no quick fix to the mess that we’ve made,

No awarding of peace we can make, like a grade.


There’s only each day and a field fresh to sow,

When God wakes our spirits and hands us the hoe,

For we are the farmers of God’s holy crop,

And all that God asks is that we never stop

Tending the child who is born in the manger,

Feeding the hungry, befriending the stranger,

Lifting the ones who are lowly and hurting

For love’s sake alone, with no thought of converting.


Ending the violence and curbing the trash,

Respecting the planet, and sharing the cash.


That’s all that’s expected by heaven above,

And can all be summed up, and the Word it is LOVE.


And the love that descended this night long ago,

Is the proof that God’s status is not status quo.


But ours is a God who for sure keeps the promise –

No matter if we are still doubting with Thomas.

The promise that life everlasting is coming,

Sweet mercy is rising, compassion is humming.

The peace and the justice are still on their way,

And crazy new hope comes with every new day.


So tonight  we must rise with the star in the east,

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

And God’s crystal clear voice can be so plainly heard:

Keep the faith and remember that Love is the Word!


Merry Christmas!


© December, 2016, The Rev’d. Gretchen Sanders Grimshaw


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