Keeping night watch over their sheep, the shepherds would see angels fill the heavens, announcing glad tidings. Far from that place, waiting with their eyes fixed on those same heavens, the wise men would see the star that would lead them to Bethlehem. With eyes always raised to God, their immediate responses brought them face to face with God incarnate in history.
Christmas teaches us that in raising our eyes upwards toward the glories of the heavens we are not meant to linger. The beautiful, glorious, and awe-inspiring can orient us, but those icons of grace that announced the birth of Jesus directed observing eyes not deeper into the heavens, but to a humble stable, to a family, to a newborn child. And that child teaches us how to look to see the face of God—that raising our eyes means lifting our hearts to a great love for those who are cold, frightened, and homeless in all senses of the word.
The shepherds and wise men saw God sleeping as a vulnerable gift of love—for vulnerable is the only way love appears. Love requires no assurances of return, no calculation of its affordability, no concern beyond the well-being of the beloved. Or perhaps better: love demands that there be no assuring calculation, and rests only on hope. For while love can demand neither repayment nor conditions it can hope to elicit a response from us.
Therefore, seeing this gift of love requires only opening ourselves to it in love and responding to the call without measure. And that Love is calling to us. Love is calling to us the in faces of the homeless, the tears of the frightened, and in the wounds of the broken.
Lord, may our eyes always be raised to you, so that when you call, we may respond at once.
On Christmas day, with our eyes focused on beauty and light, may we all remember that God is calling us to see the face of Jesus Christ in those who are alone in the cold, and may that face give us the love to respond.