This evening we celebrate the Vigil of Christmas, when we consider the Incarnation. On this night, more than twenty centuries ago, the world was changed.
On this night stones began to rouse one another, for in the humble Child they saw a glory not seen since the misty depths of the past, when God had brought them forth out of nothing. From one stone to another the message was whispered, "He has come!" The murmur swelled to a roar, as the stones shook off their slumber: "He has returned!"
On this night the colors of Bethlehem, indeed of the whole world, shone more brightly. Molecules danced and waves of light stretched as the fabric of existence celebrated its Maker's arrival. One star, perched over the City of David, was now joined by thousands - millions! - in announcing with trembling and wonder that their Creator had stooped to join the ranks His creatures.
On this night the forces of darkness worried and fretted. "Perhaps He has not... Perhaps He will not..." But they knew better: the long night that had covered mankind was receding at last.
Legions of angels guarded the lowly stable, but there was no need. The faint cry of a newborn baby pierced the night and demons fled, overcome by the light of His presence.
The physical world, near and far, rejoiced: the dying flames in Bethlehem hearths burst into new life, while on distant planets, wonders yet undiscovered blossomed to herald the coming of the King.
The spiritual world too rejoiced:
Behold an angel of the Lord stood by [the shepherds], and the brightness of God shone round about them; and they feared with a great fear. And the angel said to them: "Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, that shall be to all the people: For, this day, is born to you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David...." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army, praising God, and saying: "Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will." (Luke 2:9-11, 13-14, Douay Rheims translation)
Tonight's images are of the star HD 44179 and Messier 104 (M104), the Sombrero Galaxy. They come from NASA's Hubble Advent calendar (Day 5, 2010 and Day 9, 2009, respectively).