‘Twas the night before Christmas, and here in this place,
The people had gathered, for warmth and for grace,
To hear the old story of Gabriel’s voice,
Of young Mary’s courage and angels’ rejoice.

The stockings are hung by the chimney at home,
With the hope there’s a visit by a bearded old gnome.
Our walls have been swagged, and there’re flowers brand new,
Thanks to volunteers, youth group, and dear Mr. Vu.

The shepherds—how merry!  The sheep—there’s a lot.
The angels in bedsheets, the Kings in culottes?
The building is shining, and here’s a home run:
Jesus was played by Mark Schroeder’s wee son.

The children have shown us with lines they have learned
How miracles happen, when humble hearts yearn
To hear the good news, and make its joy plain,
That God’s light can shine in the dark, where there’s pain.

And what to our wondering eyes should appear,
But a babe in a manger, with Joseph quite near.
The child in mom’s arms, in the flesh, was the Word,
Which the prophet foretold, in the scripture, we heard.

“The people in darkness have seen a great light:
From the lowliest places, God comes with his might,
To make the world just and the rough places healed.”
“Let it be, as you say,” mother Mary revealed.

We follow this star to Bethlehem rising,
Where straw becomes gold and three kings, surprising
Will show that the nations can bow at his feet,
Bend swords into ploughshares, make peace that’s complete.

In the world and this land and our city that’s charmed,
We’ve got plenty of work to keep people from harm,
To make streets become safe and schools that are strong,
And churches that show “all folks here belong.”

And speaking of Bal’more, we’re a town that is cravin’
A superbowl ring for Lamar-velous Ravens,
With Jackson QB, they’re running and throwing,
And giving us joy with hope they’re bestowing.

I see it as well, this spirit of healing,
In community partners, our allies appealing.
There’s BUILD and ReBuild, and Habitat work-days,
Govans and HUM and Turnaround Tuesdays.

There’s Paul’s Place and GEDCO and library Pratt.
The sky is the limit with colleagues like that.
On Thread! On Ceasefire! On ICJS!
On Next One Up, CASA, and ways to say, “Yes!”

So what can we do with the spirit we feel,
On this night when the light is kindled, and real,
To carry the news that God has moved in,
To live in our hearts and save us from sin?

Here’s a thought, as we gather, to try on for size:
This table is God’s; all humans: allies.
We are brothers and sisters, one family, one race,
Which is born in this manger with grit and with grace.

We are agents of peace, of pardon and love,
Forged in struggles that shape us, yet lit from above,
And the real gift of Christmas begins in this way,
Feed hungry, heal broken, help lost find their way.

You’re loved here, each one; there’s no one like you,
This place is made better with you.  It is true!
And so as you go from this altar of light,
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.