The most beautiful of the Christmas carols evoke the night in which the Christ Child was born, in particular those two favourites, 'Silent Night' and 'O Holy Night'. It adds to the romance of the event that it happened in the stillness and darknes of the night, but it is also deeply theological. The glory of the Lord shines in the midst of this world's night. Into the night of people's lives, the Lord has come. In the dark nights of the soul, when it seems God is absent, the light of faith is as a star guiding the searcher to where the Lord may be found.
Saint John of the Cross speaks about this light of faith that leads us through the darkest night to our encounter with the Lord who awaits us:
It lit and led me through
More certain than the light of noonday clear
To where One waited near
Whose presence well I knew,
There where no other presence might appear.
Oh night that was my guide!
Oh darkness dearer than the morning's pride,
Oh night that joined the lover
To the beloved bride
Transfiguring them each into the other.
No matter what our night, no matter what its cause, no matter how dark it becomes, even the night of sin, it is enlightened by the birth of the Saviour. The shepherds represent all of us as they find their way to the place in which He is born. No human being remains a stranger to the joy of this birth. No human being who enters into its mystery remains unchanged. John of the Cross speaks about the transfiguring brought about through the encounter with Christ. Another poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins, also speaks in these terms about the power of the mystery of Christ's birth:
Moonless darkness stands between.
Past, the Past, no more be seen!
But the Bethlehem star may lead me
To the sight of Him Who freed me
From the self that I have been.
Make me pure, Lord; Thou art holy;
Make me meek, Lord; Thou were lowly;
Now beginning, and alway;
Now begin, on Christmas day.