So hallowed and so gracious.
The midnight channel crossing was eerily silent inside the Higgins boats. Each 36×10 ft. Landing Craft Vehicle, Personnel (LCVP) was pulsating to a 225 horsepower diesel engine pushing thirty-six GIs through the stormy seas. Knowing yet not knowing what awaited them at dawn, the men fell into an almost hallowed silence while the waves pounded against the plywood hulls. D-Day would come in the morning.
Long ago, on this evening we call Christmas Eve, landing craft left heaven’s shores for our fair yet fallen land. Tonight is the channel crossing. Long ago, God set out to reclaim his usurped world just as Europe would eventually be reclaimed from Nazi fascism that threatened to overthrow civilization. Not so long ago, people believed our modern world was severely disordered from “the eternal paradigms of order” that ordered our present world.1 They judged that, in Hamlet’s fine phrase, “the times are out of joint.” This evening, like the men in Higgins boats who shuddered contemplating the approaching day of invasion, so too demons and devils didn’t dare walk the earth, “so hallowed and so gracious is the time.”
Some say, that ever ‘gainst that season comes
Wherein our Saviour’s birth is celebrated,
The bird of dawning singeth all night long;
And then, they say, no spirit can walk abroad;
The nights are wholesome; then no planets strike,
No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm,
So hallowed and so gracious is the time.2
The triumph of good over the evil of Nazi fascism cost millions of lives and much time. So too we who share allegiance to Christ believe this ancient story of reordering a disordered world is a costly venture. It’s what makes tonight a holy night because the eternal paradigms of order are approaching. Demons see it and shudder. Devils dare not walk the earth. Sobriety deepens the sense of the sacred, especially for those who recognize Christmas Eve as O Holy Night.
1 Charles Taylor, A Secular Age (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University press, 2007), p.58
2 Hamlet, Act I, scene I; lines 158-164