While writing about the Nativity in his book The Faces of Jesus, author and pastor Frederick Buechner reflects on an early scene in Shakespeare's Hamlet. Three characters—Horatio, Marcellus, and Barnardo—are keeping watch at night, discussing the possibility of having seen a ghost. In the midst of their conversation, they briefly stumble into a discussion about the night of Christ's birth. To help us navigate the difficulty of Shakespeare's prose, Buechner offers a summary of the trio's conversation—a conversation that finds Marcellus offering a breathtaking thought about the power of the Advent of a Savior:
On the dark battlements of Elsinore, Marcellus speaks to his companions of the time of Jesus' birth. It is a hallowed time he says, a holy time, a time in which life grows still like the surface of a river so that we can look down into it and see glimmering there in its depth something timeless, precious, other. And a gracious time, Marcellus says—a time that we cannot bring about as we can bring about a happy time or a sad time but time that comes upon us as a grace, as a free and unbidden gift. Marcellus explains that Christmas is a time of such holiness that the cock crows the whole night through as though it is perpetually dawn, and thus for once, even the powers of darkness are powerless.