Isaiah 9.2-7; Titus 2.11-14; Luke 2.1-20
+ I don’t know about you, but it sure feels different tonight. Even those of us who might be scrooges about Christmas, even those people know—there’s something special and beautiful about this evening. You can feel it. It’s all around us.
Yes, it might be dark and cold out there. But even in this coldness, in this darkness, there is Light. We are celebrating the Light tonight—this Light hat that has come to us in our collective and personal darknesses. We celebrate the Light that has come to us in our despair and our fear, in our sadness and in our frustration—all those things we live with in our day to day lives. And as it does, no doubt most of us are feeling two emotions—the two emotions Christmas is all about—hope and joy.
Hope—in our belief that what has come to us—Christ—God made flesh—is here among us. And Joy—at the realization of that reality. God has come among us.
As we come forward tonight to meet with joy and hope this mystery that we remember and commemorate and make ours this evening, we find ourselves feeling these emotions at our very core. This hope and joy we are experiencing this evening comes up from our very centers. We will never fully understand how or why God has come to us as this little child in a dark stable in the Middle East, but it has happened and, because it happened, we are a different people. But, although it seems innocent, although it seems so nice and friendly, it is a momentous experience.
The event we celebrate tonight is THE event in which God breaks through to us. The event we celebrate is the Incarnation—God coming to us in the flesh. For us, Incarnation means, God breaking through to us.
And whenever God breaks through, it is not some gentle nudge. It not some kind of flick. It is an event that jars us, provokes us and changes us.
For people sitting in deep darkness, that glaring Light that breaks through into their lives is not the most pleasant thing in the world. It can be blinding and can be painful. And what it exposes is sobering.
That is what God does to us. That is REAL Incarnation. It shakes us up and changes us. That is what we are commemorating tonight.
We are commemorating a “break through” from God—an experience with God that leaves us different people than we were before that encounter. And it can happen again and again in our lives. What we experience is a Christmas that promises us something tangible. It promises us, and delivers, a real joy.
The joy we feel today, the joy we feel at this Child’s birth, at God breaking through to us and being with us and among us, is a joy that promises us some THING. It is a teaser of what awaits us. It is a glimpse into the life we will all have one day. It is a perfect joy that promises a perfect life.
But just because it is a joyful event, does not mean that it isn’t a serious event. What we celebrate is serious. It is an event that causes us to rise up in a joyful happiness, while, at the same time, driving us to our knees in humility. It is an event that should cause us not just to return home to our brightly wrapped presents, but it should also send us out into the world to make it, in some small way, a reflection of this life-changing joy that has come into our lives.
There is a great quote from the great Dominican theologian, Meister Ekhart:
“What good is if Mary gave birth to the Son of God [two thousand years ago]? I too must give birth to the Son of God in my time, here and now. We are all meant to be the mothers of God. God is always needing to be born.”
We need to be the people through whom God is born again and again in this world. We need to bring God into reality in this world again and again. Why? Because God is a God of love. Because we are loved by that God. Because we are accepted by that God. Because we are—each of us—important to God. We are, each of us, broken and imperfect as we may be some times, very important to God. Each of us. And because we are, we must love others, just as God loves us. We must give birth to our God so others can know this amazing love as well.
Knowing this amazing love of God changes everything. When we realize that God knows us as individuals. That God loves us and accepts each of us for who we are, we are joyful. We are hopeful of our future with that God. And we want to share this love and this God with others.
That is what we are celebrating this evening. Our true hope and true joy is not in brightly colored lights and a pile of presents until a decorated tree. Our true hope and joy does not come to us with the “things” that will, a week from now, be a fading memory. Our hope and joy is in a God who comes to us, with a face like our face and flesh like our flesh, who causes us to leap up with joy at this very presence. Our hope and joy is in that almighty and incredible God who would come to us, not on some celestial cloud with a sword in his hand and armies of angels flying about him.
Our hope and joy is in a God who comes to us in this innocent child, born to a humble teenager in a dusty land. Our hope and joy is in a God who comes and accepts us and loves us for who we are and what we are—a God who understands what it means to live this sometimes frightening uncertain life we live.
This is the real reason why we are joyful and hopeful on this beautiful night. This is why we are feeling within us a strange sense of longing. This is why we are rushing toward our Savior who has come to visit us in what we once thought was our barrenness.
Let the hope we feel tonight as God our Savior draws close to us stay with us now and always. Let the joy we feel tonight as God our Friend comes to us in love be the motivating force in how we live our lives throughout this coming year.
God is here. God is in our midst tonight. God is so near, our very bodies and souls are rejoicing. And God loves us. So, let us greet this Savior tonight with all that we have within us and let us welcome God into the warm shelter of our hearts. Amen.