Christmas Eve Meditation, Colchester Federated Church, (Luke 2:1-7) December 24, 2019
Tonight we once again hear the familiar story. A story of weary travelers. A story of a young woman pregnant with her first child and that child emerging from her womb and into the world. A story of a baby laid in a manger because there was no room for that baby and his parents at the inn. A story of shepherds living in their fields keeping watch over their flock by night. A story of angels appearing to those shepherds and piercing the night sky with a glorious heavenly light. A story of magi from the East following starlight and trusting in God and their own wisdom throughout their journey. Yes, it’s a familiar story with a familiar cast of characters that many of us know by heart.
Though every year when we remember this familiar story we can’t gloss over the fact that Jesus wasn’t born in perfect circumstances. The tensions in the story don’t disappear by the end of the scripture readings that we heard tonight. Because once we move forward in the story of our Christian faith—we know that the Romans are still occupying Judea. (That’s why Mary and Joseph had to travel for the census in the first place.) Jesus’ family would continue to be poor. Herod would still be plotting and scheming—Mary and Joseph would eventually go to Egypt for a while to protect their young son from Herod. The societal status of shepherds as outcasts didn’t change even after the angels of the Lord appeared to them in the fields. And magi from the East would still be looked upon with suspicion by some folks. Even though those magi were welcome to come and see Jesus because God shows no partiality when it comes to all those categories we humans use to divide ourselves from one another.
So it’s not as if there’s a big red Christmas bow at the end of the story of the birth of Jesus Christ and everything became flawless. Though the miracles of the Christmas story can shake the certainty of cynics if there’s an openness to hearing the deeper meanings—even the cynic that can sometimes be found within ourselves. Because when we look around our weary world, there aren’t always apparent reasons to rejoice in our own time. Our country is divided with no end in sight. We sometimes face loss and grief. We worry about some things that are totally beyond our control in our own lives or in the lives of those we love. But oh, do we worry. We face addiction and loneliness and emptiness. And sometimes we may wonder what it all means.
Now like some of you, I happen to love Christmas movies and there’s always these moments in those stories where cynicism seems to take over or it seems like things just aren’t going to work out:
- The Whos down in Whoville (including Cindy Lou Who) wake up on Christmas morning with no presents and no decorations.
- Buddy the Elf finds his biological father in New York City only to be told to get out of his life.
- Clark doesn’t receive that Christmas bonus he had planned for, but instead a subscription to the jelly of the month club.
- Charlie Brown picks out a Christmas tree and the tree appears to die after just one ornament is placed on its branch.
- Kevin’s family goes to Paris without him and the wet bandits come to his “boring” neighborhood.
- Ebenezer Scrooge ruins the Christmas preparations for everyone with his “bah-humbugs.”
- And Ralphie gets told that he can’t have a red ryder bb gun because he’ll shoot his eye out.
(Hopefully those are enough examples that one Christmas movie you like made the list.) The point is that there are moments where everything seems lost, like there is no way that things will work out.
Except sometimes they do work out. Because just when that cynical (or possibly hopeless) side of ourselves or our world may try to take over and have the last word, we can hear the piercing cry of that baby born in Bethlehem. That cry has a way of stopping us in our tracks when we fear that all is lost. No offense to those who love the lyrics in “Away in a Manger” that proclaim that Jesus didn’t cry—“but little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes.” Babies do tend to cry sometimes. And that cry can be a cry for different reasons—being hungry or tired or uncomfortable or scared. That cry is also a sound of life. People long to hear infants cry right after they emerge from their mother’s wombs and come into this world. We come into this world with a cry. That baby’s cry heard in Bethlehem was a cry that quite literally changed the world.
It ends up that even the birth of Jesus the Christ child couldn’t make everything in the world perfect. And we certainly know that our own lives are far from perfect. But God can use imperfections to bring about God’s glory. That infant’s cry meant that new life was available for everyone. And if God’s grace freely given isn’t a miracle that plays out over and again, I don’t what is. God is with us through it all and sometimes things do work out. That’s true in Christmas movies and it can be true in the stories of our lives as well.
Because in the person of Jesus Christ God did come to us to share our common lot, to dwell among us to fully understand us and be part of this flawed world with us. Jesus is Emmanuel, God-with-Us—even in the midst of our imperfect lives and this imperfect world. Because God loves this world full of complications, and there’s nothing that we can do to separate from the love of God. Christ can be reborn every single Christmas in the human heart. The cry of an infant reminds us that new life is always possible. What a gift, and what a reason to rejoice. Merry Christmas and thanks be to God. Amen.