December 24, 2012 7:00pm
RCL Christmas Day 1
On behalf of the clergy and lay leadership of Christ Church, let me say how very glad we are that you are here. I am sure there are other things you could have done with these precious minutes and hours. Maybe there was a party invitation you declined. Maybe you still have gifts to wrap or gifts to assemble. Maybe you’re giving up some quiet time with family…
But instead, you chose to be here in worship. I am thankful, and I know God is honored by your presence and your choice as well.
If you will indulge me to ask: Why are you here? What is it that you’re looking for? What it is that motivated you to put on your clothes that maybe you only wear in the month of December and make your way to this place, on this night? And what is it that you hope to have found when you leave tonight?
The birth of a child, especially The One for whom so many were waiting, is a reason to pause what we’re doing, step outside of our normal routine and acknowledge the power and the mystery that is our God. I mean, when else would you find yourself in church on a Monday night if it weren’t Christmas Eve?
Whether you’re here under some duress or guilt trip or because it’s tradition or because you can’t imagine yourself anywhere else, there is something that each of us is seeking on this night of nights, something that’s not under any Christmas tree or in any stocking.
Maybe it’s the promise of Isaiah that the people who have walked in darkness have seen a light, and you’re looking for that light.
Maybe it’s because you recognize, even if you have some doubts, that this child born in such meager conditions, carries these fantastic titles like Wonderful Counselor, Might God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace… and that is an occasion worth celebrating.
Maybe it’s because, like the shepherds, you want to see what the fuss is all about. I’ve always wondered how the shepherds actually found Mary & Joseph and the baby. Bethlehem was a big city, and if Luke’s account is to be believed, it was probably pretty crowded with people. But no matter. They heard the voices of angels, followed their directions and found this child.
Now, if I were Joseph, and these shepherds (not exactly the best of the best in society) showed up, I might ask them the same thing I asked you: Why are you here? The best they could say was that a bunch of angels told them what they’d find and where to find it. But beyond that, I wonder if even the shepherds knew why they went.
Here’s what God did on that night: God turned the world upside down. God chose an unexpected set of parents in an unexpected place in an unexpected time to come as close to humanity as God could come. And instead of it happening in a place where those in power, those with the most prestige, could see it and be in awe, God chose a stable. Instead of putting Jesus on display for kings or princes or religious leadership, God chose shepherds to be the first ones to lay eyes on this Almighty Child. Shepherds, a group often without power, often looked down upon, those with an important task, but a task thought beneath most other people, the out-casts of society. From the moment of his birth, Jesus began to change the world. His entire ministry was about welcoming in those whom the religious establishment and those whom the Empire said were not good enough, and Jesus said to them, “Oh, but you are good enough.”
The mystery of God choosing to become human may have happened once many years ago in a far away land, but the work that was begun that night in a dark and smelly stable continues today. It continues in you and me and in all those who continue to seek and understand him.
Whatever it was that brought you here tonight, I hope that you will take to heart this Christmas message: That Jesus’ work of welcoming the out-casts, standing up to those in power, and being the light in the darkness continues today. We have a choice. We can remain silent, thinking that this is just one hour of our life and tomorrow things will be back to how we’re used to. Or…
Or can we be like the shepherds, who responded to the angelic voices and the viewing of the child by glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told to them.
The reality is, once Jesus was born, the world could never go back to “the way things were.” The message is clear: We are moved by the memory of this night to welcome those whom society says aren’t good enough. We care for those who are poor, who, like this baby king, have no real bed in which to lie on a cold night. We are called to be the light to those who walk in darkness. We are called to help change the world.
No matter why you’re here tonight, I don’t think you can leave the same person that came in. I hope and pray that you will take this Christmas message, and like Jesus, help to turn the world upside down.