Monday, December 24, 2012

Sermon, Christmas Eve 2012

Merry Christmas!

Tonight on the Eve of the Nativity of our Lord, we hear again the story of the birth of Christ as beautifully told by Luke.  A census, a journey with a young, pregnant woman, a town with NO VACANCY, a birth in a manger, shepherds, angels and a proclamation all make up this story that has stirred people for two thousand years.

Our Wednesday Bible study is working their way through Luke.  One person recently told me, “You were right – you can’t help but hear Luke’s birth narrative in any voice but Linus’.”  And that’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

As much as I like that show and that monologue, there’s more to Christmas than angels, shepherds and a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes.  Those things are all the pretty wrapping on the gift.  They are what make us “ooh” and “aah” and coo, but they aren’t what Christmas is all about.

We miss the point if we think Christmas is all about shepherds, angels, and a cute little baby.  We miss the point if we think Christmas is all about packages, boxes and bags.  And we certainly miss the point if we think Christmas is all about ensuring retailers say, “Merry Christmas” instead of, “Happy Holidays.”

Christmas is really about two things: 1) the Incarnation; and 2) evangelism.

The incarnation is, as Ed Sullivan would say, a really big shew – really big.  It is the event that brought God down to our level in the person of Jesus Christ.  Through the Incarnation, Jesus is both fully human and fully divine.  While this might be hard for us to wrap our heads around, what it essentially means is that both us and God have found a new way to relate to each other.

This incarnational big event was made possible by the grace of God and by Mary’s willingness to say yes to God’s invitation to participate in something remarkable.  God called Mary, and she agreed.  She agreed to allow God to live and grow within her, and to nurture the living Word of God, until such time when she loosed that Word upon the world.

The Incarnation is not only a big event, but it is also an event that happens in small ways.  It is an event when we reflect the living, loving Word of God in our own lives and circumstances.  It happens when we allow ourselves to become a thin place, becoming the vessels through which God and humanity are best reflected.  When we allow God to dwell within us, when we allow God to live and grow within us, when we nurture the living Word of God and then loose that Word upon the world, then we become like Mary.  We, too, become God-bearers.  We, too, participate in an incarnational event.

The other thing Christmas is all about is evangelism.  The advent of Christmas comes with Gabriel’s announcement to Mary that she would conceive a son.  When Jesus was born, Luke tells us that an angel appeared to shepherds announcing that birth.  And when the shepherds arrived, they made known what had been told them.

Angel is the Greek word for messengers.  Angels brought the message of the Incarnation to Mary.  They brought a message of great joy to the shepherds.  And the shepherds took up that angelic mission when they made known what had been told to them.

This big event Incarnation, this event where God is with us, and these smaller incarnational events where we ourselves become God-bearers, are events not designed for secrecy.  They are events that call out to be called out.  They are events that require us to be God’s messengers.

We must also remember to whom the angels first went to.  They went to the poor, the weak, those considered less-than by society.  As we deliver God’s message that he is with us, let us not forget to include and welcome those people in our society who are seen as less-than, generally unwelcome, outcast and abused.  The message of God is that love wins, but if we fail to nurture and bear that message in small incarnational events, then we have no message to give.

The trappings of Christmas are nice, lovely and enjoyable.  Have fun.  Go to parties.  Enjoy yourselves.  But on this First Day of Christmas, never forget that the true meaning of Christmas is about incarnational moments and our obligation to share those moments – not only with others, but with The Other.

Merry Christmas.


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