Christmas Eve A 2019
Wherever you are on the journey, you are welcome here.
Here, yes here, you are welcome:
In this place where community gathers. Where we take pause.
In this place where life is born among us and for us.
In this place where God gathers us in to make all things new.
And it all begins with a baby. Yes babies can do that.
Now take a deep breath. You’ve made it. (At least to you current destination)
All of the planning, cooking, travelling, packing, buying, rushing, stressing, anticipating, worrying, missing those who aren’t here, hoping, and maybe for some even dreading.
You’ve made it, here tonight.
Coming from various places to greet the Christ child born for us.
Visitors at the manger.
Now some of you wouldn’t be able to imagine Christmas Eve without first making room for the candlelight service at St. Matts- maybe you’re the innkeeper who had room enough for the birth of Jesus even if it was a stable. openness
Some might have come with loved ones for the first or tenth time, pondering what this is all about, unsure yet willing - well that sounds a little like Mary and Joseph. trust
While some of you might be like the shepherds - anxious and reluctant visitors at first, on the margins, yet eager to go see. Maybe you know about the joy the shepherds speak. joy
Or what about the the angels, the ones with a heavenly refrain on your lips. The ones bringing good news of great joy to the people around you. The one who calms the fearful soul. Maybe that’s you. calm
And then there is Herod. Still the king Herod’s of the world threaten the very life the Christ child brings. (greed, power)
Wherever you have come from. Wherever you’re going.
You’ve made it, here tonight.
Visitors at the manger, you are.
Visitors at the manger, we are together.
Did I say welcome?
Now, let’s visit the manger.
We need to visit the manger. It’s important. It shows us the flip side to the shimmer of Christmas. The beautiful inner lining of the garment. The worth of the ornament that’s broken. It’s the gift of nothing un-wrapped. The handwritten note inside of the card. That cherished moment of peace with a loved one.
We visit the manger to see the flip side, God’s side.
In a world that so often tells us,
That we don’t measure up.
That our worth is defined extrinsically.
That the bully makes it to a place of trust and authority.
That beauty is on the outside.
That people are commodities.
We need to see God’s flip side…
In a world that treats people differently with differing skin colour, or size and shape.
In a world that cages families and separates children
In a world with hunger, homelessness, growing isolation and loneliness
In a world where our first nations weep.
And where women walk cautiously.
We need to see God’s flip side…
In this beautiful and lovely and breathtaking world, there is mess.
We visit the manager because at the manger there too is mess but there is also hope.
At the manger there is possibility for change.
At the manger there is want and willingness to do better.
We visit the manger, because at the manger there is a solution.
Yes, at the manger there is a solution.
Wouldn’t we all like a solution to the worlds problems?
I don’t know about you, but some aspect of our life (of my life) is always in need of some God with us transformative love. That breathes into existence a God narrative full of life for all people. For when a narrative is full of life for you, it is full of life for me. Living in God’s full of life narrative is contagious.
Often I say, less is more. In this case, more is more.
Your more doesn’t make mine less. When you live more fully in the way God intends, so do I, so do we, so does everyone. There isn’t a limited amount of this gift of God’s grace and love to unwrap. There are enough presents under the tree for all.
This is why we visit the manger.
Throughout salvation history, God’s ongoing work, consistently and persistently chips away at the very things that claim power but don’t have any power to do good, or to make whole, or to create peace among people, or to build up. God breaks down, that which breaks down humanity.
And yes, we are invited to the manger because at the manger there is a solution.
We’re all invited to play a role. To be apart of God’s important work in the world.
Like Mary and Joseph, the angels or the shepherd, the magi, by speaking truth to the power of Herod. Challenging us to hold the light of God’s flip side up for the world.
The beauty of this is, as Mihee Kim-Kort writes— “God will do this work no matter what, and God will invite anyone to participate in it—a young woman, a stepfather, night-shift workers, foreign scientists, fishermen, sex workers.” God began this work in the strangest and unlikely characters. God continues this work in us and others we deem unworthy but God says to them you’ve got this. You my child are everything.
The audacity of it all is that God will do this work no matter what, God invites us all to participate, especially those the world turns away. Why? God’s grace speaks a message of worth and dignity into all lives. Especially, the ones who the world shuns. So it’s fitting that the message of Christmas comes to us in the tiniest of packages, a baby. A baby who is utterly dependent on the care of the people who surround. A baby begins to teach us what it means to have God with us.
We look forward to visiting the manger.
Although what we hear, do and sing together, might not change much. The paradox is that the the gift of the Christ child among us - has this amazing way of changing us, again, and again. To reform us anew, to reshape our lives like clay, to challenge, to comfort and to encourage us along the way. So that we may live more fully. So that others may live more completely. So a world in need might be turned around.
The baby does just this
the baby turns things right side up
reorients our priorities and goals
softens our hard hearts
teaches us how to love again
shows us a most beautiful love.
Visiting the manger is not an easy journey.
To the manger we go.
May the God of expectant hope be born into all our hearts and lives.
May the grace of God, who meets us where we are, cradle us in the manger of God’s love.
May the God of courage and new life, direct and focus our steps toward the solution.