Sermon:Christmas Eve Year A*
December 24, 2019
The Rev. Eileen Weglarz
Isaiah 9:2-7; Psalm 96; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-20
Having a new baby in the family is a time of great joy, anticipation, and celebration. Everyone gathers around the child and mother and dotes on them. The mother has the support of doctors and nurses and medical care, and hopefully adoring husband and family members.
What a different kind of experience was Mary’s and Joseph’s. No bed rest in the final weeks of pregnancy. Rather, an arduous trek on the back of a donkey to Bethlehem at Caesar's behest to be registered and pay the Roman taxes. No sterile labor and delivery room. No room at all, in fact, just a stable behind an inn. No epidural for the pain of childbirth, no medical team alert to any anomaly that might present itself, no nursery to check out the baby, who is cared for in those first fragile moments of life by capable pediatric nurses.
Just a 50-year-old man, who undoubtedly gave and did what he could to help his scared 15-year-old wife. No in-laws to help change the diapers or to walk the baby while his mama slept. No comforts, no safety, no days of transitioning serenely into parenthood. No nicely furnished and decorated nursery. Rather, a cold stable, with a hay feeder to serve as a baby’s crib.
All that Mary and Joseph had was the stark reality of new life, and if that wasn't enough, they had danger on the horizon. Some would seek to kill the child.
The calm and bright night and a baby sleeping tenderly while angels watched and shepherds came to worship—lovely scenario on the page, but unlikely in fact on the night of the birth. It was probably quite some time much later, long after they left the stable and returned home.
I am amazed that God intended to use one this small, this helpless and dependent, this burdened with poverty and exile to save humanity from itself. How could this be? How could God have no bigger plan than this? Maybe it is because salvation itself is no big Cecile B. DeMille extravagant production, no media hyped birth, like that of a new prince of England, not then, not now.
Salvation is simply the one voice saying No to evil and Yes to God. Then another voice. Then one voice gets silenced, but another emerges. Two become four, and even if evil quiets some voices, still a voice cries new life. A few more hear and join the chorus. The darkness fights back and might even turn the chorus in on itself, making it precious, then hateful, then fearful. But God keeps the songs going, and a "weary world" discovers its hopes and won't go backwards ever again.
Salvation never lies in the roar of a vast throng and mega-million dollar enterprise. Salvation lies in the small act of turning toward the light. What we as Christians call the Light of Christ. We yearn for throngs. We yearn for full churches and fabulous choirs. But salvation happens when we leave the venue and go out into the world to whatever we can make of our lives—in whatever circumstances or conditions we find ourselves.
I wonder how God could trust mere human beings with the most precious gift of new and unending life, salvation for the World, in the form of an innocent, helpless baby. And not a baby born to royalty or wealth or power, but a baby born into an everyday working-class family in the meanest of circumstances. But we see a truth emerge: God becomes human so that humanity can become divine. God becomes lowly so that we can be lifted up and experience abundant life in its fullest. Life that gives eternal life, spiritual life in the here and now and forever.
And in accepting that life, we find another truth emerge, what French theologian and paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin wrote, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” Beings created in the image of God.
What a gift! What a God! To become as fragile and vulnerable and humble as an infant, to bring salvation’s great dynamic and unfolding plan to God’s created beings. How God loved humanity—how God loves us then, loves us now and forever. It is no wonder that we remember and celebrate this most Holy time of year. We remember what God did and continues to do for us, often when we deserve it the least.
However, God’s self-sacrificing, self-abasing saving action was not only one time over 2,000 years ago. No, God’s saving action takes place every time a person turns to Jesus the Christ, the Messiah of God and a light goes on for them, as they see and receive his light. It’s about saying yes to God. And just as the angels of heaven rejoiced at the infant Jesus’s birth, so they rejoice every time a person is born anew into the Kingdom of God and becomes a son or daughter of God, a member of God’s Community of Faith.
So, it is only fitting that tonight as God’s Community of Faith, Christians all over the world celebrate the birth of Jesus the Christ, the Light, the Word made flesh. We lift our voices and rejoice in word and song and partake of the heavenly banquet, which is given to us from his very humanity.
But then, what pleases God more than our celebrating the Jesus’ birthday, is for us to turn to him, that Light that came to drive out darkness, and invite Jesus, the Christ of God—the sent one—to be born, not in a stable, but in our hearts.
May the Light of Christ shine brightly and richly in each of your lives and in the lives of those you love, this Christmas and for ever more. Amen.
*Sermon adapted from “On a Journey,” by Tom Ehrich, December 24, 2013.