Hello. Merry Christmas! I’m glad you’ve come to worship this evening. This can be a crazy season. I’m sure some of you are almost worn out from Christmas stuff. Judging by the ads on tv and the music in the stores it has been Christmas for months now! Some of you have been baking non-stop. Or wrapping presents. Or going to parties. Or looking forward to time spent with family. Or dreading time spent with family. To be sure, this season can be a non-stop season.
So I’m glad that you’ve decided to stop for a little while in this non-stop season and worship. It’s good to remember that there is a baby lying at the silent heart of this moment. It’s good to remember that Jesus was born. It’s good to remember that Jesus was born to love you.
I need to be reminded of it. I need to remember that Jesus was born to love me. My friend Sarah Condon came up with it. She’s a priest down in Houston, and she wrote it: “Jesus was born to love you.” And I realized, you know? I needed to hear that. So do you. It’s true, after all, and, my God, it’s beautiful.
We need to be reminded of it and we need to remember it because life is difficult. 2018 has been really difficult for lots of u. We’re all carrying such burdens — relationship troubles, financial stress, job worries, schoolwork that feels like an avalanche, medical issues, the death of a loved one. The anniversary of the death of a loved one. We’re all carrying so much. And if we’re not carrying this things ourselves, we all know someone who is.
And it’s not just down here at the level of our little lives. It can feel like the whole world is falling apart. These politicians. These governments. These nations. These economies. It feels relentless.
It can begin to make us feel frustrated, pessimistic, hopeless, unlovable. Where is God in all of this, anyway?
I imagine it’s pretty much how life must have felt back then when Jesus was born, back on that night that we celebrate today,
Oh little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth, the everlasting light
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight
The hopes and fears of the human race, these seem to be eternal. The things that you hope for are probably the same things that people have always hoped for. The things that you fear are probably the same things that people have always feared. This isn’t complicated. The pace of change is overwhelming these days, with digital this and online that, but some things don’t change at all.
We want to be relieved of our suffering.
Or if we are to suffer we want to understand it.
We want peace in our hearts, in our families, in our communities, and in the world
We want to be comforted in our sorrows, supported in our rejoicing, strengthened in our weakness, and celebrated in our strengths.
We want to know everything will be ok.
We want to be seen, and heard.
We want to be loved.
Well. Jesus was born to love you.
But why? If God wants to fix things, why doesn’t God just wave a big hand, or a magic wand, or whatever. Why doesn’t God just do what God did at the beginning of creation and simple breathe over the face of our chaos, and make everything better?
I don’t know for sure. Maybe God could. But we might miss something important if God did.
See, God created the whole universe out of love. God created the whole universe because God is love, and love is creative. Love wants to make stuff: art and wine and music and mountains and stars and babies. Love adds to the world, and so God, who is love itself, made everything that is.
We were made in the image of that God. You and I, and all our siblings in this human race, despite our failings and our fears: we’re supposed to be creations experts at love. That was our job, way back with Adam and Eve. What separates us from the rest of the animals? What makes us unique? What gives us our distinctive dignity within the universe? Above all: the image of God in us looks like this: we are capable of such astounding love.
We’re capable of it, but something holds us back. Fear, worry, doubt, self-centeredness, or just lack of practice — or call it sin. Whatever it is, we’re not quite able to love as fully or as bravely as we are supposed to, as we were created to. And that is the source of all our troubles.
We needed to understand love, and love’s beauty, and love’s fragility, and love’s sacrificial power. And you know this, you who have ever been in love — you know you can’t explain it. There’s no textbook or documentary or powerpoint presentation that can explain what love is like.
We can only experience it. And as human beings we can only really truly experience real love from another human being.
So there was no other choice. There was no option. God had to become a human being so that we could fall in love with him. There’s no shortcut to it. You have to hold the baby and let your heart crack right open.
So Jesus was born to love you.
And that love, once it enters the world, it can never leave it again. That love is the light of the world that shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never again conquer it. We know there’s still plenty of sorrow left in the world, and maybe in your own heart. The birth of no baby fixes every problem, even if that baby is Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior!
But love has come down, and love is creative. Love wants to make stuff. Love adds to the world. And so we who live in his love bring love into the world. For everyone you ever get to meet, Jesus was born to love them too. Imagine what the world would be like if we truly saw everybody as lovable?
And so Jesus is always needing to be born. And so he is always born, not only in Bethlehem long ago, but whenever the story is told, wherever the angels announce glad tidings, wherever Christians whisper or sing or shout that Jesus is born for all of us, he is born again into the world, into our hearts, into our souls. Jesus was born to love you. And so he does.
Soon, we will put away the ornaments and take the Christmas tree down. We will start to prepare for the next holiday. Our lives will return to their usual pattern. And yet, in the silent night of our hearts, a baby is always resting in Mary’s lap, gripping the hem of her robe with tiny fingers. In the silent night of our hearts, the newborn God knits together the ancient universe with your loving soul. Jesus is born to love us. O come, let us adore him.