Well hello! Merry Christmas. Welcome to Trinity, or welcome back. I’m delighted that you’ve come this evening, and I hope and pray that this evening’s worship brings God’s blessing.
Ah, I need Christmas. Don’t you? I need this season and this holiday. I love Jesus, of course, and I love celebrating his birthday. I love to hear the stories of the Nativity all over again, but there’s more than that. There’s this, I guess the Spirit of the Season, the Christmas spirit. Tami and Steve gave me a card that sums it up nicely: Christmas. It’s our season for being refreshed in the joy of God’s gifts. It’s our season for wonder, for generosity of spirit, for making time to for what’s most important in life.
Refreshed. Joy. Wonder. Generosity. Making time for what’s most important in life. Doesn’t it just feel comforting to hear those words? Why do we so easily lose sight of these things for the rest of the year? And then Christmas rolls around again, and we hear the songs and put up the twinkling lights and we start to remember.
And I sure do need the reminder that there’s joy and peace in the world, and goodness and wonder and generosity. The world feels pretty turbulent these days. Pretty stressful. Everyone I know is dealing with something — addiction, health issues, divorce, job insecurity, money insecurity, political insecurity, violence in schools, violence everywhere else, depression, anxiety. My dear Lord do we need Christmas. It’s our season for being refreshed in the joy of God’s gifts. It’s our season for wonder, for generosity of spirit, for making time to for what’s most important in life. It’s our season to remember that God is with us no matter what.
No matter what. Christmas shows up no matter what we do! And there’s always so much to do around Christmas, isn’t there? Especially for you moms. My friend Kira is a priest in Nashville. She wrote this the other day and it felt relatable.
“I have done the absolute least this holiday season. My tree has about five ornaments on it, and I messed up the lights, so they’re all wonky. I stopped reading my Advent devotional before bed two weeks ago. I haven’t lit my Advent wreath once because I’ve either been away from home or eating dinner in front of the television. I haven’t sent a Christmas card or baked a single cookie or wrapped a gift or hung a stocking.”
Maybe that rings true for you? If so, take a deep breath and relax your shoulders. No matter how much you have done or not done, Christmas has arrived, just as it does every year. Let it be your gift to rest now.
Babies do that too! They show up whether you’re ready or not. They show up on your own schedule. You parents out there, you know that. Baby comes when baby comes. So it was for Jesus. He was born at a terrible time! The worst time! In the middle of the winter when it was cold? And at a time, we are told, when the Roman Empire had decided to do a census — to take a count of everyone in the land. So Jospeh and Mary had to travel 100 miles on foot when she was in her third trimester! Not a good idea. And then there was no room at the inn, we are told, so Jesus was born in, well, less than sanitary conditions. And no sooner was he born, if you read ahead a bit into St. Matthew’s gospel, no sooner was he born than wicked King Herod sent soldiers to kill him!
Have you read A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle? She was an Episcopalian, you know. Here’s a bit of her poem “First Coming”
He did not wait till the world was ready,
till men and nations were at peace.
He came when the Heavens were unsteady,
and prisoners cried out for release.
He did not wait for the perfect time.
He came when the need was deep and great.
He dined with sinners in all their grime,
turned water into wine.
He did not wait till hearts were pure.
In joy he came to a tarnished world of sin and doubt.
To a world like ours, of anguished shame
he came, and his Light would not go out.
This, this is Christ the king, whom shepherds guard and angels sing. Jesus who is the King, the Savior, the Redeemer, the Lord, God born for us: born in squalor, in poverty, in occupied territory, in danger, in trouble. Simply the worst time for a newborn. He came, as babies do, on his own schedule.
But that’s God for you, isn’t it? Whether we’re ready for Christmas or not, here it is. Whether Joseph and Mary are prepared or not, Jesus will be born. And that’s good news.
Because none of this depends, ultimately, on you or me. It is all God’s gift to us, the birth of Jesus.
Like all good gifts, the birth of Jesus brings us joy. Like all good gifts, we receive it not because we earned it or deserve it, but simply because the giver of the gift wants to share love. It makes us happy to sink into this story of God who loved us so much that he became one of us. Let me tell you, there are days when I see the worst side of humanity. We can do some pretty awful things to each other; you know that. But God knew we were worth it, so God came to be with us. It’s God saying, “you know what, humanity, sometimes you’re a hot mess, but I’m here with you, and I’m sticking with you, because I love you.” So Jesus shows up not in spite of our imperfections but, really, because of them.
Let’s go back to what my friend Kira said, about dropping the ball on all the December things. Let’s pick up where we left off:
“I haven’t sent a Christmas card or baked a single cookie or wrapped a gift or hung a stocking. And in a couple of days, I will still get to tell the Christmas story, to proclaim to a church full of underprepared sinners like myself, that “unto YOU this day is born in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” I will get to preach the beautiful mystery of the Incarnation, that God moved into the neighborhood, took on human flesh, and was born as a vulnerable baby. God so loved the world, and nothing I have done or failed to do can separate me or you from that love. Alleluia. Amen.”
Whether you think you are ready, whether you think you deserve it, whether you think you are good enough, whether you think you are lovable, whether you even believe in this whole Christianity thing, hear the message of the angels tonight, and cling to it fiercely: God loves you, and was born to save you, and heal you, and fill you with hope.
May you have a holy and blessed Christmas.