Before I say anything else, I want to thank you for coming this evening to celebrate the Nativity of our Lord. I especially want to greet those of you who are visiting, and to wish you all a very happy Christmas.
At this feast, we celebrate the gift of gifts. The King of Kings. We meet again with the angels, shepherds, and a young family, attempting to do the right thing—attempting to be faithful both to what God has asked, and what the emperor has decreed. And in the midst of it all, in the midst of the hassle of leaving hearth and home to travel to an ancestral town brimming with visitors, such that no room is available for them to spend the night, the birth of the Messiah comes.
Mary and Joseph, huddled together, far from family and friends who know them and have cared for them. The timing is inconvenient, and the conditions are squalid, but humanity in all our frailty, and in all our brokenness, gives birth to one who was before all worlds. God from God, light from light, true God from true God.
At Christmas, the Church pauses to receive the Gospel anew—to reflect on the grace of God, to consider the unenviable conditions of his birth, but then make the transition from head to heart, wherein we discover the magnitude of what this means.
Christmas is something you can spend a lot of time thinking about. But as with all genuine expressions of generosity, it is the love of the giver that touches us most deeply, and draws us most tenderly.
God gives his only born son. We had received everything else. We had received the gift of our existence. Marveled at the beauty and sensuality of our fearfully and wonderfully made selves. Marveled at the sun and moon in their courses, and "this fragile earth our island home." From the beginning God wished to be in relationship with us, and always has. God has always encouraged humanity to strive for the peace and well-being of all of God's creation.
Jesus was sent and came among us to show us the way to live, and the way to die—the way to give of ourselves, trusting in the provision of our heavenly Father. Through Christ's life, death, and resurrection, we see what God wishes to do for humanity. God wishes to provide the means of enjoying this life in righteousness and peace as a foretaste of the life to come—a life of communion and community—until God brings together all things in his son.
It may be tempting to focus on the life to come as a means of escaping the tragedy and sinfulness of the present age. Who among us has not regarded the recent events in our country, and in the world, and not prayed for God to hasten the coming of his kingdom?
But it was into this life that Christ was sent. Christ came into the economic, and social inequality of first century Palestine. We look back through the filters of nostalgia at a simpler age, but forget the horrors that went with it. Life spans were brief, food was not always safe, medicine was a distant hope. No electricity or sanitation. No assurances of any kind that the future would be brighter than the past.
If God is willing to send his son to be born—literally—into that age, how much more will he send him to be with us spiritually in our day?
God's gift is eternal—never limited to space and time. Christ is always coming to be born among us—always offering himself, his life and his being. And always rising from the tomb to offer us life. (Pause.)
We all have our own story: the place of our birth, the family that surrounded us, the imperfections of our youth, the first successes and failures of adulthood. We are intrinsically meaningful and beloved by God. We are living our lives as bravely as we can, and they all intersect with Jesus Christ, who has come to walk the road beside us, to raise us up when we fall, to be our Lord and our Shepherd.
When this holiday has passed, do not succumb to the temptation to tuck Jesus away in the closet with the crèche and the ornaments. Do not let this liturgy be only a momentary glimpse of the holy on the way to other things. Our lives have intersected with the life of God.
If you have been "walking in darkness," as Isaiah writes in the Old Testament lesson… If you have been overwhelmed by your own circumstances or the circumstances of others—by the tragedy in Connecticut, by the wearying changes and chances—tonight you have seen "a great light," "for a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."
Put your trust in him. Do not lean on your own limited capacity to control your life. Put your trust in him, and let him be your Lord.