December 24, 2018, The Eve of the Birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ The Rev. R. Allan McCaslin
Readings: Isaiah 9:2-7; Psalm 96; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-20
From the Prophet Isaiah, “For a child has been born for us, a son given to us” I speak to you in the Name of our creating, redeeming, and sustaining God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
I open tonight’s sermon with a song:
“All poor men and humble,
All lame men who stumble
Come haste ye, nor feel ye afraid.
For Jesus our treasure,
With love past all measure,
In lowly poor manger was laid.”
And so begins the old Christmas carol by the late Katharine Emily Roberts. As you can probably tell, that carol is one of my personal favorites. For it reminds us of the words of the Prophet Isaiah that the child whose birth we celebrate this night was born for us, and given for us, and for the whole world. And so this night, millions of Christians have gathered to celebrate one of the greatest mysteries of our faith: that Almighty God, the creator of all that is seen and unseen, chose to become flesh at Bethlehem, chose to become one with us, one of us and to dwell among us in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus, the promised Christ, and did this for us and as a gift to us!
I don’t need to retell the story of that birth. I think it safe to assume that most here this evening have heard that story over and again. Perhaps, for some, it has lost its impact because the reality is, while promising peace on earth and a new age of reconciliation with God and one another, our communities and nation seem even more segregated, distressed, and suspicious of one another than ever before. Where is this good news of great joy that the angels proclaimed to shepherds on a hillside long ago? In the face of national strife, and rising Anti-Semitism and racial slurs right here in the High Country, many wonder, what difference does this story, this God being born for us, being given to us make in our world today?
The truth is, beloved, this story, this fact of history, can make all the difference in our daily lives, all the difference in our communities and the world, if we grasp that this story goes beyond a cute baby in a manger. It is about a humble and simple beginning, but it is so much more.
Our scripture lessons tell us that the story of this child wrapped in rags and lying in a feeding trough totally dependent upon others for its health and security, is about God bursting into our midst. It is about God’s light piercing the darkness – not just natural nighttime darkness, but the darkness that lurks within the human heart and mind – the darkness of sin, selfishness, pride and hate – the darkness that, so often, is of our own choosing and causes many to stumble and lose hope.
See, the Prophet Isaiah proclaimed that through this quiet and incredibly humble birth at Bethlehem, a great light shone on all who were oppressed by the darkness of this world and that this light of God still shines among us. Our reading from St. Paul’s letter to Titus affirms that Christ, the light of world, continues to show us the way. But just like those shepherds heard in our gospel lesson, grasping the good news and joy of Christmas, experiencing God’s light in our hearts and minds so that it does make a difference in us, and brings peace and reconciliation into our communities and throughout the world requires action on our part. The shepherds were told “Come and see for yourselves.” St. Paul says, “Walk in that light.” And the Psalmist says, “declare the Lord’s glory” to the nations. All of this requires that we choose to respond to God’s ultimate intervention in human history, respond to this child in a manger, this child who will grow up and tell us that as we have done to the least of these: the lonely, the hungry, the naked, the poor, the imprisoned, the sick and the helpless, so we have done to him.
Christmas is more than a baby in a manger. It is an invitation to respond to God with all that we have and all that we are. For then, and only then, can Christmas make a difference not only in us, but in our communities and nation once more, and do so every day.
On this Christmas Eve, 2018, in the midst of all this beautiful music, greenery, and celebration, in the midst of our own secret fears and worries, may God grant us the grace to not only Come and Adore the Christ, but invite him into our hearts and minds, invite God’s light to pierce our own darkness, and choose to go forth this night to love, to forgive, to welcome, reconcile and be reconciled as that child at Bethlehem, this gift of God, will show us how. For then, beloved, to quote that hymn writer, we will be lame no more, and God’s promised peace will be with us this night and forever. Amen.