Christmas Day Sermon-Luke 2:8-20
I have mentioned before that I totally have a thing for Nativities. Honestly I have lost count of how many we have collected over the years…we seem to add at least one each year…and it’s not enough! I want to share a very short video that Ashley, my wife, made, as we unpacked our newest addition to our Nativity collection year before last (video). I think that is pretty awesome and appropriate…as Nativities and really the first Nativity, the forging of Jesus own family, is utterly epic. We even keep at least one or two up year round…which I think makes sense, for Christmas is more than a day or even a twelve day season in the life of the church…Christmas is all the time…that is God’s love is indeed being birthed into our world and lives in the most ordinary and extraordinary ways…again all the time…if only we can open the eyes of our hearts to see…the varied and life-giving ways God moves and is at work in the world around us. Like Christmas lights on the tree that twinkle and shine…shedding a heart-warming glow…if we but we move around the room and view them from a new direction or a new angle…we find that they show off their beauty in a whole new way…a wholly different lovely light. Similarly, as we move through life, through trails and challenges and blessings and transitions, God’s light…God’s love indeed shines bright…only in different ways…showing its beauty in new colors…but always as we need…just as Christmas promises…and, again, it takes only looking with the eyes of our hearts to see.
But back to those Nativity scenes…I have always been drawn to them. I remember playing with the one in our home growing up…looking forward to playing with the special characters and animals, while arranging ours each year…over time the paint faded and perhaps a leg was broken off a sheep or some such…perhaps even a piece went missing…lost under a couch…from all the hours of use…more an interactive toy than museum piece. There was just something that drew me to it…more so…or at least…differently than…the toys that Santa placed under the tree. Though my siblings and I did play with the Nativity like a toy…we knew there was indeed something different about it…something special, if you will. And as I reflect on that…I think it has something to do with the peacefulness and joy that Nativities so powerfully suggest to me. A super cute baby, a family gathered, soft and gentle animals and hay, people gathering…first shepherds and then kings…it again feels so peaceful, so fun, so joy-filled…all warm and cozy…a celebration even. As I gaze on my own Nativities even to this day…I can sort feel my heart beat slowing and a smile come across my face.
Now of course there is a great irony here…perhaps too obvious to state. For I have been blessed to be up close to the birth of two children…and there was much joy…but less fun…and much less peacefulness. My children’s birth was accompanied, from only my perspective, by what at best might be described as controlled chaos. There was pain. There was blood. There were tears. There was even some fear and anxiety in the room. Let’s just say a much less pastoral scene than the ones in my Nativities at home. And such is real life…the lives and world in which we live and move and have our being. For indeed there is much pain…there are tears…blood is shed…and anxiety and fear are present…surely not all the time…but surely some of the time. And I am quite certain that these experiences of real life…are much more what Mary, a teenage mother, and Joseph a new father actually experienced at the moment of Jesus’ birth. Not to mention, unlike at the birth of my own children, there was no sterile delivery room, no heated blankets, no competent Labor and Delivery nurses, no doctors…and you get the picture. Such was life in the first century.
But even in the midst of the certain chaos of Jesus’ birth…there undoubtedly were other things and feeling and experiences present. I am certain there was much joy, much hope, much gladness, a profound sense of promise for a future yet undiscovered…for this indeed all often accompanies a new life coming into the world…a new child coming into the life of a family whether by adoption or by birth. And most importantly of all…there was God…God was present…at the center of it all…love, life, hope brought forth into the midst of chaos…order in the midst of disorder…the light of limitless love pushing back on the darkness that seems ever just at the edges of life in this world.
This for me is what Christmas promises to each of us…God’s faithful presence…in whatever challenges or travails beset us. Just as those Nativities we leave up year round at my house, remind me…Christmas is always happening…Christ is always coming…God’s peace is always breaking in…God’s love is always being made new. Perhaps you might consider leaving a Nativity or two out yourselves as the seasons change and the and decorations are packed away for another year. Such that as real life happens to you and to those you love, in particular, those fearful, painful, tear-filled and anxious moments, that you might be reminded that God’s love is indeed being made new in that very same moment…light pushing back on the darkness…if only we can look and see with the eyes of our hearts.
For this is what Jesus’ birth that we celebrate today promises…good news for the whole year round. Hope for the future…power for overcoming…sustenance for living…a promise that light shines in the darkness, whatever that may be and whatever form it takes. Christmas is a promise…that the darkness will not, will never, overcome God’s light…will not, will never, overcome us…for God is right there…right in the midst of the very moment we are experiencing. If only we can look and see with the eyes of our hearts. Amen.