There is no better time to reflect and re-tell the Christmas story than on Christmas Eve. The story doesn’t change, we might notice or highlight different aspects but it is the same story. I heard a pastor say that the story doesn’t change but the sermon must- I think we all agree. Tonight, we had this basic story of Christmas read to us- broken down into three parts. The Prelude, Anticipation and the Arrival. I want to reflect on that story and the table that is in front of me.
The prelude was a promise that someday something is going to happen. Someday things will change. In the midst of the uncertainty, turmoil, and strife one is coming- A King is Coming- one like you have never seen before and peace and justice and mercy will be what characterizes him… so have hope and wait… The child will be born… have hope…
And they waited and they waited some more… centuries passed. They longed, the wondered, they hoped and sometimes it seemed like all hope was lost but they waited.
Consider this. Tonight or tomorrow, most of you will open presents that have been placed under a tree. Some of you will have purchased them in the summer, wrapped them and hid them away. Others have them in the trunk, freshly purchased and will hastily wrap them. But they will be under the tree. Now for some, the young and young at heart have gone to the tree everyday longing to open them…
Maybe you have felt like you have waited “forever.” But then soon, you will get to open them. Israel was waiting for 700 years. Just like you are waiting to open your gift, they waited- humanity waited.
But with all that waiting suddenly the move changed to anticipation
Because something started to happen… some strange things started to happen. First, an old woman, long known to be infertile suddenly experiences the joys and wonders of pregnancy, then a relative, a virgin no less is with child. Oh yeah, and the big reveal party was hosted by angels… its a boy! Matthew’s Gospel, the passage that Don read for us, specifically connects that to Isaiah- yes the long-ago promise is about to come true. God is up to something fantastical now. And it is big. The time of waiting is over.
The anticipated baby is growing- as is Mary’s belly and then she feels him kick. The reminder that he is on the way. As the Xs or I guess Alephs fill up the calendar until the circled date… suddenly it was drawing near.
Scripture tells us the time came for the baby’s arrival while they were in Bethlehem… a rather long journey from Nazareth- it was census time so everyone was in town and no room. But the baby came when the baby was ready regardless of the fact that the animal room was the delivery room and the only thing remotely like a bassinet was the feed tray or the manger. The long-awaited child had arrived. Prelude, Promise, Arrival… But there is more…
Shepherds are invited to come. Stinky, dirty, weathered shepherds are welcome. Because this isn’t just any birth. This birth is good news. And in a way, the shepherds represent all of us. The people who are in darkness, the people who need the light. The shepherds, in the natural darkness that night offers. Humanity in the darkness that the brokenness that resulted from the fall. The story was always pushing to this moment and the birth of the Christ Child- Emmanuel- the God with us one. God him very self.
Thus the shepherds hear and go to the manger. Almost foreshadowing us they come to the manger. Why?
Because at the center of the human story- the Christmas story – is the Christ child and he is the much-needed light. And with his birth, there isn’t just an announcement about the birth the very birth itself is announcement.
So, of course, there is a choir of angels to declare: “Don’t be afraid! I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people, the Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today”
We too come to the manger to meet Jesus the Christ. That is the heart of Christmas like he invited the shepherds he invites us and offers to us his very self; because he is the light the illuminates the hearts of humanity.
As you see, there is a table in front of me. On this table, we can see 5 Candles. The 4 advent candles that Christina, Nathan, Davey, and KK lit for us. They represent our journey from advent to Christmas…
They symbolize the peace and joy; hope and love that the Christ Child can offer will offer in a dark world that so desperately needs him and his light. Because standing in the middle of the circle is a white candle, the Christ candle- there in its proper place.
As I light it take a moment and reflect that on a dark night many years ago, the Light the world enter the very world he created to give to it light and peace, hope, joy, and love- something that only the author of light and life good offer.