The Pas Christmas Eve
23 December 2018
Psalm 97 pg 835
God of promise, from ancient times you have sustained your people. With Mary and Joseph, teach us to treasure in our hearts the birth of Jesus, and with shepherds and angels, lead us to praise the holy Child of Bethlehem in whose name we pray. Amen.
Have you ever contemplated the ways in which God shows God’s love to us? To all of humanity?
Titus tells us: “4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” (Tit 3:4-5)
And, the gospel, for tonight, shows us the greatest gift, the greatest sign of God’s love since the creation of the world, and all life in it, and since the rescue of the Hebrew people from slavery, and making them the Israelite nation, the people of God.
“The angel said to them, [to the shepherds, to each one of us,] “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Lk 2:10-12)
And although it sounds fanciful and far-fetched – God born amongst us, and in a stable, yet! Luke points out where we can look back at the annals of history and see how this miraculous gift has affected each and every one of us since then. (Lk 2:1-2)
And, I admit that there are bright spots and not so bright spots in our history, since this wondrous, and miraculous event. But at the same time, when we look back at the events that God has instigated, throughout human history, we can see the brightness of the star over Bethlehem, and we can hear the jubilation of the angel choirs.
In that time and place, God comes amongst us in human form – Emmanuel, God with us.
“6 While [Joseph and Mary were in Bethlehem, for the census] the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.” (Lk 2:6-7)
Love comes into the world! And it’s found in the baby blue eyes of the infant in the manger. It’s found in the love from his parents, and love between them.
It’s found in the Love from the angel choirs, love, and amazement expressed by the shepherds who come to see the child and to carry the news of his birth to the whole region.
And we know the story off by heart. We hear it every year, and every year we’re amazed at how much love we find in this passage.
Love that starts with God, but won’t stop until it’s been heard, received, and shared with the whole world.
“15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.”(Lk 2:15-18)
This is the kind of love that is truly from the source of all love, from God. This is the love that brings people together, to form families, and that brings families together to celebrate the love that comes from God, and is shared with all of creation, tonight, in angel praise, and in the shepherds message from mouth to ear as far as they can reach.
At the same time, looking at the power structures of the world, even today, we would expect that the babe, the child of God, would be born in a palace, or even in a fine home. But if that were the case, how would the common people get access to the love that comes into the world, this night?
It would be like a common person trying to approach a monarch, or a president. God’s love, redemption, and miracles that stem from that love, would be forever beyond our reach.
Or we would expect someone would have opened their home to Joseph and Mary: to newcomers to the community, and a woman in active labour?
In that case, the babe would have been born in a comfortable spare room with the help of new friends, and probably the local midwife. And such well-meaning friends as see the need for a mother and child to be resting, as cigars are shared with the new and bemused father, would restrict our access to the Christ child.
The shepherds would never have seen him, and such hospitality, as well meaning as it is, would be well worn out long before the child is weaned; as my mother says fish and family will start to smell after three days.
But this is not where the child is born, either. He’s not born in a palace. He’s not born in a fine house.
And through it all, from before the proclamation of the angel to Mary, to long after history stops looking, God has guided Mary and Joseph to this point.
“6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.” (Lk 2:6-7)
God has guided them to the stable, where the child is born. To the place where the common folk come and go.
To a place where all are welcome and where shelter is had by all.
This is where God’s love is made manifest. This is where, bereft of doctors, midwives, or celebratory cigars, the babe is born, hale and healthy, surrounded by the love of God, by the love of his parents.
This is where the shepherds come, where angel song is able to he heard, and where Joseph and Mary welcome the child into their lives.
All of this under the watchful loving gaze of God. All this to bring to those on the fringes of society the love that institutional forms of religion have denied them, has denied us, because of the errors made, the sins committed, intentionally, and unintentionally. Denied us because really it’s truly impossible to keep God’s law the “thou shalt not’s” in its original form.
But, on this night, Jesus is born, in the stable.
On this night,
angel song rings out to be heard between the stars, and in our very hearts. “14 “Glory
to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”” (Lk 2:13-14)
On this night, those on the fringes of society, the shepherds, for whom even a stables shelter is unavailable, find their way to the side of the manger to pay homage to the King of Kings, to the Lord of Lords.
On this night, surrounded by love, God’s love finds us as we prepare to celebrate with friends and with family, remembering that we meet Christ in the eyes of everyone we encounter and that the love of God is found in every gesture of generosity, as well.
“19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” (Lk 2:19-20)
Because when Caesar Augustus decreed, in the time when Quirinius was governor of Syria, God dwelt amongst us, and remains in our hearts, and in our lives, still today.
And we, with the shepherds, with the angel choirs, gather to praise God.
We, like the shepherds, share the message of God’s love and salvation for all of humanity because this is how it took place, and still takes place for us, today.
It takes place in the miraculous aspect of love that is the gift of God, that is manifest in the child in the manger; that is found in the love between Mary and Joseph. Found in their trust that God will continue to guide them, in their lives, as they become a family and teach that love to the child in their midst.
All miracles, if we look closely, take place in the love that comes from God, in the love that is manifest between us, as we gather as family, as we gather together to celebrate the love of God in the world, and in our hearts.
In all the ways, we look at the world, through the eyes of God’s love. we find God in the places that we don’t expect because of who we know God to be – the creator of the universe, yet at the same time, the babe in the manger, accessible to all, and available to each of our hearts for all time.
along with shepherds, along with Mary and Joseph, are supported and serenaded
by angel choirs, as we find ourselves in a stable, hearing “Glory to
God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Lk 2:14)
Tonight, we find ourselves in this most holy place because this is where God is manifest. This is where we find Emmanuel, God with us, and within us, as we celebrate the birth of the Christ child.
Together, as we celebrate the manifestation of love that touches the earth, and touches our hearts. We are supported and guided by God who loves all of humanity, who makes faith manifest, and who seats all miracles in God’s love.
From the creation of the world, this is where we find God. This is where God’s love guides us, to see the babe in the manger. To appreciate the love that exists between man and woman, between families, and amongst all of humanity.
Love, that begins with God, and defines our relationship with God, from the dawn of creation through this holy and precious night, and into tomorrow, as well. Because “11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to [us]; he is the Messiah, the Lord” (Lk 2:11)