Filed under: Sermons, Uncategorized | Tags: Christmas, Christmas Eve, God, Incarnation, Jesus, Proclamation of the Birth of Christ
We gathered to the proclamation of the birth of Christ. If you’ve never heard this announcement before, it may have felt odd to be told “so many centuries after this, or in the so manyith year of that.” Don’t be caught up in wondering how we have such accurate historical information. Be caught up in the wonder that it proclaims: Jesus Christ, the very God who created all that is, who exists outside of the constraints of time, beyond all human power, –chose to come into our time, into our world, into our state of life.
The active presence of God was witnessed by generations whose stories are recorded in the Bible: Moses and Ruth, Judges and Prophets. Their witness points to the hope that Jesus fulfills – a hope that God will act decisively for the good of all people. In answer to their hope, Jesus Christ has come! Jesus enters our world, at a time and place where the Roman Empire was strong, when the emperor was declared the Lord, and when peace had a heavy price for those who were occupied and had their freedoms constrained.
Jesus enters our world as a different kind of Lord, with a different kind of peace. This king is born outside the comforts of home or palace, and laid in an animal’s manger. His birth is announced first to the outsiders of society when angels appear to shepherds. Word of his identity as savior and messiah spread to the common folk attending Mary’s delivery. This good news is first proclaimed to the ordinary people of the world. It is good news most especially for those who have long been disappointed in their hopes for a better life. This newborn king is not meant for a life of court-centered political intrigue or the comforts of a sheltered and served lifestyle. In a great reversal of what it means to be born Lord, Jesus will serve the people, most especially the outsiders, the poor, and the powerless.
The peace he brings will not be won with bloody battles, nor will it be only for those at the top of society. Isaiah’s vision, that “all the boots of the tramping warriors and all garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire” is a vision of the end of warfare, an end to the type of peace-keeping that comes through violence. The only violence that ushers in the peace of Christ is the violence that Jesus accepts onto himself. On the cross, as Jesus dies, it is as if Jesus draws all violence and hatred onto himself, leeching it out of humanity. Jesus accepts on to himself all this evil we carry: violence, hatred, and the need to blame others, and under its weight, he dies. But this is not his defeat. Through the power of God, Jesus is victorious over death. Jesus is raised to life. All the power of evil, all the violence that was placed onto him, is destroyed. It is no longer a part of what it means to be human. We have been united with Jesus into a new life: a life of peace and peaceful living today and forever.
The peace the angels declare is meant for all people. Titus writes, “The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all.” Jesus is the loving presence of God. All of God’s faithfulness, compassion, love, and hope for creation is born into our world in Jesus. The salvation Jesus brings is healing for all the earth. It is light for our darkness.
On this holy night, we celebrate Jesus’ birth. We celebrate Jesus’ life, and the new life he has won for us in his victory over evil, violence, and death. Yet even as we look back to his incarnation, we also look forward into time with anticipation of God’s final act of restoration and healing. We look for Jesus to come again. We look for all creation to be healed. We look for a time when darkness will be no more.
Titus writes words that might be our own, “We wait for the blessed hope and manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” We know that in Jesus Christ, God has acted to change our world and our lives. God has made our ordinary existence holy by Jesus’ presence. God has ushered in a new kingdom, in which the poor are prized and welcomed just as much as the rich. God has crushed the power of death, and brought us into life through Jesus forever. In Jesus Christ, all these things have been accomplished. Still, the reality of our world and the difficulties of our lives declare that all these great changes haven’t yet taken place. We live in a time of process. Of God’s work already being accomplished, and also being not yet completed.
The joy of this season is a fragile joy. It is fragile because it depends on faith- on our hopeful trust that God’s promise is true, that God’s power will accomplish what it has set out to do. May your joy be strengthened, because it is dependent on Jesus. Jesus Christ, God who comes to us as a fragile infant, who dies for us on the cross, is the one whose faithfulness is proven in his life, death, and resurrection. May Jesus create faith in you, so that you would believe the proclamation of this night: “to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord… Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace…!” May you receive this life-changing Word with joy. Amen.
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