Grace and peace to you, sisters and brothers in Christ.
Tonight we gather around the manger. Here we meet the infant Jesus. We are confronted with the good news that God chooses to enter creation- to come to us! We find God-come-for-us, Jesus, in an unlikely place for a god to enter. We find him in a manger, in a little barn, with parents far from home, accompanied by animals.
The oddity of this location shakes us awake. This birth is an act of God unlike any other. God is showing Godself to be someone other than we might have assumed. Instead of seeking praise and adoration as a powerful ruler or a most holy priest, Jesus is born without power, among ordinary people. Those who arrive at the manger are no one special: the shepherds might even be people most would avoid. Their invited presence at the manger speaks God’s desire that all people are welcome. Jesus shows us a different kind of god, with a great big love for you and me.
Our Sunday School kids did a wonderful job in their program this year. One of the key questions this program raised was how we might have acted differently if it was one of us who had been the innkeeper, or the shepherds, or anyone else who met Jesus. Pippin the Christmas Pig also raises the question of how we might react to similar situations. If we wish we had been there to welcome Jesus, we learn that we still have a chance to act today. We haven’t been born into a time when we could offer Mary a warm room to rest after Jesus’ birth, but we do know there are other young mothers who need a safe place to live. These stories remind us to see the holy in each person we meet. In serving them, we serve God, and share God’s love. There’s always an opportunity to respond to God by loving others.
Sometimes, it’s enough to simply wonder at the awesome strangeness of a God who chooses to be born into creation. It isn’t often that we see anyone take a risk, or do something completely crazy, for love. Jesus’ birth, and life, and death, is a story of a God who is crazy in love with you. A God who gives up everything to be with you. A God who breaks down all barriers, even death itself, so that God would never be separated from you. The wonder of this night is that God has put aside all convention and expectation, stopped caring about your readiness to respond, and has simply come. In Jesus Christ, God has come to you, for you, so that you would know you are not alone, you are not forgotten, but you are loved into life.
This good news, a promise of faithfulness and love, shone in the eyes of a little baby, looking out from the arms of his mother into a world longing for healing and love. A simple stable held the fulfilled hope of all creation. Tonight, we imagine ourselves gathered there.
At the manger, we find a gift. The light of God shines through the little baby. In Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection, the darkness of this world is being pushed back. God has entered creation to heal it. Jesus’ birth is God’s coming for you. God has not forgotten God’s people. We celebrate the light of Christ as a promise. It is a promise that God is still at work, to bring life and healing to all. God has fulfilled God’s promise to send a Savior, and Jesus will one day fulfill his mission to restore all of creation.
God has given his Son for you, may his light and life fill you with joy.
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