Friday, December 25, 2020

Christmas Day, 2020: Christmas joy!

 Lectionary: Isaiah 9:2-7, Psalm 96,Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-14(15-20)

En el nombre del Dios, que en Trinidad en Unidad. Amen.

It’s a strange thing to be in our church yet proclaiming our Good News online. My body wants to sing great Christmas carols, share hugs, laugh and eat with friends, enjoy a chaotic peace where we have to be called back to worship. You see, Christmas is something that happens in us, in our bodies as well as our lives, and this year, in the midst of this pandemic, we ache to feel it.

That’s a good thing - because we are not passive observers in the story of Christmas. We are active participants. We aren’t here tonight simply to recount the first chapter of the greatest story ever told. We’re here to live it - right now.

What Luke’s gospel shows us is that doing our part requires us to trust God’s love, God’s promises, and God’s plan of salvation knowing that God is redeeming all things, all people, all the time. 

Joseph had to trust God who asked him to care for Mary and her baby. By taking his pregnant girlfriend 90 miles to Bethlehem to register as a family, Joseph publicly and legally claimed Mary as his wife and Jesus as his son.

Mary had to trust God that she would live to carry and birth the Messiah of God into the world. In her time, coming up pregnant prior to her marriage to Joseph, Mary could have been stoned to death for adultery - but she wasn’t because God had a plan.

Mary and Joseph knew they would not be celebrated but shamed, yet they kept taking the next step anyway, trusting God and each other. When we read that there was “no room for them in the inn,” we should remember, this wasn’t a hotel that was full. It was the guest quarters at Joseph’s family’s home. Their own family closed their doors to them because of Mary’s shameful condition and offered them nothing more than a space where the animals were kept.

Even the shepherds, the first to hear of the birth, were as lowly as the manger that held the infant Messiah. Shepherds were dirty, smelly people from whom “good people” would turn away. That didn’t stop them, though. They took their next step and made known what they had seen and been told – and everyone was amazed by what they said.

But these events took place 2,000 years ago. What does it mean for us today?

I think of what Dominican priest, Albert Nolan, once said: “On the whole, we don’t take Jesus very seriously… by and large we don’t love our enemies, we don’t turn the other cheek, we don’t forgive seventy times seven times, we don’t bless those who curse us, we don’t share what we have with the poor, and we don’t put all our hope and trust in God.” (Jesus Today, Orbis Books, xvii). 

Why? Nolan suggests that many of us believe these to be great ideals, but that actually doing them “isn’t very practical in this day and age.” Well, I think Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds might have said the same thing in their day.

Following Jesus has never been practical. It isn’t supposed to be. Following Jesus is revolutionary!

The love of God made manifest that first Christmas changed everything forever. The spirit of Christ now lives in us as we live in our world. We are the players in the Christmas story we live today, right here, right now. 

So then, about what do we need to trust God? Maybe we need to trust that God, who loves us beyond anything we can comprehend, has a plan and is redeeming all things, all people, all the time.

The pandemic isn’t the whole story of our lives right now. Our relationships can survive at-home isolation for a time, and so can our church. In the meantime, people all around us are suffering losses of every kind and need - more than ever - to be able to show up and ask for room in our hearts and our lives, without shame or fear of being turned away. 

Y’all, Christmas is happening in us today - in our bodies, our lives, and in our world, so let’s live this truth in the way we can do it now as we worship together by video. 

Get up, put your coffee down, and raise your hands in prayer. Let's let our bodies and our voices sing: “Joy to the world, the Lord is come. Let earth receive her King! Let every heart prepare him room. and heaven and nature sing…. and heaven and nature sing…. and heaven and nature sing….” Amen.

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