Thursday, December 24, 2020

Christmas Eve 2020: It's happening still!

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. 

I love a good TV commercial. One of my all-time favorite commercials was called “Frogs (Boys night in).” It came out almost a decade ago but the tag line still echoes in my thoughts today, especially today. (Tells the story of the commercial)

A voice-over says, “There was a time when poker night was what you looked forward to all week. So who’d have ever thought boys night out wouldn’t hold a candle to boys night in? Having a baby changes everything.”

Another commercial in that series, asks: “…who’d have ever thought the biggest thing to ever happen to you would be the smallest? Having a baby changes everything.”

The biggest thing to ever happen in the history of human experience came to us in the form of the least: a baby, born to a poor, young peasant woman, in a barn in a remote village in the Middle East. 

This baby changed everything.

Sometimes, the Christmas story is so familiar, so sanitized that we forget the harsh reality of it. Mary and Joseph traveled 90 miles to register as a family in Bethlehem according to the law. 

She was 9 months pregnant… On a donkey… for 90 miles….

When they finally get to Bethlehem Joseph’s people turned them away claiming there was no room in their guest quarters. The truth is, Mary was pregnant before she and Joseph had married and that brought shame on them all.

So they sent them to the barn and Mary’s baby had to be born there among the animals. Nothing was sterilized. No one came to help, to comfort or assure them or feed them, or clean up for them. It must have been so scary for them.

But then… there he was. The baby conceived by the overshadowing of God was born. He was so tiny so they swaddled him which made him feel safe. They talked to him so he didn’t feel alone. They fed him so he could be content and sleep.

And they reveled in him knowing this baby has changed everything.

The first to hear of this birth were some shepherds in the fields. Now for most of us, the image of shepherds brings to our minds peaceful, pastoral images…but back then, things were different. “Shepherding was a despised occupation…they were scorned as shiftless, dishonest people who grazed their flocks on other [people’s] lands.” (Footnote 1)

Shepherds didn’t bathe much so they didn’t smell good and people avoided them. And these particular shepherds were the lowest of the low… working the grave-yard shift.

But God, who sees differently than the world does, chose these lowly shepherds to be the first humans to hear the good news that the Messiah of the world had been born and could be found in Bethlehem. The shepherds went to Bethlehem to find this child, then ran home to tell everyone they knew about it “…and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them.” They must have radiated their good news in such a way that everyone who saw them noticed them, listened to them, and were amazed by what they heard.

Mother Theresa of Calcutta once said, “If you know how much God is in love with you, you can’t help but live your life radiating that love.” What if we lived our lives like that? What if we radiated the Good News of our salvation in the child born this night?

The thing is, the good news of Christmas is a present reality, not just an ancient story we remember together. Christ is being born in us today… now. 

The radical truth of Christmas is that the extravagant love of God, was made real for all of us to know, see, and experience in Jesus. “It’s one of the most radical things” Archbishop Desmond Tutu once said.“… All belong… All are meant to be held in this incredible embrace that will not let us go… Black, white, yellow, rich, poor, clever, not so clever, beautiful, not so beautiful…gay, lesbian, …straight. All.” (Footnote 2)

Yet even in this joyous moment people all around us are suffering losses of so many kinds in this pandemic. What if we wrapped them in our love to make them feel safe, or talked to them so they didn’t feel alone, or fed them so they could be content and sleep?

On that first Christmas, God took the form of the smallest and the least - a baby who changed everything. What happened once in Royal David’s city, is happening still. God’s love is being born in each of us, in all of us.

So tonight, together with the shepherds and the angels, and with all the saints in heaven and on earth, we sing out our praise: Glory to God and joy to the world! A child is born this night who is Christ the Lord.

Footnote 1: New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary (NIB), CD-Rom, Vol. IX, 65

Footnote 2: From the Article, Archbishop Tutu Calls for Anglican Unity and Inclusion, Ruach, A Publication of the Episcopal Women’s Caucus, Christmas 2005, Vol. 26:1, 11. 

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