It’s Christmas Eve and we are experiencing one of the coldest Christmases in decades. There are vulnerable shivering there way to warming centers; some are huddling in tents; many are staying home to be safe due to difficult health issues. It is very dark and bitter cold outside but the warmth of this church decked out in trees, nativity sets, candles and lights is a gift beyond all telling. The story of that first Christmas night reminds us of its harshness, the long journey on a donkey carrying a very pregnant mother , the rejection, the stable of animals, the birth of the child, the Prince of Peace wrapped in swaddling cloths to keep his limbs strait, the visit of the Shepherds, a despised class of people, the angels appearing to these lowly shepherds announcing glad tidings of Peace.
We romanticize the first Christmas, making it sentimental and cozy, but it was much more like the weather outside. There was little comfort and warmth, the only recognition of the magnitude of this Birth came from the least likely to be a witness to this God-birth: the Shepherds, who were dirty, on the fringes of the culture, despised.
As I mentioned the beauty of this church, I left out the most important reality that gives the building its magnificent beauty : you the assembly here and those live streaming. The story of Christ’s Birth penetrates our hearts, opening them up to the possibility of the birth of the Christ child to unfold and take root. We are ALL like Mary, “pregnant”, laboring in our yearning, our hoping , our struggling to make sense of our lives. Our purpose is to give birth to Christ in the tiniest acts of love, justice, mercy and kindness.
Yes, there is the many darknesses of the world, as Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed our President and Congress a few days ago, appealing for help in the bitter darkness of violence and a cruel war; the darkness of violence in so many parts of the world reminds us of the ravages of social inequities and the countless people living in deplorable conditions; the darkness of fentanyl addiction, the infiltration of gangs in our cities, the tragedy of gun violence plague our culture and threaten our youth.
Yes, there are the darknesses mirrored in the dark skies. But look closely, both in the sky and in your heart, and see the twinkling stars of hope and love fill the world, our world with possibility, the possibility that the Light of the Christ child will dispel the many darkness without and within. Filled with the story of God becoming human, taking on our flesh and blood, entering those darknesses, we leave this church filled with the Risen Lord’s Body and Blood, becoming human torches of light, announcing through our demeanor and inner disposition, tidings of great joy. Peace on Earth to ALL People, without exception.
To think, it all started when this awesome and magnificent God, the Creator of all, entered our existence by becoming fully human and uniting this humanity with divinity… God became a helpless infant, needing the breasts of Mary for nourishment, needing his diapers changed. Our God needed his diapers changed, just like every other human being.
When you let the mystery of Christmas sink in, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.