Christmas Eve, 12-24-16 Isaiah 9:1-6; Ps 96: 1-3, 11-13; Titus 2: 11-14; Luke 2:1-14
Our scriptures tonight articulate the idea of Christmas better than I can. Isaiah starts it off with a review of what we read in Advent. He highlights love and hope and peace and joy, just as we have done for 4 weeks now. Then he makes the jump: “For a child is born to us, a son is given, Wonder-counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.” Then the Psalm echoes back, “For the Lord comes to rule the earth, let the heavens be glad, and the earth rejoice.” Not to be outdone, our 2nd reading joins in with “The grace of God has appeared, saving all, as we await the blessed hope, Jesus Christ, to cleanse a people as his own, eager to do what is good. In the Gospel, the angels have the last word, as they should, “Glory to God in the highest.”
The Christmas Story does not begin in the Gospels of the New Testament. The Christmas Story starts in Genesis. God creates a good earth. After each “Day” of creation, God declares creation “good”. Then suddenly in the Garden of Eden, the serpent appears with evil lies and temptation. Why did that happen?
I have never had much success with questions starting with “why”. The problem began way back when I asked, “Why is the sky blue?” My mother said, “The sky is blue to match your blue eyes.” But as an adult, I still ask “Why did the Holy Child, the Messiah, the Son of God, come to earth to be with the likes us?” Answer: To rescue us from the evil problem; to see that we come safely back home to a place of no death and no evil. My mother was right; it’s good to keep it simple. The baby came to pick us up, clean us off, and take us home where things are “good”. It was just too big a job for us to do alone.
So, in the next week, there will come a time when the house is quiet, the discarded gift wrap is in the recycle bin, and the dishes from the figgy pudding are in the dishwasher. Sit with this story of the Coming of the Christ Child from the 2nd chapter of Luke, and read it again. Read it for the images. Let the words lull you into a pleasant meditation.
Consider all the rich phrases. Consider what “being of the house and lineage of David” means, and the implication of” no room in the inn”. Consider the lowly shepherds, getting the news directly from angels and being personally invited to visit the newborn. What would make the angels say this is “good news of great joy for all people”? Savor all these images in a symbolic sense, and think how they might translate to this city and this culture. The idea is not to dissect the words like a science project, but to delve deeply into them and wrap them about you like a blanket. Stay with it long enough to bring a smile to your face and a tear to your eye.
My favorite Christmas poem was written in the late 300’s. Please indulge me a minute as I read it to you.
Of the Father’s love begotten, ere the worlds began to be,He is Alpha and Omega, He the source, the ending he – of the things that are, that have been, and that future years shall see, ever more and ever more.
O that birth forever blessed, when the Virgin, full of grace, by the spirit blest conceiving, bore the savior of our race – And the Babe, the world’s Redeemer, first revealed his sacred face, ever more and ever more.
Let the heights of heav’n adore him; angel hosts, his praises sing. Powers, dominions, bow before him, and extol our God and king. Let no tongue on earth be silent, every voice in concert ring, ever more and ever more.
Christ, to you with God the Father, Spirit blest eternally, Hymn and chant and high thanksgiving, and unending praises be: Honor, glory, and dominion, and eternal victory, ever more and ever more.
God Bless you, and Merry Christmas.