Sermon – December 24, 2016 – Christmas Eve

Nativity I Year A

Luke 2:1-20

 

We humans have a real flare for the extraordinary and Christmastime is no exception. The holiday season, especially, comes with some extraordinary expectations.

Expectations that

gifts are immaculate,

decorations are spectacular,

travel goes smoothly,

that Christmas cards display a pristine, color-coordinated version of life.

Expectations that

families reunite and relationships are mended,

that grievances are set aside and Christ’s peace reigns at the dinner table,

that the daily rigors and challenges of life are left behind, if not just for one night.

 

Well, here we are on Christmas Eve. And the probable reality is that some of our extraordinary expectations may have not been met. Some of us may not have been able to get all of the gifts we would have liked, some of us may have already stained our Christmas best, someone is probably still stuck at O’Hare, someone may have already mentioned something a little too political at the dinner table, and some of us (perhaps myself) may still have Christmas Cards in a box on our dinner table, still waiting to be addressed.

 

I’m here to tell you something you may already know: It’s ok…It is ok.

 

It’s ok if your Christmas has not lived up to the extraordinary expectations of such a night.

It’s ok because the Christmas story, too, is one that doesn’t really live up to extraordinary expectations. It’s tense, messy, under the radar. The Christmas story is really not all that extraordinary. In fact, as far as 1st century Palestinian births go, it really is quite ordinary.

Mary and Joseph are not exempt from the political systems of their time— they must go to be registered, to participate in the census, just like everyone else. Despite Mary’s late pregnancy, there are no bending of the rules for this ordinary couple, they must go. When it becomes time for Mary and Joseph to rest from their travels, they do not get special treatment. The hotels are all booked and there is no room at the inn. So, like weary travelers who must sleep on airport floors, they rest among the animals and straw.

Mary and Joseph remain in their makeshift resting place as it becomes time for Mary to give birth. Jesus is not born into royalty but to a poor, teenage motherThere is no royal palace, there is no golden bed—their newborn, Jesus, is placed in a manger. He is not wrapped in purple robes but in ordinary bands of cloth. Baby Jesus and his parents are not visited by religious elite but by shepherds, the strange outcasts who were not even worth counting in the census. In this one event, the in-breaking of God happens in the most ordinary of ways. A mother, a father, and their newborn child.

The birth of the Son of God does not meet extraordinary expectations. It is not how 1st century Israelites expected a messiah to arrive and it is still not what we might imagine the coming of the divine to look like. In this story, God is not revealed in universal truths or haughty wisdom, philosophies, principles, or values. Instead, God sneaks into our world under the radar, past our expectations of what a God should be, in the form of a human child. The Christmas story is a story of how God comes into a world that looks a little too much like our own.  And what kind of God would want to get involved with that?

The birth of Jesus blesses the ordinary, it ordains the messiness, it embraces humanness. God comes to earth to greet our ordinary-ness. God meets us in our mundane, in our letdowns, in our less than spectacular selves. In the birth of Jesus, God is no longer distant and a part from us but intimate and close. For the first time God experiences human skin, human doubt, human joy, human pain, human life, and the world is changed forever. The world is changed forever because God can do extraordinary things with the ordinary.

So, if you are feeling a little too ordinary tonight— a little too disheveled, a little too tired, too messy, too broken… it’s ok. In Christ, God embraces you just as you are. You are loved just as you are. We are never too far from hope, redemption, healing, because tonight again we remember that Christ has come near to us.

Let’s take these next few moments to let that reality soak into our bones: Through deep love, God has come near to us. Let’s let go of the expectations and just be. Let’s be present together. Let’s sing carols and proclaim with the angels that Good News has indeed come and that light will always shine into the darkness. Let’s have a family meal of bread and wine and remind each other of God’s nourishing presence at this table of redemption. Let’s bid Silent Night to everything that tells us we’re not worthy of God’s love. Because tonight God in Christ has come near. Christ has come near to our messy, ordinary selves and we have been claimed as God’s beloved.

THANKS BE TO GOD!

Merry Christmas