Sermon – December 24, 2013 – Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve, 2013

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. . . . . . So is the birth of Jesus staged.

Have you had the good fortune to be out in the country, far from the city lights on a crisp, cold, cloudless moonless night? There is nothing but starshine. 360° of jaw-dropping, sparkling beauty and wonder. God’s front porch. On such a night, God placed the news of one of the great events of salvation history in the hands of lowly shepherds on a rural Palestinian hillside. Maybe a similar sky domed that night near Bethlehem and masked the frenzied activity of the appointed messengers of the good news.

It was time. The heavenly choir is gathered, score in hand. The conductor raises her baton in waiting. The announcing angel practices his lines like a Christmas pageant child. The sheep are restless. The shepherds scratch their beards and stare into the starry sky.

All creation was waiting, and had been waiting. This was the time when that which was turns into that which shall be.

In a Bethlehem stable, Mary gives one last push, and the boy is delivered. Mary waits. Joseph waits. And then the baby cries!

Suddenly the starry sky was alive. At the sound, the announcing angel shines in joy. The glory of the fulfillment of this promise shines around the shepherds. And the shepherds were terrified.

But then, but then. The long-awaited news “do not be afraid for see, I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord.”

The angel conductor waves her baton and the heavenly choir breaks out, “glory to God in the highest heaven they saying and on earth peace and goodwill to all!”

Ancient prophets stir in their rest as the news comes to them. “The time is fulfilled! Your work was not in vain! The promise is kept!”

And that which was turned, and that which shall be was sent forth.

This long-awaited news of this long awaited one came not into the halls of power. This Messiah, proclaimed by the prophets, promised by the ages did not come to the religious gentry. This good news came to the night shift workers so that we would all know that this good news knows no boundaries, honors no class, defies all restriction. This good news is for all, for you and for me, for to you and me is born this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord.

When the baby cried, all of creation turned to the manger. Wise men were inspired, kings were troubled. The heavens sang in joyous triumph and then hushed in reverent awe. History turned. Hope stirred in anxious hearts.

Tonight, nothing is required of us but to listen, to wonder, and to receive this holy gift. We are not here to be judged, but to be blessed. Tonight we stand together again on the cusp of what was and what shall be, and from here nothing will be the same.

That is the promise. Peace is now possible, not just a peace that is an absence of war, but peace between God and all of creation. Reconciliation is possible where anger and hurt had savaged relationships. Hope is renewed where hope was lost. Live is restored. Sins are forgiven. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness retreats.

Tonight is born among us the possibility of new life. In this place between what was and what shall be all are called, all are welcome, no one shall be left behind.

Tonight, “the hopes and fears of all the years are met in him.” Tonight our lives are again recast as we receive this gift of “God With Us”, of the promised savior, of the one who comes to bear peace and hope and forgiveness.… As we receive this gift we are able to see that it has rippled out all around us and that our life is a gift, our family is a gift, this very creation is a gift . . . that is has been God’s purpose and intention all along that we would receive this gift.

I know that some your cell phones have buzzed as we have been speaking. Things to do. I know that even in nights like this, your mind has wandered to tomorrow’s dinner, or the uncertain gift, to the concerns for the troubled friend . . . that’s OK. This is a moveable feast. It is yours to take from this place, no strings.

But linger with us for just a moment more. Close your eyes and behold that starry sky. Hear the baby’s cries, and then receive that gift of life and hope and allow the peace wash over you. Take a breath. The promise is kept. All will be well. For to you and to me tonight in the city of David, Christ has come.

Thanks be to God.