Sermon – December 24, 2018 – Christmas Eve

Here’s some news.  Scientists last week announced that our solar system is far larger than we thought.  I bet that has been keeping you up at night. They’ve discovered an object, formally called “2018 VG18” but nicknamed “Farout.”Farout orbits some 11 billion miles from the sun, much farther than the last known object in our solar system.  So, now calculating the diameter of the solar system now is even more mind boggling, but suffice it to say it hundreds of billions of miles.

A solar system is a star and the celestial bodies that are held in its orbit.  Here we are on Earth, sitting pretty in that system, about 93,000,000 miles from the sun which is just about the right distance to sustain life and not freeze or burn up. In our neighborhood we have a total of eight planets orbiting the sun, it used to be nine but Pluto got demoted, and some belts of stuff called the Kuiper Belt and the Ooot cloud that contain stuff like comets and other non-planetary mass.  Our solar system is part of the Milky Way galaxy.  We can see the beautiful swath of the Milky Way on any clear night.  Any guess as to how many stars like ours there are in the Milky Way?  100 billion stars, so 100 solar systems in our galaxy, which means there are hundreds and hundreds of billions of planets in our galaxy.

And wait, there’s more. Our galaxy is one of 100-200 billion galaxies in the universe. All of these come into being during the 13.8 billion years of the universe’s existence.

And wait, there’s more. Scientists theorize that there may be 30-40 universes out there. . . .. some say that there is an infinite amount, which finally makes conversations about time and space incomprehensible. So, let’s review, our solar system, billions of miles across, part of a galaxy of at least a hundred billion stars, with possibly hundreds and hundreds of billions of planets.  Our galaxy a part of 100-200 billion galaxies in our universe, and we might actually be a part of a multiverse of 30-40 universes or more.

Do you remember that poster from the 70s, a black-and-white poster of the Milky Way galaxy? Remember, on it there was an arrow pointing to an indiscernible little dot somewhere in that mass of stars that said “you are here.”  Meant, of course, to remind us how small we are in the scale of the cosmos.   In such a vast background of time and space and distance and incomprehensible numbers of stars and planets and whatever else is out there, it’s not very hard at all to feel small and insignificant and intimidated by it all.

But wait there’s more.   On this blue rock in this solar system, in this galaxy, in this universe, at a time when Caesar Augustus was the Emperor of Rome, somewhere early in the first century CE, when a guy named Quirinus was the governor of Syria, the power and creative force that formed and molded this incomprehensible space and time and matter chose to come into this world in this time, in this, our history. Out of the hundreds of billions maybe trillions of stars in the universe most of which we cannot see, tonight we can see one purposeful star shining in the night sky. And it leads us to the revelation that the infinite and unfathomable, the divine, cares about us and our time and our existence on this planet, and thus our relationships with one another, our relationship with creation and our relationship with God. It tells us that at the highest level, out of the unreachable measures of time and space, the true character of God is discovered and it is love because there is no other reason for the incarnation. Love for this creation, love for the whole of the universe, passionately committed to the sustaining and nurturing and the keeping of God’s people. It turns out that this vast cosmos behind which is hidden face of God is capable of love.  Merry Christmas!

If for some reason you don’t feel valued, you don’t feel part of something, if for some reason you feel small and unnoticed and unimportant, then consider this night. This is the night when God closes the distance of time and space and mystery and chooses to make the divine known in comprehensible terms… A baby, a mother, a father, a community, all joyfully attested to by God-inspired voices of glory and joy and acclamation. We are told that if you are able to listen to it, the universe rings, sort of like tapping a wine glass. Maybe that is the sound of glory. And as God does this, as God in Christ comes among us as one of us and continues come to us, we realize that this is for you and me. This embrace, this intervention, this shift in the cosmos, is for you. Through darkness and distance and time and history, God has come to you tonight. Made himself known. Pulled back this cosmic mask to reveal the true purpose of the universe, which is a passionate and faithful love of the creator for that which the creator has wrought.

So instead of fear, we can have hope.

Instead of despair, our lives can have meaning.

Instead of suspicion and division and hatred, we can experience and share love.

Instead of isolation we have an embrace of a God who claims us as a part of all of creation God has called good, and trusted to receive the unmasked presence of the divine.

Instead of feeling small and lonely and isolated and insignificant in this world, it is revealed to us that we are the most beloved.

This is the peace and the joy that the angels proclaimed, this is the ring of the voice of the universe, that in the birth of Jesus we would rediscover this intimate relationship with the creator of all things, and that that relationship would then change how we view and live in this blessed world.

So, if God so loves this world, this creation that he would enter into time and history and reveal himself in such an intimate and comprehensible manner, in the incarnation of the human Jesus, then part of our take away is to see the world through this lens. To come to know that each person is beloved of the creator, that each person is an object of this divine love, that this history that the creator is fashioning encompasses all people.  If it is going to include me, it is going to include her and him and them.   So, this encounter calls us to see one another as one for whom God has descended to embrace and love and save. If we can take that away from this Christmas story, then maybe we can speak to each other more lovingly and respectfully. Maybe we can stand in the path of policies and decisions and systems that prey upon children and isolate communities and can demean and dehumanize them. Maybe we can find a new language that articulates the value of each person as objects of God’s love and therefore as beloved of creation. Maybe, equipped with the hope and purpose revealed in the incarnation, we can take up the mantle of restoration and reconciliation and renewal of this broken world because it is the place where God has come to bear love and hope. In the vast reaches of incomprehensible time, we have no time to turn our backs on one another because that which God declares beloved is truly beloved.  And that includes you and me and our neighbor and this good earth.

Wait, there’s more.  It turns out, no matter how incalculable our universe in time and space, how ineffable and mysterious God is, with the birth of Jesus into the world, we can encounter God every day in the Christ among us, in our neighbors, in the face of the stranger, in the quiet of our prayers, in the suffering of the hurting, in the everyday earthy elements of wine and bread and water.  The promise of this night is that, while much is beyond and above us, the measure of the creator’s love for us is indeed comprehensible as time and distance and mystery are collapsed into this new beginning.  “For to you is born this day in the city of David a savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Thanks be to God,

Merry Christmas