Christmas 2015 Audio
There's a wonderful video wandering its way around youtube, called An Unexpected Christmas. If you haven't seen it yet, you may want to look it up. As the story is told, the little angel exclaims "that's brilliant, they won't be expecting that!" God decides it's time to send his son to help the people remember that God loves them. But how will they pay attention, seeing as how it's clear they haven't been paying much attention. God decides the way to get the people's attention is to send something so surprising, so unexpected, the people would have to take notice. That's brilliant, they won't be expecting that!
It seems to me that we've put Christmas in a nicely wrapped package with a beautiful bow, and completely lost the surprising and the unexpected. We've tried so hard to experience Christmas as a time of romance and nostalgia we've pushed the astonishment of the inconceivable incarnation under the rug. We get so absorbed in the stuff of Christmas we've lost the unreasonableness of a baby born in a barn. A baby born in poverty to parents uncertain of their own future. Parents who soon will have to flee their home to avoid persecution. A baby who would be king, born in the muck and the mud of a stable. That's brilliant, they won't be expecting that!
This story that we tell as each Christmas comes and goes, the story of the baby born in the manger, the angels singing and the shepherds coming to see him, the wise men who read the stars and recognize this world changing event. This story is not about comfort, or nostalgia or romance. It is about God who loves us absolutely and abundantly, and who wants us and all of creation to know that Love wins. It is about God who loves us absolutely and abundantly, and who wants to meet us flesh to flesh. It is about God who loves us absolutely and abundantly, and who wants us to join with Mary as she says yes to the difficulty and pain and joy of new life and new birth.
They won't be expecting that! Mary says, he scatters the proud in the thoughts of their hearts, he brings down the powerful from their thrones, and lifts up the lowly, he fills the hungry with good things, and sends the rich away empty.
We continue to experience much violence far away and near, we wonder about how to make peace in our homes, our communities, our countries. This Christmas event, this wonderful counselor, mighty God, everlasting father, prince of peace, shows us the way. This Christmas event, this Galilean carpenter, shows us the way. This Christmas event, these angels and shepherds and prophets, show us the way. This Christmas event, shows us the way.
Christmas is about God showing us the way to love. Christmas is about God showing us the way to peace. Christmas is about God showing us the way to hope. God shows us through this birth, this new life, this new beginning, this powerless baby and these powerless parents in this ordinary stable. God came to dwell with humanity to show us about love. God comes to dwell with us in the flesh so that in the flesh we live life fully and completely. Emmanuel, God with us in the flesh. God came to be with us in the flesh not to relieve us of the mess and the muck of this life, the suffering and the pain of this life, but in the flesh God stands by our side, takes our hand, sometimes even carries us, and loves us. That's brilliant, they won't be expecting that!
And that kind of love changes us, we can't help but be changed. God in the flesh reminds us in our flesh that we don't need to be perfect because we are perfectly loved. We don't need to consume and acquire to possess worth, we are enough just the way we are created. God in the flesh reminds us in our flesh that we don't need to gain attention to earn God's love, God has already loved us into ourselves. That's brilliant, they won't be expecting that!
Transformation happens in our lives as we take seriously the love that God shows us in the flesh. Our hearts expand, our hearts break, we give, we receive, we grow, we die. We do not despair, or lose hope, we do not harm, we work for the good of the others with which we share this rock, because we know that love wins. Transformation happens in our lives as we take seriously the love that God shows us in the flesh. We come here on this night/morning seeking God in the flesh, and we receive God in the flesh, Jesus, in the bread and the wine around this table, at these steps, and we are made into that flesh which God is. We are made into God's body in the world. That's brilliant, they won't be expecting that!
We go home, and share our own meals, we gather around our own tables, we spend time together, we give and receive presents. And we go out into the world bearing God's love, bearing the light that grows and grows and grows. We go out into the world as God's transformed body, God's flesh in our flesh, making a difference in every dark corner, in the places that need healing and wholeness and love. We go out into the world as God's body, God's flesh in our flesh, and we show the world that love wins. That's brilliant, they won't be expecting that!
This birth more than 2000 years ago matters as much to us today as it did then because there continues to be those who don*t understand the nature of God*s love for all of God*s creation. There are people who continue to think that hate can defeat love, there are those who continue to think that violence is a solution when we disagree, but we know differently. We know that the God who created all that is seen and unseen, the God of love, dreams for us a world in which all people are treated with dignity and respect and compassion. The God of love, who comes to us as a baby born in a barn, who comes to us as the child who must flee it*s home, who comes to us as the one whose arms of love embrace the hardwood of the cross, dreams for us a world in which we keep Christ in Christmas, by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, forgiving the unforgivable, welcoming the stranger and the unwanted, caring for the sick, loving our enemies.
We are to be the surprise, we are to do the unexpected. We are to say yes with Mary to this inconceivable incarnation. We are to say yes to God made really present in you. We are the light bearers, we are the peace bearers, we are the love bearers. Amen.