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Christmas Eve – 7 p.m. Service
Isaiah 9:2-7
Luke 2:1-20

We gather tonight to hear once more the ancient readings and to locate ourselves around a manger stall; to sing glad tidings and carols of joy that regrettably only come once a year.  We gather to place our feet in the shoes of Mary and Joseph as they wrestle with strange and unexpected news of God’s appearing as we also open ourselves up and imagine new possibilities for the world in which we live.

This story, the root of our faith is so beautiful, so familiar that it is easy to forget the times into which Jesus was born.  His parents were poor people; carpenters and farmers who earned their living by the sweat of their brow.

The Roman government was harsh and cruel.  And their king levied ruthless and unbearable tax burdens upon the people.  There were great disparities; the rich kept getting richer and the poor got poorer.

The king, Herod, was a man possessed and obsessed, threatened and intimidated by the possibility of a new kind of king.  And the children of Israel had been waiting year after year; century after century for some relief; some sense of justice and rightness in the world; some hope – like we wait.

Mary and Joseph were refugees looking for a place to live and a safe place for their child to be born.  Can you imagine?

Into this dark and desolate world our Savior was born:  a world of terror and terrorism, anarchy, hatred, mayhem, and abuse of power.  And it’s almost easy to forget all that – except that is the very reason for the season, is it not?

And so tonight we stake our claim with the prophet Isaiah; along with thousands and hundreds of thousands of men and women gathered around the world declaring that light has come into the world; and it has come into our own personal world.  And we rejoice because no matter how things might appear we live with the blessed hope that the darkness will never ever be able to snuff out the light.

It was a holy night; ordinary in its appearance, I’m sure, but a night unlike any other.  Luke tells us that in that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock.  They were not expecting very much; certainly nothing extraordinary.  After all, what extraordinary thing could possibly happen to shepherds?

In those days, they too were held in low esteem.  They lived outside the boundaries of polite society and they were assumed to lead shiftless lives.  How could they ever be entrusted with anything that could change the world?  They were busy doing what shepherds do.  They were not expecting anything spectacular; most likely they were tired and frustrated with their ordinary lives and work.  Accustomed to the routine – so accustomed that they dared not expect anything more.  Sound familiar?

And yet, they were the first to hear, the first to see, the first to tell the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  And if anything, that is what we must hear afresh tonight:  God chooses all.  And more often than not, God welcomes what is lowly and despised in our world to show us what is truly beautiful, important, and precious.

That’s what makes this night so special.  It is the celebration of our Savior’s birth; an anniversary unlike any other.  But more importantly, tonight is a celebration of God’s way among us – all of us.

A Savior was born and continues to be born wherever we are.  He is born on the doorsteps of the poor.  He is born in hospital rooms; and court rooms and in the shadows of death.  Christ is born wherever people are locked up in chains and are cast down and cast out.  He is born among those who need a healing touch.  Christ, the Savior is born.

He is born at the Table of fellowship and the Great Thanksgiving.  In just a few moments we are going to gather at that table.   You are all invited.  And this is my favorite part.  It does not matter your background or your experience.  Your race or color; your sexual preference or orientation.  It does not matter what your religious or political viewpoints are.  It does not matter if you are a member of this church or any church.  Perhaps this is the first time you have stepped across the threshold of any sacred space since last year this time.

We can bring everything with us: all of our fears, and insecurities.  We bring our anger and pain and disappointments.  We bring loneliness and confusion.  We bring our illnesses and that of those we love and we listen for the great doxology:  Gloria in excelsis Deo!  Glory to God in the highest!

For unto us is born this night a Savior; Unto each of us and all of us, a son is given.  And his name is Jesus.   And the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name is called Wonderful, Counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”[1]

 

[1] Isaiah 9:6