Christmas Eve

25 12 2012

It’s an unlikely story.

And I don’t mean the virgin birth nor the angelic choruses

or the three wise men.

It’s an unlikely story, this plan to save the world.

 

It doesn’t seem like much of a plan, really.

There is no army.

No strategic deployments on multiple fronts.

 

The arm that is mighty to save

is not supermuscled

superheroic

the Lord strong and mighty in battle .

There are no chariots of God

in thousands and tens of thousands.

The arm that is mighty to save

is the chubby waving arm

of a new-born baby,

that his mother will tuck inside his wrappings.

Wrapped in bands,

swaddled and laid in a manger.

 

It all seems rather ridiculous.

Instead of hosts of sword-wielding angels,

instead of appearing on the clouds in might and in glory

God says, “Here I am”.

Born in poverty.

Completely vulnerable.

Dependent on humans

to feed me and clothe me

to love me and care for me.

A baby.

 

I mean, seriously, a baby.

 

That’s God’s plan.

It’s so unlikely.

God was and is God

and became human

and we call that human Jesus

and he was born to parents

who didn’t have much money

and shortly after his birth became political refugees

fleeing from a tyrant who wanted that baby dead…

 

And what’s more,

we don’t really know much about what happened

between birth and his teenage years

he pops up in Jerusalem,

worrying his parents when he goes missing

and they spend several days looking for him.

 

Then the next we hear,

the God who created the universe

has become a 30-something carpenter

who collects followers

and tells stories

and heals the sick

and makes some trouble

and ends up dead.

Three days later he’s alive again.

 

And that’s how God acted to set the world to rights.

 

I wouldn’t blame you if you find it kind of difficult to believe.

It’s a foolish kind of story to throw your lot in with.

 

God,

the all powerful

who saves us from our sin

from our brokenness

from our greed and from our impatience and from our unkindness

from our violence and hatred

from all that binds us

sends us a baby.

 

When God set out to forge relationship with us

when God set out to save us and help us

he sent a baby.

 

He sent a baby who grew up to be a man

who in his life and teaching and death and rising again

pioneered the way for us

to be in relationship with God

and with each other.

 

Babies change us.

For some of us it is that moment of softness

as they turn towards us and reach for our finger.

As they smile.

For some of us it is the lifetime of change

that the hard work of parenting wears into us.

 

Babies invite us to love them.

Babies invoke in us protectiveness and care.

Babies inspire in us awe and wonder.

They soften our hearts and at the same time

they inspire in us the passion to work for a better world

for them to inherit.

 

I realise that is all somewhat romantic.

Babies also wear us out with their needs and demands.

With their tears and unsettled sleep.

They go on to toddler tantrums

and teenage prickliness

and all of that.

That is also true.

 

And as pretty as the candles and the carols are tonight,

this baby knew that difficult edge of life.

This baby did not live a romantic nor charmed life.

He was born to the world in all it’s darkness.

Born to a woman shamed for being pregnant outside of marriage,

who felt the pain of labour,

and the fear that drove her family further away from home, into Egypt.

His earthly father, Joseph, felt the burden of responsibility,

tried his best to protect his family.

 

God was born a baby.

Babies change us.

 

And this baby,

this baby born among animals

to parents a long way from home –

this baby changed history.

 

Not all of that change was for good.

In his name many atrocities have been wrought,

lives damaged, wars fought.

 

But despite the claims to the contrary, that was not on behalf of the baby.

Nor his Father.

 

For that baby became human

and his name was to be called

Wonderful Counsellor

Mighty God

the Everlasting Father

the Prince of Peace.

 

The Prince of Peace.

 

The angels sang at his birth:

Glory to God in the highest

and peace to God’s people on earth

(and, you know,

all people are God’s people!)

 

In this baby the goodness

and loving kindness of God appeared.

 

God invites us to experience

that life-changing baby

in the way we are human.

 

God became human

and dwelt among us,

not as a conquering army

not as a violent superhero

but a vulnerable baby.

 

God came to us in the vulnerability of a baby,

a new-born child,

and God’s first word as he entered the world

as a human baby was likely a long wail…

 

All of us,

no matter what language we speak,

how hardened our hearts,

know that a baby’s cry calls forth from us

kindness and compassion,

invites us to love.

 

A baby:

what a ridiculous plan!

But it changed our world

and it changes us,

every time we choose love,

every time we receive love,

every time we act with love rather than fear.

 

Fear not, said the angel!

Fear not, I bring you tidings of great joy for all people

For to you is born this day

in the City of David

a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host,

praising God and saying, 
‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,

and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’

 

A baby!

Maybe it wasn’t such a bad plan…

 

(Scripture read in worship included Isaiah 9: 2 – 7, Titus 3: 4 – 8, Luke 2: 1 – 20)

(Influences on this sermon include http://www.ibenedictines.org/2012/12/24/the-christmas-martyrology-proclamation/ and a conversation with The Rev. Jan Tarrant)

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