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
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.
Dependent on humans
to feed me and clothe me
to love me and care for me.
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.
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
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.
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!’
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)