Love Drawn Here

Special Thanks to Sanctified Art for their Advent and Christmas Themes

December 24, 2018 Christmas Eve

Luke 2:1-20

This evening we are ushered into the great story of Christmas. Luke welcomes us into the story by sharing what it was like in “those days.” Time was tracked by the time of the current ruler, as in Jesus’ case, it was Emperor Augustus. It would be like me stating today that I was born in the time Gerald Ford was President of the United States, or my children were born in the time of George W. Bush being President.

We have all experienced birth in some form or another. Whether it be yourself or a family member. It can be scary and raise levels of anxiety. Yet, more often than not, it brings times of great joy and quite often a shift in lifestyle. It does not take long to learn that there is something different about the birth we are rejoicing tonight. In all of its ordinariness, we are illuminated by the glory of angels singing and a great light shining all around. Love drew nearer to humanity over two thousand years ago than it had ever been. In the birth of the Messiah, the light reaches to the darkest recesses to share the good news with all people.

We are reminded in our first lesson from Isaiah that there was disharmony among the people. The people of Israel were being oppressed by Assyria, and in First Century Israel, the oppression came from the Roman Empire. There is a darkness that overshadows everything, and the people are just waiting for something great to happen. They are seeking freedom from their oppressors. There is a pervasiveness that comes with the darkness that seems to extend through time; from the very beginning of creation to the world in which Mary and Joseph find themselves trying to find a place to stay.

You would think that Joseph returning to the town of his family, Bethlehem, there would still be some relatives around that would welcome in Joseph and Mary. At the least, there would have been other family members that had to make the same trek. However, is the obvious pregnancy of Mary, due any day now, turning his family away? It is possible that they were ashamed of what they saw, knowing that Mary and Joseph had yet to be wed.

The hospitality that they are hoping to find leaves them on the outside. On the outside of a warm meal. On the outside of a warm bed and a comfortable place to sleep and prepare for the birth. On the outside of the love of family that they were probably longing for. This is the darkness that they were experiencing.

We feel that same darkness when we are not welcome and are left on the outside looking in. We crave to be part of something and yet it seems out of our reach. We long for a hospitality that will embrace us where we are and as we are.

While Mary and Joseph are looking for a place to stay, the plans for them are not yet complete. While no one welcomes them, they will soon be the ones to welcome others into the glory that has been proclaimed to them. The shepherds hear of the great news and come to see for themselves. Mary and Joseph are stunned to find out what they know. In their hospitality, they have allowed others into the great wonder that is now part of their story.

We are told that, “Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.” She knew what was to take place as the angel had told her before she was pregnant. It is in the words of the shepherds that she is affirmed, and their words bring a reality to the whole thing. Those words she held dearly, as she knew that her son was destined for something much greater than she could ever imagine. As the love of God drew near to everyone close to the manger that evening over two thousand years ago, it is a love that has never left us. That love is drawn here in our very hearts and welcomes us into something great and mysterious at the very same time.

That love is here when we wonder. That love is here when we seek the truth. That love is here when we reach out to the neighbor and stranger alike in justice. That love is here this very night as we draw nearer to one another. This love that is drawn here extends out to all of creation as we welcome the birth of the Messiah, and we ourselves are welcomed into the great love of God.

Let us pray. Prince of Peace, we rejoice in your birth and the love you brought from all corners of the earth. May the light that you bring to the darkness comfort us and bring us peace. Amen.


The Grace of God has Appeared


December 24, 2017 Christmas Eve

Luke 2:1-20, Titus 2:11-14

Birth is messy!

For those of you that have had children, you will know what I mean. Of course, you have the literal mess from the birth itself. There is also the mess that comes with the total reorganization of lives that have been completely changed by the birth of a newborn baby. Even with multiple children, there is an adjustment that must take place and varies in time for everyone.

In this messiness, we find ourselves living into the uncomfortable. Something that we are not quite acquainted with and at times scares us half to death. This messiness redirects us and we may even get buried and lost in the middle of it all. And as we all know, as we are able to get the messiness tidied up in one area of our lives, it rears itself in another part of our lives. This is a reflection of the broken world that we live.

This broken world was in existence over two thousand years ago when Mary and Joseph made their way from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Now talk about messiness!

Their story is one that is so messy that our stories could pale in comparison. Many of you, by memory, could walk through the birth story that has been retold in the gospel of Luke. It is a story that we hear every Christmas and a part of the essential foundations in our faith as Christians.

They too found that they had to reorganize their lives. A reorganization that would forever change the face of the world and that would lead billions of people to follow a new born baby. It was not convenient though. It never is when an unwed teenager discovers that she is pregnant. Not to mention the fact, that the angel Gabriel tells her that it is the Holy Spirit that comes to her and she will give birth to the Son of God. This turns Joseph’s and her life upside down. After some discernment and a lot of trust in the Lord, they find themselves in Bethlehem looking for a place to stay and Mary to give birth.

The messiness of a stable, surrounded by animals. Not the royal palace that we would assume the Son of God to be born. And he is placed in a manger. A feed trough that the animals were probably recently eating out of until they needed a place to lay baby Jesus.

It is here that we find Jesus in the most unlikely of places! Not the first place that we would have looked, but probably one of the last.

Thank goodness for the angels that came to the shepherds in the field bearing good news and directions to where Jesus had been laid in the manger. In their own messiness, the shepherds are the first ones to come and visit the newborn king. It is in their simplicity and awe that they come to the manger and share the prophecy that has been told to them through the angels. A prophecy that fulfills the prophecies of the Hebrews and one that brings hope to a world that is desperately in need of hope. The shepherds then go out “glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen.” Being the first to bear witness to Jesus in this world.

It is in the letter to Titus that the author proclaims, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all.”

What a word of hope that still resounds true for us today!

In the midst of our messiness, the grace of God has appeared!

In the midst of our broken world, the grace of God has appeared!

In the midst of our divisions and fighting, the grace of God has appeared!

It is in this grace of God that we are reminded that Jesus has come to us swaddled in the great love God has for all creation. A love that begins and ends with God. A love that can be found within each one of us as we open our hearts up to the incarnation of Jesus in this world. A birth that brings good news to a world that aches for any bit of good news that it can receive. We are now called to glorify and praise God. Proclaiming this good news for all to hear. God was, is, and will be with us for all eternity. Merry Christmas!

Let us pray, Wonderful Counselor, we give thanks for the news that the shepherds proclaimed as they left the manger. We pray that as we enter into this season of Christmas and into the new year that we be bold enough to testify to this same message. Amen.