Isaiah 9:2-7 Titus 2:11-14 Luke 2:1-20
Advent starts in tears. The prophet Isaiah speaks of the desires of a broken nation. The economy was in shambles, the cities in ruins, starvation and sickness ran rampant, violence in the streets. Fast forward few centuries, things were much the same to the time of Jesus birth. We like to think that Jesus birth was this beautifully serene moment: young Mary dressed in a clean blue gown looking down lovingly at her baby boy sleeping peacefully; Joseph, standing tall by
her side., well-behaved animals captivated by the newborn. Shepherds coming and bowing in reverent awe, and the baby Jesus glowing in the bed of hay. These images captured in our paintings and stained glass windows, – tend to sanitize and distance us from the reality of the
situation. The nativity scene was messy. It was smelly, chaotic situation. A young woman travelled on a donkey over a long distance and
gave birth to in a smelly place with a bunch of animals and grimy strangers.
During this year of 2020, it has been a messy time as we live through and continue to live through this Covid-19 pandemic. This is what makes he Christmas story so powerful and relevant to us. I picture Joseph struggling to keep the stubborn animals away from Mary and their new son. I am sure it was an exhausting and challenging experience for Mary. I can see Mary’s rest being interrupted by the cries of her newborn. Yes, baby Jesus cried, despite the
words in the hymn, “Away in a Manger”. “no crying he makes” . Jesus was fully human and
and babies cry.
Despite our beautiful manger scenes and crèches we create, it is hard for us living today to truly understand the situation Mary and
Joseph found themselves in. They were without shelter, refugees far from home. They lived under the shadow of the Roman Empire that
regarded them as barely human. We hear of the Holy Family fleeing to Egypt to live as refugees to escape this violence. Their story might seem a little foreign to us as Canadians, but doesn’t it sound like the world we live in? We have refugees from war torn countries trying to flee and find a better life. We have refugee camps with disease and overcrowding. We live in a world were extremists carry out acts of violence .They don’t care who gets caught in their so called war. We have pandemics that disrupts the whole world. We are equal in this pandemic. It doesn’t discriminate. We realize that we really need something more. This is the kind of world that God chose to enter. The cries of the infant Jesus mirrored the cries of a desperate people – he chose to become vulnerable and defenseless to face the powers of sin and death in the world. He chose to be one of us. This is why l love the word, Emmanuel a name for Jesus, which means God is with us.
In a book called Public Faith, the theologian Miroslav Volf tells how the Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor once heard Mother Theresa explain why she served the poor. She often complained, “people say we are social workers. We are not social workers! We are Christians who worship Jesus as Lord and therefore serve people made in the image of God.” Taylor, a practicing Catholic, thought to himself: “I could have said that, too!” Upon further reflection, he then wondered, “But could I have meant it?” At Christmas we confess a creed, but with Taylor, I ask myself, “Do I mean it?”
Tonight is a most holy night, but it is not holy because it’s clean or quaint, it is because tonight we celebrate that God came and continues to come, to live with us, in us and through us. God’s spirit is alive and active in each one of us in the middle of all our failings, worries, and sickness. And we don’t have to live in the Middle East, past or present or experience poverty or violence, to know what it’s like to live in a land of great darkness. We can relate to those living under a
shroud of fear. We are living through an isolated Christmas not able to see all of our families. Other people are in maternity wards wondering what is happening with their sick baby. Partners living with a spouse with dementia. Children who don’t have presents at Christmas and unstable family situations.
Tonight the cries of the broken are interrupted by the cries of the Jesus. Tonight the question changes from, “Why does God
allow suffering?” to “How could God love us so much to come and suffer with us?” Tonight we reflect on the fact that God comes to us in the ordinary: in the simple things, in the messy circumstances, in our tears, and in our laughter.
The church does many things – teaching, worship, prayer, hospitals, schools, art, music, and care for the poor. But none of those are unique to the church: you can find them in other places. What distinguishes the church from all these other worthy pursuits, as Mother Theresa observed, is our liturgical confession that Jesus, the Christ Child, is Lord. Jesus came to us not just as a tiny baby, but he grew to be the man Jesus, who healed the sick, cared for the lost, and taught us all how to live. For that he died a cruel death on a cross, but God acted again with the resurrection of Jesus, bringing life to all of us and healing all our wounds. We need to be reminded that Christ came to clean up our messes and chooses to be with us through all the muck and mire we experience and sometimes create.
Tonight I pray for all you in all that is going on in your life, that you will find strength in the Christmas Story and the Hope, Peace, Joy and Love that God will give you. As John gospel says, “the light shines in the darkness and darkness will not overcome it” .