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Luke 2:1-14 – New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition
2 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 All went to their own towns to be registered. 4 Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5 He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no place in the guest room.
8 Now in that same region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for see, I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
John 1:1-5, 14-18
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overtake it.
14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen this glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. 15 (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”) 16 From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. It is the only Son, himself God, who is close to the Creator’s heart, who has made him known.
How do we keep from losing the meaning – the meaning of Christmas – the meaning of God coming to us, living among us, sharing our humanity? Our intentions are sincere but how are the words heard, understood, taken in? The words Merry Christmas are heavily secularized.
Blessed Christmas. Or maybe Joyous Christmas. Does that get to the heart of it?
For four Sundays in Advent, we have been waiting and preparing for this, for the coming of Christ into the world. Immanuel. God-with-us in the form of a tiny human baby, precious and helpless and innocent.
God was born in a stable, on the ground, and laid in a feed trough re-purposed as a bed. Born to a teen-age mother, surrounded by livestock, first witnessed by shepherds, God made themself accessible to the least among us.
And yet, some of us may feel shut off from God, from the church, from acceptance. We internalize the rejection that there is no room for us at the inn. Why? Maybe we are painfully aware of our failings, our shortcomings, our sins. Maybe religious officials have shamed us in the past and we feel oh so un-holy. Maybe we don’t go to church, or don’t go often and we feel guilty. Here is the good news…
Luke’s gospel tells us “to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior…” (2:11)
John’s gospel tells us that “… in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.” (John 1:4) Jesus came from God – a gift to us all… from God, of God.
By using Mary, by being born in a stable, by appearing first to shepherds – we can know that God is for everyone; God can and will appear to anyone, anywhere. God is here, in this world, and God is here for you, and for each and every one of us. Just as you are.
One of my spiritual mentors, Richard Rohr, writes of the universal experience – what is true for one is true for all.
Jesus was from God. Of God. We also are from God, of God. All of us.
How do we use this God-given gift? Where, and on whom, do we shine our life, our light?
Do we shine it in the already bright places – or do we bring our light to illuminate the places most in need – the darkest pockets of Creation?
We live in two worlds: that of the sacred and the secular. If we are mindful, the two will blur into one more often than not as we bring the sacred to our everyday existence.
Our scriptures from the Gospels of Luke and John that Doug read this evening are sacred. They remind us of how life was, and of how it can be: how it is meant to be.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overtake it. (John 1:5)
Will we be the light that shines on foster-children awaiting temporary homes; awaiting forever families?
Will we be the light that shines on people in need of shelter, seeking refuge from violence, seeking protection against harsh climates, seeking safety and security and deserving dignity?
Will we be the light that shines on animals and insects and plants – nature’s creations harmed by our carelessness and greed?
Our lights are needed to brighten the existence of the least among us. May all our Christmases be bright. May all our Christmases be blessed. And may the blessings extend throughout the entire year.
We recognize Jesus as God-given, as a gift. Jesus’ family, disciples, townspeople, the religious elite, none truly understood who he was while he was embodied. But we know.
The Messiah, the Lord, The Word – came to live with us and in us. And what we know was true for Jesus is true for us.
God came in the flesh – because God loved us and wanted us to be nearer to God. God’s gift to us was to come and live among us. Our gift to God (and to the rest of Creation) is to live with God in our hearts.
Look around. We need to continue to recognize God among us – in the person next door, the next state, across the border, around the world.
We tend to be suspicious of those we don’t know, those that are different than ourselves. The remedy? Get to know the people different than ourselves. Befriend them. Learn about them. Learn from them. Respect their ways. Share a bit about ourselves.
May our lives shine in the darkness bringing hope, bringing peace, bringing joy, bringing love so that justice may prevail for all born into this world and all that God has created.
May it be so.
Rev. TJ Mack – December 24, 2022