« Back


Christmas Eve 2014: Occasion of Joy

The waiting is over, the shopping and wrapping and baking and rehearsal is done. Take a minute and let the thoughts and worries and things left undone rest. Be open to this new life, this divine life breaking into our ordinary time.

We gather tonight to celebrate an event long ago that marked a new beginning, a new divine intervention, a cosmic event for human history.

The prophecy is fulfilled the maiden bore a son in the city of David and all the hopes and fears of all our years can be put aside for a time to rest in the presence of Emmanuel, God with us, now, and here.

Barbara Brown Taylor inspired the following story.

Before time, before clocks or stars or sun or moon, rocks, sky, sea, fish, birds, there was God and darkness. God spoke and amazing things happened….how long it took I don’t know…longer than four weeks of advent. But even with animals and birds and plants God wanted companions and so women and men were invited for long walks in the garden, conversations about things that affected their lives, what grew in the fruit trees, what was good for eating and what was off limits.

God loved the people so much that he gave them the keys to his eco-car and big brains that allowed them to create stuff. Some of it was very good, like tools and trucks and planes and some of it was not so good like guns and other weapons.

God sent prophets and other messengers, like Moses with laws telling the people how best to live with each other. They did not pay much attention because they had jobs and families and stuff to do.

The only ones listening were the babies. When God whispered that the dust reflecting light was star dust stirred up by the angels dusting the lights of heaven they laughed and their moms thought that was cute. When God wept over how men fought the babies cried with him and their moms said it was colic. Babies did not hate anything or anyone. They accepted care unconditionally so God had a good idea: he decided to come to earth as a baby.

God told the archangels in his vestry about his plan and they frowned and said no, he might be hurt. One suggested he build in some magic defense so he would be safe. God thanked them for their advice and then decided to earn the trust of men he would have to be one of them and it was worth the risk.

So God opened a hole in the clouds and with a few angels looked down. On the earth below on a hill were some shepherds looking up at them. One of the angels said, gently, do not be afraid for I bring you good news for to you is born a child who is Christ the lord. The shepherds were stunned to silence, the sheep were quiet, no owls hooted, nothing moved, the air was still, so still that they heard a sound…it was a baby’s cry and they got up and started moving toward it.

They got to a place in a small village and in one spot where the starlight seemed especially intense they saw a couple, a man leaning against the stable wall, a young woman gazing upon a child lying in the trough that fed the animals. There were no other people there, just the man who said his name was Joseph and the woman, named Mary and the child. Very plain, nothing fancy, just the family and these common working men from the fields.

We come like the shepherds of old, to see this holy event, as if it were happening here among us, in my heart and yours. Can we find time and space for the holy birth in our hearts?

Jesus was born in a historical time and place: in Bethlehem of Judea, under the reign of Caesar Augustus, in a manger. God locates himself in history in human time and space, under the same conditions and limitations as gravity, disease, death, family, friends, enemies, political favor and disfavor, daily needs to eat and sleep and work. Why? Because God wanted to dwell with us.

Angels celebrate the event giving it a spiritual location. In this simple humble site, the God of heaven, creator of all, brings peace and life anew into the common everyday of human existence.

The shepherds identify the social location. We might expect notable people of some authority, spiritual or political to be present but they are not. We may look for some affirmation that this event is holy and we have only the word of the shepherds gazing into the night sky…there were just simple folks, shepherds, parents and an infant.

God rarely acts in ways we predict or expect. With God all things are possible and God likes surprises. This child is born among those he came to save, and he keeps on coming among us, into us, affecting how we see ourselves, our world, our community, our faith. The grace of God flies under the radar of our expectations…leaving us to ponder in our hearts as Mary did in hers.

Look at your children, our children and see the hope in their eyes, the wonder in their smile and whether excited or tired and read to sleep, they are gifts of immeasurable worth. Hold them gently, remember when they were dependent and innocent and feel the love of life. Take in the stillness, the candle light, and in the silence see the starlight, listen for the sound of angels, and let the spirit of Christmas infect you, fully, that even now – unto us a child is born.

If you will surrender to the birth within you and allow the child to grow up in you, in your family, in your community, you will agree that this night is holy. Holy night, holy light, the miracle of love, the gift of God’s own self to us, right here and right now.

From Kneeling in Bethlehem by Ann Weems

“Christmas comes every time we see God in other persons. / The human and the holy meet in Bethlehem or in Times Square, for Christmas comes like a golden storm on its way to Jerusalem – determinedly, inevitably…/ Even now it comes, in the face of hatred and war – no atrocity too terrible to stop it, no Herod strong enough, no hurt deep enough, no curse shocking enough, no disaster shattering enough. / For someone on earth will see the star, someone will hear the angel voices, someone will run to Bethlehem, someone will know peace and good will: the Christ will be born.

It is not over, this birthing. / There are always newer skies into which God can throw stars. / When we begin to think that we can predict the advent of God, that we can box the Christ in a stable in Bethlehem, that’s just the time that God will be born in a place we can’t imagine and won’t believe. / Those who wait for God watch with their hearts and not their eyes, listening, always listening, for angel words.”

« Back