Do You Hear What I Hear?
Christmas Eve 2015 (Luke 2:1-20)
Anti – text – 1 – In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered.
Text – 11 – to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.
Christmas Eve. I always wrestle with what to say – not too much, not too little – it’s a little bit like being on a first date. What you say is so important. But you can’t say it all – on that first date.
So here’s what I offer.
On the one hand you have, ORDER. On the other hand you have, CHAOS.
Often as people we vacillate between the two. To be sure we have our preferences. Some people like order – predictability, things in their place. Others prefer chaos – surprise, adventure – the unknown.
To explore this reality let me employ a winter metaphor. It’s a bit like being on an ice rink. Most of the people like to skate round and round – at least to start with, clockwise. Some hold hands while doing so. Others like to take long graceful strides. Others, perhaps less experienced skaters are a bit more tenuous – carefully moving away from the boards, wanting to be sure of their balance. But most people are going with the flow. There is some order to it, some predictability.
But then along comes a little boy or a group of boys – or bigger boys, even “men” that act like little boys. They throw their shoulders forward, move their legs like mad, move in and out of the other skaters. Then suddenly they turn in the middle, racing against the flow and soon – all is disrupted. The order has given way to some chaos. There is laughter. There is falling. There is crashing, screaming, adventure and even possible injury.
In living our lives there is never only order and predictability or chaos and surprise. Instead there is always some – or lots of both – order and chaos, predictability and mayhem.
Some people want to have babies and do. Some people want to have babies and can’t. Some people don’t want to have babies and do. And other people don’t want to have any children and are questioned about their choice.
Some people want to find intimate companionship and do. Sometimes it’s wonderful. Some people want to find intimate companionship and don’t – at least for long periods of time. Others make choices to not have intimate companionship with others – and are fine with it.
Most of us want to live long healthy lives. Some of us do. Others die much younger. Some live lives which are marked by ongoing pain, accident, great loss.
Order and chaos – predictability and surprise – wonder and awe, incredible sharing – horror and emptiness. These are part and parcel of human life – our lives, all lives.
Joseph and Mary know all about this.
So do we.
We know about this individually. We know about this collectively. Even now, as a nation, we are just beginning to wrestle with how we might welcome people whose lives have been marked by chaos through no fault of their own.
Life roars on. Time stands still for no one.
Again, this is true for us as individuals – with news of new births, of engagements, of graduations, of learning to walk and ride, sing and play. But alongside such news there is also news of critical illness, job changes, falls and the need to begin to use walkers.
Order and chaos also erupt into our lives on a grander scale: climate change, wars, collapsing and rising economies. Whether we are aware of it or not, such realities exert influence upon our lives.
But tonight – we are here. We have gathered for myriads of reasons. Some of the reasons we know. Some of the reasons transcend our understanding.
We gather to sing, to listen, to be still – if even for a few moments in the midst of our lives, our order and chaos – our rituals and surprises. Maybe we long for just a brief moment as the lights dim and we share the light of our candles. In such moments we may be opened to the wonder beyond ourselves, beyond our analysis and explanation. In those moments we are surrounded by others that love us, those present, those unable to be here, those who have died, going before us.
Are we listening? Will we hear?
Might we be encountered by God?
It’s radical claim – a mind blowing possibility.
Hearing the stories from Isaiah to Luke, to John, we begin to see that God cannot be limited by order or chaos – by powers that are or that will be. Nor will God be limited by our understanding or status – significant or less than significant.
God comes into all that we are and have and will be because God cares. NO, the truth is even more than that. God comes right where we are, wherever that is tonight, because God loves us!
God’s love for us is not in the sense of a feeling – that comes and goes like the fog on the west coast or like promises in a country melody, or even like your favorite team’s winning or losing streak. No! God comes because God steadfastly, presently and forever, cares for and about us, each and every one of us – all of us.
God wants us to know that we are not alone – regardless of how we feel or what has happened or will happen that may devastate us.
God wants us to know that in God’s love there is ongoing help for us and for others, for our world. Because we are so deeply loved, we can love. Because we are offered again and again forgiveness, we can let go and forgive. Because God’s love is sacrificial we can be moved to willingly and joyfully sacrifice.
At Christmas we don’t just remember, we proclaim, we live out of the truth God comes not as an idea or as a set of rules – but as a person – a flesh and blood person – who experiences all that we experience! And this person, this One whose birth we sing about and proclaim in our own ways tonight, this vulnerable baby born in a seemingly insignificant place to a young, young unmarried girl, is the One who actually embodies God’s love for humanity, for you and me from manger to cross, through all of life and death to new life.
Listen and you might hear God’s messengers, the angels, tonight.
“To you is born this day a Savior!”
Wherever we are tonight, whatever the order and chaos of our lives, God comes with unmanageable love in the flesh.
JOY TO THE WORLD! Amen.