(Isaiah 9:2-7 Psalm 96 Titus 2:11-14 Luke 2:1-20)
“The Christmas Intruder!”
Last weekend, while I was scrambling with last-minute online Christmas shopping (yes, I missed all that frenetic body-slamming excitement in the check-out lines as I completed my shopping calmly in front of my computer), my browser pulled me onto the Apple website. I still don’t know how that happens and I don’t know how to stop it without shutting down the whole thing, but a video began playing. My first tendency is to close down the site, but this time I began to watch. The video was that of a family gathering for the Christmas holiday. I saw the family run out of their cars to embrace one another. I then saw them baking cookies. I watched kids building a snowman. I saw toddlers fall asleep in perfect alignment under a perfectly-decorated tree.
In each scene, I watched a teenage boy with his head down, eyes glued to his handsome new iPhone. The adults were give him chiding looks while others threw snowballs at him; but he was unmoved.
In the end I realize that he has been capturing all of these touching moments with his phone’s video camera and quietly creating a home movie.
As the video ended, I remember chiding myself for, initially becoming impatient when that video intruded into my routine, my schedule to finish quickly one thing before moving onto the next.
This past week, as I thought about what I might say this here evening, I oddly thought about this experience with my computer a few days earlier. Certainly we all know what it is like to feel as if someone or something has intruded into our lives. So I’m sitting there thinking “how dare Apple intrude into my last-minute on-line shopping.”
And then I began to think, “how dare God intrude into this world of ours?”
And then I became apprehensive, thinking, can I even think of God as an intruder?
So I went to the dictionary. Intruder: “one who is thrust in without invitation, without permission, and without welcome. To push in where one does not fit; to enter, in an inappropriate manner.”
I thought, Wow! In a most profound way, isn’t that what we just heard in the Christmas story from Luke’s Gospel? I don’t think there was a single person in that story-Roman government, Joseph, Mary, shepherds, angels, even the animals—who expected to happen what happened. Not one of those, not a single one, expected God to push his way into their lives at that precise moment!
That’s the Christmas message! I want you to hear and I need you to hear on this Christmas, the most real, most profound understanding of the Incarnation: that God can and God does push his way into our lives, and very often in places where and when it doesn’t quite seem as if God fits.
- I am sitting in a hospital room with a family as a loved one is dying.
- I am sitting at a kitchen table with a 92-year-old woman whose husband died the day before Christmas three years ago, sharing Holy Communion, and I’m reminded I’m sitting in the chair where he always sat.
- I am sitting with an aging pastor whose body is wracked with pain, as he remembers that Christmas Eve was always his favorite worship service of the year, and this is the first year he cannot even come to church. As I read the Christmas story from Luke’s Gospel, I notice tears flowing down his cheeks.
- I am sitting with 24 guests, part of the Gettysburg C.A.R.E.S. shelter program for those who are without a home, will wake up tomorrow morning sleeping on the floor in one of our Sunday School rooms right upstairs, and then walk to the soup kitchen for breakfast on Christmas morning.
And I think . . . . . just as God got past the Roman government and showed up in Bethlehem with Mary and Joseph, and got into the stable, and surprised the shepherds! I hope you can hear the Good News as it was proclaimed on that first Christmas night: “On this day a savior is born, Christ the Lord who shows up in the hospital rooms, in dimly lighted kitchens, with persons grieving lost health, with guests on the floor of a Sunday School room, and in all the war-torn areas of our world, nation, our communities, and our families.”
Perhaps if there is anything to say this evening, it is simply that…God comes.
Christ comes, that is, not just to give us more of the life we know, but to offer us new and abundant life together. The Good News of Christmas is that in Christ we have the promise that God will not stop intruding into the most unexpected and unfit and unwelcome places of our lives until each and all of us have been embraced and caught up in God’s tremendous love.
My friends, you all have made it through your busy and frantic lives these past few days, and you have somehow found your way to this church this night. Tonight and tomorrow you will receive many gifts, many treasures.
Remember this one: God comes for one reason, and one reason alone: because God loves you, because God loves you. Let me say it one more time: God comes for one reason: because God loves you! God comes to live in your hearts, to make a home in your lives. . . . and there is no iPhone large enough in the world to capture such a magnificent story! Amen.