Christmas Morning 25 December 2016
(Isaiah 52:7-10 Psalm 98 Hebrews 1:1-12 John 1:1-14)
“Moving from Message to Messenger!”
Blessed Christmas to each of you on this Christmas morning!
Not unlike the Christmas story we heard from Luke’s Gospel last evening, every Christmas story has its wide range of emotions.
[Slide of Caritas Baby Hospital in Bethlehem] None seems more true than the story of the Caritas Baby Hospital in Bethlehem, where mothers with children, very often unwed mothers, are taken care of by skilled nurses and doctors.
The story of Caritas Baby Hospital is a story that takes place less than a mile from the site celebrated as the birthplace of Jesus 2000 years ago, at a time when his unwed mother had nowhere to go.
Paradoxically disturbing is that the first sign visitors often see for the Caritas Baby Hospital is the cartoonish spray-painted logo on a 30-foot-high concrete guard tower, a particularly imposing part of the barrier that separates Israel and the Palestinian territories.
Of course for those who have been to Bethlehem, you know you have to pass through a checkpoint in order to get into this small town, only five miles from Jerusalem.
The Order of Religious Sisters who staff this hospital is a point of light for thousands of patients each year, this past year more than 40,000 children, newborn to 14 years of age, from all over the West Bank and Gaza. The Religious Sisters often sit with families affected by the wall’s path, sharing tea and coffee as they try to offer support and presence. One of the main missions of the hospital is to show solidarity as human beings with all people.
For me, this is very much a Christmas story: a hospital that cares for all babies, so close to where Jesus was born, and its very sign of welcome painted on a wall of separation!
We all have different Christmas stories to tell and to live—all which proclaim the promise that the light will not dispel darkness!
Christmas celebrates what theologians like to call the “Incarnation,” the time when God’s love came to earth in human form. But the Incarnation says as much about what we are to become as it does about what God has become. We certainly hear this clearly on Christmas morning!
God is always trying to make humanity more human. That’s the Incarnation! Christ becomes like us not that we should become less, but that we might become more ourselves, more like Him who showed us that even though we do not possess all knowledge so as to understand all mysteries; even though we do not give all we have to feed the poor; even though we do not let our bodies be burned; even though we do not do all those things, God in Jesus comes to show us a better way. Love alone is the expression of our aliveness. The Incarnation offers us the gift of this life of love. But it is our gift to open, again and again and again.
At the heart of the celebration of Christmas message is the radical desire of God to want to share life with us and being with us in our human uncertainties, vulnerabilities and struggles that come with being human.
This morning the message and the promise are the same as they were last evening, but the words of the message and the words of promise are different. If the Gospel of Jesus is the greatest love story ever told, then we are challenged to become the message and the promise to the world. I believe Christmas to be our first best meeting with God. Christmas is the breathing immeasurable love that God has for each one of us!
If I dare say this, we heard the beautiful Christmas story last evening from Luke, but today the prophet Isaiah and the Gospel writer John take us a step further. If last evening we heard so much about God’s love for us in Pastor Andrew’s sermon, this morning we now are challenged to “incarnate” –make visible—God’s love into the world!!
The words of the prophet Isaiah move us from the message to the messenger. If, indeed, the Word of God’s love has been made real and visible to the world, then blessed are our feet as we bring this Good News to the world!
As God’s own flesh in Jesus touched broken bodies with God’s healing presence, and fed hungry bodies, and hugged children’s’ bodies, and welcomes rejected persons back into community, as Jesus laughed and wept–the gift of Christmas opens us to the very same way of living—sharing God’s Good News of God’s unending love to a broken and needy world.
On this Christmas day, we celebrate God’s love come to us. We celebrate God’s love opening us ever more deeply to become messengers of God’s love to the world. How beautiful are the feet which travel the earth to proclaim the Good News of God’s love to each and every person!
It is Christmas morning when we can look at a face we may never have seen before and recognize that person as our sister or brother.
It is Christmas morning when we see hope by looking at a drawing of two very juvenile babies on a guard tower where soldiers with guns survey the land below.
It is Christmas morning when we truly realize that the Word of God—Jesus—has become one of us and now lives among us.
These are the Christmas stories I want to hear on Christmas morning, and I want to keep hearing them believing them long after Christmas morning! Amen.
Christmas Morning 25 December 2016