And so, once more we have told the Christmas story, in the words of Scripture, and in favourite carols. It’s a story that begins in darkness, deep darkness, and ends in unconquerable light.
Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, the Prince of Peace, God’s Word made flesh, comes to us as Mary’s firstborn son, laid in a feeding trough, in a cattleshed, in a little town.
At the heart of this story is this fundamental truth: that God loved the world so much, that God loved the world and all of its creatures so much, that God chose to be born among us as a vulnerable baby.
This truth is a message that we need to hear this Christmas perhaps more than ever. In this year, we have witnessed, and heard tell of, wars and acts of violence that have shaken our confidence, our trust that the world is a good place, and that life is indeed good.
The world into which Jesus was born was not that different from our world. The country in which Jesus was born was occupied by a foreign army. There were regular outbreaks of conflict and violence, even terrorism. There was vast inequality—a wide gulf separated the powerful, far-off Emperor Augustus in Rome, from the lowly, nameless shepherds in the fields.
But then notice what God does: God does not come like a mighty warrior, or an invading army. God does not come with the power of force to destroy God’s enemies, and make the world safe again. Much as people back then, much as we today, might like God to do that.
God comes as a baby. A baby! Could you imagine a more ridiculous response, a more perverse gift to give to a world living in the grip of fear?
In a world where people of ill-will are armed to the teeth, God comes as a baby, naked and vulnerable. In a world of noise and clamour and sometimes hateful speech, God steals into our world in the silence of night. In a world where the powerful think they call the shots, God trumps the powerful by bringing good news to the nobodies.
What does this tell us? We’re meant to see in the birth of the baby Jesus what God is like: the shape and form of God’s power in the world.
And we are meant, as children of God, to be like God.
We are meant to approach life—all of life—as we might imagine ourselves approaching the manger that holds the new-born baby: on bended knee, with reverence, and awe, our hearts for that moment overfull of joy and gratitude; forgetting in that moment our fears, our doubts, our worries, trusting in the peace of God’s presence.
As Jesus grew, he faced every hardship we have faced, and every hardship we can imagine. And, no matter what he experienced, he responded with God’s fierce love for the world. Much of the world didn’t listen to Jesus’s message, and those with power tried to drown it out.
But they didn’t succeed: the message of God’s love for the world lived on, nurtured by small communities of people who believed that love could yet be more powerful than fear, that goodness could disarm terror, that light could overcome any darkness.
The world we live in is still full of challenges. Much of the world still doesn’t listen to Jesus’ message, and those with power of one kind or another still try to drown it out.
But what about you? Are you listening?
This Christmas, this story, in any version you might hear it, invites you to kneel at the manger, to welcome the baby, to choose love instead of fear, to be a light in the darkness, that the world might be healed. May it be so.
Rev. Jeff Seaton reserves all rights © 2015. You are welcome to use, copy, edit or reproduce these sermons with copyright attached. Publication is prohibited.