Trinity News and Sermons

2016/12/24 – Christmas Eve: The Power of the Universe – in a baby!

We come tonight with lots of different thoughts, attitudes:

 

Joy, anticipation, expectation.

 

Boredom, here out of some sense of obligation – “my girlfriend dragged me here”; “maybe if I show up for church tonight, Santa will be good to me this year!”

 

Fear, worry, uncertainty about the future of our relationships, our country, our planet.

 

Bringing all of that with us, we come before the crèche to see the shepherds and sheep, the oxen, the donkey, a concerned father and a tired mother who just gave birth . . .

 

AND A BABY LYING IN A FEEDING TROUGH

 

Just what is going on here?  With a present population (as of 11 a.m. this morning) of 7.473 BILLION people, Babies are born on this planet every second of every day. 

 

And babies are often born in unexpected and out of the way places, in difficult circumstances for the mother and father.

 

Sadly, not everyone has the pristine hospital facilities we have in NYC.

 

So why was THIS birth that we contemplate tonight any different? 

WHAT MAKES IT SO SPECIAL?

 

 

The Power of the universe in the palm of your hand.

These are the words that I ask young people to memorize when I teach them in First communion classes.  The presence of the Creator God in the bread of Holy Communion.

And I believe it is true.

Not a slogan for a dish washing detergent, but rather a theological reality.

 

The Power of the universe in the palm of your hand.

 

That is what makes this particular birth in “out of the way” Bethlehem so much more important than all the births in all the little hovels around the world.

 

THIS BIRTH, the birth of Jesus, the One who eventually was from Nazareth – was unlike any other birth in the history of the world.

 

Why?

 

Because Mary held

The Power of the universe in the palm of her hand.

 

 

 

Shortly, we will sing that beautiful, innocent carol: Away in a Manger – one of the first ones I remember singing as a child. 

 

It is sweet, and yet quite profound.

 

“I love you Lord Jesus; look down from the sky and stay by my cradle till morning is nigh.

 

Be near me, Lord Jesus; I ask you to stay close by me forever and love me, I pray.

Bless all the dear children in your tender care and fit us for heaven, to live with you there.”

 

Sweet words, and yet deep theology.

 

A baby awakes, but not just any baby.

 

This is the very creator of the universe, who comes to be with us.

 

This is INCARNATION. GOD IN THE FLESH.

 

 

 

Max Lucado is one theologian and preacher that I turn to at Christmastime, as he has a way to put into words what I am thinking and believing.

 

In his book, Celebrating Christmas with Jesus, he writes:

 

“Can you imagine a life with no fear?

What if faith, not fear, was your default reaction to threats?”

 

“Feed your fears and your faith will starve. Feed your faith, and your fears will.”

 

“Faith is not the belief that God will do what you want. It is the belief that God will do what is right.”

 

We forget that IMPOSSIBLE is one of God’s favorite words”

 

Majesty in the midst of the mundane.

Holiness in the filth of sheep manure and sweat.

Divinity entering the world on the floor of a stable, through the womb of a teenager and in the presence of a carpenter.

She touches the face of the infant-God.

 

 

The Omnipotent, in one instant, made himself breakable.

He who had been spirit became pierceable.

He who was larger than the universe became an embryo.

And he who sustains the world with a word, chose to be dependent upon the nourishment of a young girl.

God as a fetus. Holiness sleeping in a womb.

The creator of life being created.

 

God was given eyebrows, elbows, two kidneys, and a spleen. He stretched against the walls and floated in the amniotic fluids of his mother.

God had come near.

 

And perhaps most profoundly:

 

“Let him into the mire and muck of our world. For only if we let him in can he pull us out.” 

 

You see, it is not just a baby’s birth that we celebrate tonight. 

It is the birth of love in a new and deep and penetrating way.

It is that God does NOT desire to leave us ALONE in the midst of the mess that we make of things.

 

GOD COMES DOWN INTO THE MESS ITSELF, TO BLESS IT WITH HIS PRESENCE, HIS LOVE, HIS COMPASSION, HIS TRUTH – AND IN SO DOING, TRANSFORMS OUR MESS INTO A PLACE FOR HIS WORK TO HAPPEN.

As Bailey McBride states:

 

I believe that God intentionally put the incarnation at a time and place when the world was going through radical changes.

 

Jesus was born when Roman power was conquering the whole world.

 

He lived at the edge of the world where God’s values could grow and expand.

 

Jesus was flesh and blood, but God incarnate, as he was immersed in a broken world.

 

He saw sin all around him.

 

  • He witnessed the hypocrisy of religious people who filled the leadership positions.
  • He saw simple people who believed when they saw his miracles and heard his teachings about the Kingdom.
  • He touched the blind, the leper, the prostitute, the tax collector.
  • He loved his disciples and those women followers who financially supported his work.

Jesus became human because the only way salvation could come to humankind was for God to enter into our humanity,

  • to know the joy of human life,
  • the pain of rejection,
  • the power of healing and relief from illness,
  • the ultimate joy of dying innocently for eternal blessings to humankind,
  • and joy in victory over death.

The incarnation begins the ultimate gift that blesses you and me.

 

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”

 

 

That is why we celebrate the birth of THIS child.  For he is not just ANY child – he is GOD, come down to earth.

 

And so, with quiet faith, we can pray:

 

Be near me, Lord Jesus; I ask you to stay close by me forever and love me, I pray.

 

Bless all the dear children in your tender care

And fit us for heaven, to live with you there.

 

AMEN