SERMON 12/24/11 Christmas Eve
Luke 2:(1-7) 8-20
The Good news of the birth Jesus the Christ seems to be competing with many other stories this time of year. Primetime television schedules are filled with all sorts of Christmas dramas many which are old time favorites. Christmas for some of us would not be complete without a bowl of popcorn and a few hours in front of the TV watching for example, “It’s A Wonderful Life,” “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “Home Alone I, II, and III,” “Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol,” and some of those wonderful Family Channel Christmas specials. These now contemporary Christmas tales have a special place in our celebrations for many reasons and in some cases, because they connect us with holidays from our past.
These stories have some interesting themes such as that of an early 20th century, depression era family who are caught up in drama of financial woes and greed and yet, they somehow overcome. Then we have the tale of a young boy name Charlie who can’t seem to buy a decent Christmas tree and yet, through their quest he and his friends find the true meaning of the holiday. Then there is the tale of a pre-teen young man who crosses wits with two criminal minds because his parents left him on his own by mistake, not once, but three times and yet, he discovers that his family’s love is the best gift of Christmas. Finally we have the tale of a 19th century curmudgeon who receives visits from ghosts on Christmas Eve and yet, in one solitary night he experiences an epiphany that changes not only him, but everyone with whom he comes in contact.
These stories all stand in contrast and yet are somehow connected to the authentic, original, and true Christmas story. This oldest narrative though, seems to fall off our radar screens these days, except when we seem it re-enacted in a church play or perhaps we can watch it depicted on Turner Classic Movies at noon on Christmas Day. “The Greatest Story Ever Told” doesn’t seem to be the most popular story being told during the “holidays,” but all the other stories can trace the good news they seem to convey, the transformation of the lives of their characters, to Greatest Story of God in Christ in a manger. The good news which comes from God begins with the story of a young mother, her betrothed spouse and the central character which is the baby, born in an animal feed trough. Poor and without financial means, the ultimate source of our being, God mysteriously dwelt among us as a baby, as a child, and as a man. This is the Greatest Story Ever Told. It is more than a fairy tale, it is more than a Hollywood blockbuster. It is the mysterious narrative of our individual and communal experience of a life-changing, world-changing event. An event that can be traced not only through the presence of strong historical evidence, but also through the life-changing impact it has had on millions throughout the centuries.
We Westerners are very fortunate folks when it comes to the availability of information. At our fingertips there are facts, history, and commentary that we are able to glean from Google, Wikipedia and now, even Facebook. Because of technology, there seems to be no mystery left. The depth and nuances of our friendships is on our Facebook “walls and newsfeeds” and available for all to see. With a quick search on Google, we can instantly learn how and where to buy the perfect Christmas tree or have access to the best Christmas cookie recipe. In a flash, we can read about the history of angels, Caesar Augustus, or shepherds abiding in fields, because all you have to do is go to Wikipedia. We can search the facts and figures, but in our quest for information we may miss the mystery within the details.
Mystery is something we struggle to embrace these days, but the unexplained, the ambiguous seems to be all around us. Mystery is a natural part of the vast and unexplored cosmos, despite our assumption that our great society has completely lifted the veil on the previously unknown. For example, we don’t see the wind but we know it’s there, we know when someone loves us despite the lack of scientific data to sustantiate the emotions. Even today, scientists and physicists are dabbling with mystery as they explore new theories about “dark energy,” “black holes,” the expanding universe, and now there is research being conducted on the possible existence of parallel universes. That sounds a bit like a story line for a new Star Wars movie, but the mere mention of such new thoughts serves as evidence for us, that mystery still abounds. Mystery gives us the freedom to look beyond the facts, figures, and precision and to live into other possibilities. God present with us as a babe in a manger is a mystery that is available for us, but it requires a step of faith. Wrestling with this story requires us to dabble a little in the real possibility that love is the ultimate source of all and that God’s love is beyond anything we can imagine.
The Good News the angels proclaimed on that fateful night over 2000 years ago, was that somehow, in some mysterious way, God the source of all, was no longer outside of time and space, no longer, somewhere other than here. God was and is now among us as one with us, not coming in power, but coming among us as a vulnerable baby. The good news of this mystery is that we no longer have anything to fear; for see—this story brings great joy for all the people (not just some). “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” God who brought all into being, out of love and grace, came to be with us. That is good news. That is a story to be told. That is the greatest story ever told.