A Sermon for Christmas Eve

He did not wait till the world was ready,
till men and nations were at peace.

He came when the Heavens were unsteady,
and prisoners cried out for release.

He did not wait for the perfect time.

He came when the need was deep and great.

He dined with sinners in all their grime,
turned water into wine.

He did not wait till hearts were pure.
In joy he came to a tarnished world of sin and doubt.

To a world like ours, of anguished shame
he came, and his Light would not go out.

He came to a world which did not mesh,
to heal its tangles, shield its scorn.

In the mystery of the Word made Flesh
the Maker of the stars was born.

We cannot wait till the world is sane
to raise our songs with joyful voice,
for to share our grief, to touch our pain,

He came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!

Madeleine L’Engle

Dear ones, tonight is that night: Rejoice, rejoice!

Tonight is the night we join our voices with the angels: Glory to the newborn King! Merry Christmas!!

That poem penned by Madeleine L’Engle gets me this time every year.
I’m one who is never ready, especially for Christmas. There’s always more to be done. More presents to be bought, more cookies to be baked, bows to be tied, pictures to be taken, greeting cards to be sent, stockings to be stuffed – I could go on.

And still, again and again each Christmas, it is to a world not ready that God appears.

The Gospel reading we heard tonight – that familiar Christmas story – speaks of a world not ready. Really, how ready can anyone be when it comes time for your first child? And still on top of that we don’t hear of any of the preparations that one would typically make when welcoming a new baby. There’s no baby shower, not even a hotel room or airBNB for this new family of three to rest for the night.

And yet God didn’t wait.
God doesn’t wait for the world to be ready.

The story of the birth of Jesus, of God putting on skin and walking on this earth, is that of a God who can wait no longer.

It’s the story of a God who so desires to be with us that he slips into the world in one of the most unremarkable of places in the most unremarkable of manners – as a powerless, dependent baby.

His birth announcement doesn’t come as a royal decree from a far off palace or as a perfectly curated Facebook post. It comes to the shepherds. The ones who are often the last to hear good news. The third shift employees who work in the dark.

This is the story of a God who did not wait until the world was ready.

It’s the story of the same God who comes to us this night.

Have you ever noticed that so many of our beloved Christmas carols are in the present tense? 

O Come let us adore him
Hark! The herald angels sing
Angels we have heard on high
For unto us a child is born
Silent night
What child is this

Here, tonight, we enter into that thin place where time is more of a circle than it is a line. Our eyes strain to see the baby in the manger as we seek to see God in our own lives while still waiting to see that further coming in glory. 

The story is our story – of how God comes to us in the most remarkable and unremarkable of ways.

Tonight we are reminded – whether we are ready or not, whether we have it together or are falling apart at the seams – that a light shines in the darkness. That as Dietriech Bonhoeffer wrote, “God wants to always be with us, wherever we might be – in our sin, in our suffering and in death.” That God came into this world not offering solutions, plans or handouts, but instead offered nothing short of himself.   

This is it – we are no longer alone.

Our pain, our joy, our grief, our dreams – are all shared and carried by the One who is always with us.

God did not wait until the world is ready; therefore we cannot wait to raise our voices in praise.

Joy to the world: love has drawn near.

We are no longer alone.

Amen.


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