25 Dec 2018
Solemnity of the Birth of Christ
Among our Sacred Scriptures, there are some words which are especially sacred. Words like: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light,” and “Mary gave birth to her firstborn son, wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, for there was no room for them in the inn.” Those words immediately arouse something inside us.
It’s kind of like so many of our national documents and speeches: “Four score and seven years ago…,” or “We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union…,” or “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…,” and so on. Those words immediately enkindle something within us: patriotism, pride, resolve, strength. They touch our hearts.
And some familiar words of Scripture touch our hearts every Christmas: “I proclaim to you good news of great joy: today a Savior is born for us, Christ the Lord;” “a child is born to us, a son is given us;” and “suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace….” They immediately arouse within us a sense of: awe, wonder, peace, reassurance, freshness.
It’s the same with so many of the Christmas carols we sing; they touch us deep within. And they do that because we’ve let them. We’ve let ourselves be touched by the Spirit of these Scriptures, the Spirit of the Christmas story, and the Spirit of “peace on earth and good will to all.” That’s the effect of welcoming God into our homes and into our hearts: we actually hear him speak to us, and we’re glad and warmed.
I was remarking to my mom today how much work it is to get ready for Christmas—the cooking and baking, the cleaning, the shopping, sending out cards. And as I thought about it, I saw that the reason we put that effort into Christmas is that we’re trying to create an experience. Or, rather, we’re trying to create the environment where a certain kind of experience can happen. And it’s the experience of gladness and warmth and peace.
That’s why we put so much work into “getting ready for Christmas:” we’re getting to bring the things of heaven down to earth. Things like: happiness, good cheer, a feast, giving, gratitude, family and belonging, and also hope and love. That encounter with the things of heaven takes a certain amount of work. But it’s work that we gladly do because the payoff is very much worth it.
And all the “work” involved in getting ready for Christmas gives us a hint of how to approach our own friendships with the Lord. Being a friend of Jesus takes work—just like any relationship: friendships, marriage, co-worker relationships, and so on. Relationships take work. But we have already at the start of our friendship with Christ those powerful, heart-warming words of Scripture.
The angel says, “I proclaim to you good news of great joy: today a Savior is born for us, Christ the Lord.” If that stirs your heart—even a little—all you need to do is to follow that. Then, as we get to know Christ more and more, our hearts will be warmed by more than what we hear at Christmas time. Then, all the other great stories of our God will move us as well. Stories like: Noah and the ark, David and Goliath, Moses and the Ten Commandments, and the Sermon on the Mount; and characters like: Abraham, Sarah, Bartimaeus, the Apostles, the Saints.
Our hearts can be inspired and warmed time and time again in our life. But that ongoing encounter with God begins here, tonight, as we’re moved again by the simplicity and beauty of the Christmas story, and as we hear those sacred words of Scripture: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light,” “a child is born to us, a son is given us."