For those of you who have children, I can only imagine the joy you had at the birth of your own child. Here was this little baby, a fragile life, given to you to care for. Joy and fear grasped many in this moment of newness of life. World’s get turned upside down as parents now live not just for themselves but now also for their child.
Mary had the extra burden of not merely having a child surrounded by the simple joys and fears that many parents grasp. She was an unwed mother in a culture that gave the right to her betrothed to stone her for being pregnant. It’s an interesting phenomena that we hear nothing of how the stoning of the unwed mothers of that time never took into account the life within their womb. Jesus indeed was placed in a precarious vessel. The Theotokos, the Greek word for “God-bearer”, Mary, is essentially a criminal. Someone who rightfully could be put to death and nobody would have blinked about it.
Herod even tried to stop this birth by murdering the first born of everyone in the town. These Holy Innocents as we have come to know them were victims of the lunacy of a fearful dictator too afraid to lose the power than he had to the one who would be King.
And yet, God comes to us anyway.
God comes to us despite everyone’s attempts to make it not so. A horror of a cultural convention makes way for Joseph’s gentle mercy and his comforting dream. Another dream, warning Joseph of Herod’s dastardly plan, gives God an escape plan, where others were caught in the crosshairs.
God comes, and more importantly, God stays, despite everyone’s best efforts not to make it so.
How often do I want to run away from God? Aren’t there problems in the world that I just don’t bother with? Don’t I have issues that I sweep under the rug? Aren’t there people that I avoid so I don’t have reconcile with them?
The truth of Christmas is that God doesn’t idly stand by and not reconcile with a world that many times simply forgets about God. God comes, but more importantly, God stays.
God stays and takes on our own human condition. God has dirty diapers and spit up. God lives in poverty. God faces rejection and betrayal and even mockery. And finally God takes on not just our life but also our death. God stays through all of that, even when others run away.
Who are we called to stay with? Who do we not spend enough time with? Who don’t we bother to reach out to? Who has become out of sight and out of mind in the world that we all too conveniently forget all about?
Who do we leave up to God to remember?
Tonight we recall the genesis of God’s redeeming love. The love that came to us through a simple woman who would not avoid God’s invitation despite the inconvenience that it brought to her and her betrothed. The love that came through a man who found his fiancée pregnant and showed mercy and a father’s protection for a child who was not his own. The love that came despite the hunger for power and the bigotry of the self-righteous.
That love still came despite our sin, that self-concern that we all try to abandon during this great season of Christmas, when we put others first and forget about ourselves.
God’s love doesn’t stop at His coming. God stays, God continues to love long after the manger’s wood gets dismantled. God stays and that wood that bore him in birth will hold him also in death.
We sing those familiar words, “O come let us adore him” but perhaps on this night, when we have come to celebrate the child given to us, we are called to stay a bit longer. We are called to stay for the season and the child grow and serve others. If we stay we see the miracles of the sick being cured and hungry being fed. If we stay we suffer the fear and disappointment of the disciples and the cross.
If we stay, we understand all that God has done for us.
God comes. God stays. And it changed everything.
We have come tonight and we have seen the coming of the Lord. Do we dare stay and let ourselves be changed? Do we stay with this child and grow in faith to reach those he dared to touch?
Or will we just avoid God? Who comes over and over again–not merely at Christmas but each day, each opportunity, each choice we have to be Christ for another.
God does not avoid us. May the birth of Christ open your hearts so that your life might be given to others.
And may those lives, continue to change everything.