“[Mary] gave birth to her firstborn son.She wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger because there was no room for them at the inn.”(Luke 2:7)In the name …
A friend mine has two daughters and a son.The oldest daughter is finishing college.The son is the youngest of the three and he has just started high school. This Fall the girl competed in the Miss South Carolina Pageant.The son was happy as could be.Not because of his sister per se, but because his sister was opening a doorway for him to all these other beautiful women. It was a high school boy’s dream come true.He would look forward to e-mails sent home from college, again not so much because he was interested in his sister’s college studies, but because there would be photos of all the events and activities the contestants would participate in leading up to the pageant.Now I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Glamour Shots or not.You go in to their store, they dress you all up, do the make-up and hair, and when they’re all done you come out looking like a completely different person.Well imagine that ramped-up to the level of a state beauty pageant.My friend is at the computer looking at the pictures his daughter has sent home.His son walks into the room, looks over his shoulder, and comments on how good looking the girl is.At which time my friend lets his son know that the picture he’s ogling is that of his very own sister, a sister who was so dressed-up that her brother didn’t even recognize her.When he looked again and finally saw that it really was his sister, needless to say, he ran screaming from the room.
Sometimes it’s hard for us to appreciate that which is closest to us.The brother wouldn’t let himself see the beauty of his sister even though he had no problem doing so when he thought it was someone else.I know it was the ogling that made him freak-out, that’s understandable, but still the girl is attractive and even that he could not see or would not allow himself to see.When God enters into our world in the humbleness of an animal’s manger, in the desperation of a family that finds no room at the inn, in the weakness of a completely dependent little baby, there is something profound being said about the nature of our God and also of us, but sometimes our familiarity with the story can prevent us from paying attention and really taking to heart the beauty that is Christmas.
God changes at Christmas.Christmas physically brings the eternal God into our world.That never happened before, and it’s never been the same since.Do we still see this truth in our familiarity with Christmas?Do we let Christmas honestly reveal God to us?Do we appreciate that on Christmas God gives-up all that is judged great and powerful inourestimation because He counts us as His truest treasure?What does that mean?Does it still have the ability to make us re-think what is important in our lives, what is the richness of our lives?Can we see the profound worth that God sees in us, in all of us, and even in all that God has made?If the straw of an animal’s manger is good enough to hold the Holy Child, if sheep and donkeys are good enough to share their warmth with the newborn-King, if shepherds, a carpenter and a young maiden are worthy to be the first human witnesses of Immanuel, God-with-us, then we must strive to see what is good and possible too, and that this is not the definition of naïve but of faith.In a world where too much of religion centers on all that God forbids, Christmas is the reminder that maybe we should be more concerned about all that God cherishes.
Christmas is our chance to each year look anew at our lives and our world.When Jesus is born in the unexpected circumstances of a manger, then our Christmas-faith expects us to look for the hidden sacred in our world today, to see how and where God is present each new day.If you could now look to the back of your Song Sheet and follow along as I read from top to bottom, then after the last three lines that are read only once, I’ll read from bottom to top. The words are the same, but the message depends on how we read it.It’s called Christmas: Forward and Backward.
We remember the birth of Jesus, the Christ.We have been told stories of old.God came as a child to change the destiny of all people, to show forgiveness to sinners.To believe such things is misguided.The truth is He was just an ordinary man who lived an ordinary life.Those who do not believe this truth say we proclaim His name Immanuel, God with us; we share the wonder of the shepherds; we sing the songs of the angels. This is not what is real. Shepherds were not awakened by angelic announce-ment.There were no Wise Men celebrating the birth of the king.I’d be lying to you if I said that for the Creator of the universe there was no room in the inn, for the Son of God there was but a humble stable.Whether you like it or not, this is the reality of Christmas.That’s what I used to think.But then I made room for Him in my heart, and Jesus turned it all upside down.This is the reality of Christmas whether you like it or not.For the Son of God there was but a humble stable.There was no room in the inn for the Creator of the universe. I’d be lying to you if I said that there were no Wise Men celebrating the birth of the king, shepherds were not awakened by angelic announcement.This is not what is real.We sing the songs of angels.We share the wonder of the shepherds.We proclaim His name Immanuel, God with us.Those who do not believe this truth say He was just an ordinary man who lived an ordinary life.To believe such things is misguided.The truth is, to show forgiveness to sinners, to change the destiny of all people, God came as a child.We have been told stories of old, we remember the birth of Jesus, the Christ.
Christmas is God’s joyous revelation about what is important and holy in His eyes.May this night’s celebration help us to see as God sees.May the love, innocence and peace of Christmas fill our souls, our homes and our world with the optimism to try and make a difference because Christmas speaks to the sanctity of us and of our world.May the warmth that the Christ Child brings to us and our world fill all of our hearts this holy night. Christmas once changed God.Let us pray that it may always change us.For this we pray in Jesus’ name.Amen.(+)