Sermon: Christmas Meditation

December 24, 2019
Christmas Eve
Luke 2:1-16

by Eric Anderson

What an evening we have had! It’s been filled with amazing music shared in different languages. It’s been filled with the ancient story of a Savior’s birth in Bethlehem. It’s been filled with people we love and people we don’t know; here we are, filling this house of worship. It will yet be filled with people filling themselves on good things, because there are treats awaiting us in the Building of Faith. It will be filled with light as we set all these candles aglow and sing Silent Night.

What an evening we have had.

J. Mary Luti writes at Sicut Locutus Est, “[The stories of Christmas Eve] have this in common, ‘though—no animals are mentioned at Jesus’ birth. No lowing cattle, no braying donkey, no stamping sheep, no droopy-eyed dromedaries parked outside.

“Which is why, when it comes to Christmas, imagination is more reliable than Holy Writ. Christians know what to do with the bare bones of a good story: add flesh.”

Add flesh.

That’s just what God did in Jesus so many years ago. Add flesh. The child in the manger – for that matter, the adult who preached in Galilee – is God in flesh. This is “God with us,” as Matthew quoted from Isaiah. This is the Son of God, a Savior, a Messiah, as Luke quoted the angel. This is the Word of God become flesh and living among us, filled with grace and truth, as John wrote to open his Gospel.

Added flesh. Muscle and bone. Heart and stomach. Skin and hair. A tongue to speak with in later years, feet to carry his message from place to place. Veins to carry the coursing blood throughout the body, lungs to gather in the atmosphere of the time. And, of course, those tiny little fingernails, so sharp in a newborn. No doubt they scraped the skin of Joseph and Mary as they tentatively held him, so uncertain in the newness of it all.

David Lose writes at Working Preacher, “Here is the promise of Christmas in a nutshell. God deigns to dwell not with the high and mighty, but with the lowly, the unexpected, those considered ‘nothing’ by this world. And here, amid the weakness and vulnerability of human birth, God makes God’s intentions for humanity fully known. God is love, John writes, and here Luke portrays that love made manifest, as God takes human form, the infinite becomes finite, and that which is imperishable becomes perishable.”

With God as our guide, how could we do anything but add those creatures to our memory of Jesus’ birth? The arrival of this Savior demands the calm solidity of an ox, the urgent playfulness of a puppy, the gentle confusion of a lamb, the urgent crowing of the rooster who, let’s be honest, has no idea at all when dawn might be.

With God as our guide, how can we do anything but give God flesh once more?

We give God flesh by being the body of Christ, by living as the body of Christ, by serving as the body of Christ, by giving as the body of Christ. We give God flesh by loving one another. We give God flesh by caring for one another. We give God flesh by offering our hands to one another.

Theologian Howard Thurman wrote in The Mood of Christmas:

“When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among others,
To make music in the heart.”

He titled that poem “The Work of Christmas.”

In the manger of Bethlehem, the infant sleeps.
On the Judean hillsides, the shepherds seek their sheep.
Which of the parents dozes? The father?
The mother? Neither one? Both?
Love made flesh, power made weak,
Majesty made lowly, will soon awake in tears,
Seeking the warmth of skin and blood and milk.

Let that infant grow within our hearts.
Let that love take form within our purpose.
Let that mercy take shape in what we make.
Let that peace enfold those we embrace.
Let that grace shine forth just like that star:
Let the work of Christmas begin in me.
Let the work of Christmas begin in us.


Categories Sermons | Tags: , | Posted on December 24, 2019

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