Christ is Born
December 24, 2012
Isaiah 9:2-7, Psalm 96, Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-20
Pastor Mary Blessing,
St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, Scotts Valley, CA
“A Child Has Been Born for Us” --- proclaims Isaiah 800 years before the birth of Jesus Christ. God’s Holy Spirit filled this prophet with the truth that one day God’s Son would be born in the flesh.
Tonight we celebrate that glorious night when Christ was born. A lowly maiden, Mary and her husband, Joseph, in their faithfulness witness the birth of God’s child. Far from home, alone, without the usual aunties and uncles to help bring forth their first born, I wonder if this couple felt a twinge of sadness mixed with joy. There was very little fanfare in that lonely stable. Other travelers to Bethlehem, the busy innkeepers, merchants and government officials who were taking the census, were too busy to notice. God’s Son had finally been born in the city of David, and no one notices.
If the world is too busy to notice the birth of Christ, God will open unexpected hearts. Out in the fields, a few shepherds—too insignificant to even be counted in the census--are awakened with the glorious news:
“…to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, the Messiah, the Lord…you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in the manger…”
The joy of the birth of this baby is not for his parents only, and not even for righteous leaders who claim they are awaiting Him. But the news of this joyous birth is for the common person, for YOU! The glory of Christ’s birth is intended for US! Christ is born for US, so that WE will be born anew! Christians since the time of Christ’s death, have known this truth.
Martin Luther, the priest who started the protestant reformation, writes in the 16th Century: see that you do not treat this Gospel as mere history…”see to it that you make this birth your own, and that Christ is born in you.” * Can you for a moment imagine yourself as Mary or Joseph, holding the most precious gift you have ever received? God has freely given this gift. God wants more than anything to freely give you this gift, also. You need only open your arms to receive this glorious bundle of love. Your life will be transformed as you allow Christ to be born in you, to live in you, to fill you with grace, to fill you with everlasting love--so that you will naturally give this love to a world still struggling in the darkness.
Not everyone will feel the joy of Christmas this year. Untold numbers find themselves enshrouded with darkness. Even those who have not had a direct loss in recent days, feel the pain of those who lost a loved one to an untimely death. Senseless deaths are especially difficult. While the world “moves on” in the commercialized version of Christmas, filled with gifts, families gathering around abundant tables, there are those of us who look around and only see emptiness. Christ’s birth within us beckons us to be a light of hope for those whose hearts are broken.
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light…” the prophet Isaiah proclaims.
Christ is the One who came to be the light in the darkness…perhaps now more than ever you and I need to be witnesses that Christ lives here, within us, to be the light within the darkness. You do not have to look very far to offer your special spark of hope. A kind word to a neighbor recently widowed, or a moment to stop and listen to a child seeking to share something that may seem insignificant to you, yet when the significant topics come up, the child will be open to sharing. And then there will be those unexpected tragedies, when mere words cannot comfort. It is then that the warmth of your presence, to simply reach out with Christ’s love, offering hope. For without hope the human heart would break. Recently, untold numbers of people have reached out in love, creating prayers, cards and even paper snowflakes of hope to send to Connecticut families who have lost their precious loved ones so recently. Here at St. Philip’s we have decorated our tree with Christmas bulbs filled with prayers for those who lost their lives. We are sending a photo and greetings to those families, and invite you to join us in this effort.
At a time when we are tempted to curl up and cry in the anguish of the unthinkable, God beckons us to hold the new born baby, Jesus Christ, and give praise for the glory of God’s love, wrapped in swaddling clothes.
We, too, can then proclaim proclaim with the angels:
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth…!!”
*(Watch for the Light, p. 222)