The Nativity of Our Lord
December 25, 2011
First Reading: Isaiah 52:7-10
Second Reading: Hebrews 1:1-12
Gospel: John 1:1-14
Whew, it’s finally here. After all these weeks of waiting and expecting, the baby has arrived. I hope that you are enjoying and will continue to enjoy a Merry Christmas. It is God’s Christmas wish that all the world would be healed and whole. It is God’s intention that we rest in the assurance that we are understood and appreciated. That we would be wrapped in the delirium of well-being that, for example, holding a baby can bring. You know, the kind of joy that transports you out of yourself and into the astonishment that such miniscule fingernails and ears are possible. In a desire to give us such wonder, once again, this Christmas, God has sent us the most perfect, irresistible gift—a baby.
God enters the world not with an army or in the whirl of a tornado, but with an umbilical cord. Jesus’ birth in a human form is a reminder to us that God is present in the humanness of our everyday lives, AND that there is nothing at all ordinary about our everyday lives. There is something about the magic of little baby feet that transports us from the ho-hum aspect of our everyday lives to recognizing that every aspect of existence is an incredible miracle.
Jesus’ beautiful baby feet, while reminding us that humans are remarkable, are not like other human feet. Oh yeah, ten toes and all that, but these feet speak! They bring good news with them! They proclaim peace to the war-torn regions of the world—from Kabul to Cairo, from Jerusalem to Washington DC. These feet may be tiny, but they announce the generous news of salvation. They are a Word from God to those who are sitting in darkness.
Now it’s not that in the Baby Jesus God speaks to the world for the first time. God has always been on speaking terms with us, even when the reverse wasn’t yet possible. It was a Word from God that sent the planets spinning in their orbits and created the duck-billed platypus and the Venus flytrap. It was God’s Word that spoke to Moses from the burning bush and to Joseph in his dreams. It was God’s words that the prophets uttered over and over to the people who wandered away from God and from one another. God’s words permeate all of history, all of life. But somehow, people had forgotten to listen to the words. People had grown deaf to the story that the pitter-pat of beautiful little feet tell. God needed a new way to utter a word to us. A new expression of the Word that would encourage us and challenge us and bring us home.
And so God sent a Word without any words. God sent a Word that couldn’t speak any prophecies or preach any sermons, that could only wail and grunt. God sent a Word that required 24-7 attention and devotion—a Word of vulnerability and tenderness, a Word of hope to an embattled world, to the ruins of Jerusalem. God bared a little tiny arm that proclaimed profoundly all God wanted to convey about touching us.
And the thing is, God is still doing that. Perhaps there’s not a literal baby in your arms this Christmas. But this baby is still here for you. This baby still extends a pudgy little hand to you in blessing, and this baby still yearns to be held close to your heart, to be rocked and sung to in a way that will soothe you both.
This Word is a Word for all people, a Word for the World! And it is a Word for you. A Word of God’s nearness not only to the global family, but also to whatever war rages inside of you, inside your family or community or universe. This is God’s Word to you and it’s so magnificent that no other words can speak adequately of it. It is a light that shines in the darkness, beyond any description of it.
Some of you may not be able to glimpse that light. It happens some years. Perhaps there is an empty chair at your table that grieves you. Perhaps you or someone you love is troubled or sick. Some of you may not feel the wonderment of Christmas at all. You may feel like you’re still stuck in Advent, still waiting. All the paraments have changed to white, but you are still yearning for the answer to your longing to arrive. You may even hear the angels sing, but it seems their harmonies are only for others, not for you.
How do we talk about the joy of a baby coming into our midst to families have experienced a loss like a miscarriage or stillbirth? What do we say to those whose dreams have died, or whose hope is aborted? In the face of grief, we may find ourselves dumbstruck. We may be angry that God has allowed terrible things to happen to people God loves. Maybe we utter the words we have to utter on such occasions to God, who surely knows what to do with them. Maybe we don’t speak a word. Maybe we just trust that the Word which arrived once before to heal the world with a non-verbal message will do so again. Maybe we hold hands and cry a little, as God must have done with Mary as she groaned with labor pains on Christmas Eve.
We have to bear in mind that sometimes babies are late. Jesus may have been due today, but perhaps this year you’re on a different schedule. Maybe it is not yet the fullness of time for some of us. Maybe the pregnancy will last a little longer. Maybe you will find the Word arriving on some Tues. afternoon in February. But eventually the Baby will come, as babies do. God keeps God’s promises, so hang onto the assurance that beautiful feet are on their way to you, bringing you good news of great joy. There will be a day when the ruins of your heart will break into song.
Because the thing about God is that nothing can keep God away. At Christmas or some other time, eventually you will hear those little feet will come pattering toward you. Ready or not, the presence of God has come, is coming, and will come again. God has uttered into being all that is. The Word of God is a word of consolation and forgiveness and acceptance. The Word of God is a word of hope and of life and of grace. And if it’s just a whisper today, trust Isaiah’s assurance that there will be a day when we will again hear exuberant singing coming straight out of the ruins of Jerusalem. Yes, the Word is for you. Yes, unto you a Child is born. On you the light has shined. And all the cacophony of the universe cannot drown out this Word of Love, this heartbeat of God.
~Pastor Susan Schneider