I think if we counted the number of Christmas services held in this place it would come to a substantial total. But what is at the center of it? With all the gathering and recollecting and celebrating, why do we keep coming back, what does it bring to mind, how does it make our life different? I think there are some important things we can remember at this time of year in to keep ourselves focused on the living hope and heart of Christmas.
First God comes to us as a gift. First in the gift of our being. Then Jesus is a picture of how God fits in and lives out life in the middle of the human journey. Jesus comes to Bethlehem as a child to live out the truth that the presence of God can live from moment to moment, day to day, in our world, our neighborhood, in a life as bound by biology and politics and history and economic necessity as the world we live in. Jesus knew all about being human:
And it is a gift which shares with us. That is where we might find the centre of Christmas right now, in the present moment: where, by the Grace of God, each of us is a kind of Christmas present; where each of us is given and holds a gift, a specific and unique aspects of God’s love. A gift from the beginning of creation, in each of us uniquely, each and everybody, both in the visible church and outside, world-wide, a world full of gifts and gift-givers. I think that’s the gift of Christmas!
For each of us, like Jesus, is a gift from God, and so is everybody else! So what if we open that possibility, and realize that God calls us to look at each other and at ourselves, as a personal gift, an individual package, lovingly wrapped and presented, given with love from God.
What if we look at everyone, everything with the question; "What is God giving here? What is this to Love?"
Now this can change things! It means not overlooking anyone. Instead it involves looking with love at the likes, dislikes, proclivities, abilities and disabilities, history and humor of each one of us; all the facets of who everyone is, of who we are. That might seem difficult, but it could be easy! For if each one of us is a Christmas present from God, then letting God love the world in the middle of your life means being where you are, living where you are, loving what you do, going on as you can just like Jesus!
Because, and this is the second thing, you don’t have to be important to be a gift from God, look at Jesus! Born in a small-town in occupied territory, the word of God’s love enters the human family from the inside; joins us in the fragility, the trying times, the tender mercies, the faithful process of dealing with life on life’s terms.
So that means that we don’t meet God by being more than human, we don’t have to be heroes! God knows what it is to be a baby, a small child, a youngster in a small town, a tradesman, a member of a community. Because love can live anywhere, in small places as well as large, in villages and cities, in past, present and future, through good days and bad times, in the times when life goes well and the days that go down in defeat, love lives on, even when it’s done to death, even when your best hope for life lies hanging on the tree like a broken promise.
And then it can be difficult: it is not an easy road, honoring and caring for the pain of the world, in ourselves and in others, by witnessing the places where God’s love and God’s beloved are crucified, damaged, done to death to this very day. It takes effort and time, and it can hurt terribly - it made Jesus weep – and it takes us inevitably to the middle of the day when hope will die.
We see that in Jesus, the rule of God's love, living through difficult times, through hunger, thirst, tears, with family problems, organizational difficulties, clashing with the prevailing political and religious establishment, and finally becoming one with the homeless and sinners, with those who cry and cry out, becoming one with people who have no voice and no name. And being put to death by the state, Jesus becomes one with those who are to be written off as officially expendable.
And he lives through it That is written into his life as clear as love, from the very beginning. He gives himself up in the name of the love that does not end; he pours himself out like living water, food for the thirsty and hungry, the poor and those with no home, wanderers and beggars of God. He becomes good word and loving action, bread and wine for them. He not only acts out but he serves to flesh out an understanding of how God loves us and feeds us and meets us on the road where we are and he takes us along with him!
Remember that! Learn this Christmas that God’s love and God’s life is deeper than death; and that is the gift we are given.
This is the centre of the Christmas message that takes us right through to Easter, a part of that deep surprise that the saints and the tradition and the scripture and the community of faith gathering over space and time all gather ‘round and point to. Love Lives!
In Jesus, God loves from the inside, from being as we are in every way, except he never closes the door on that awareness of connection, of creativity and love in the centre of everywhere. And in Jesus, God is willing to share that life with us!
And so today we’re asked to open that Christmas gift, to take the chance, to bet our lives, that the centre of the whole creation, our very selves, souls and bodies, connections and communities, is woven together with the deepest kind of caring: the creative love of God in everything here and now. We are called to open to the chance that the outpouring of love we see in the life of Jesus is calling out to everyone. That’s what we’re trying to unwrap here; to get that story, that hope, and that gift, that very inspired breathing into our hearts, our minds, our daily lives.
So this Christmas, as we witness the birth of this deep hope, open your present and follow this child Jesus right through the middle of life! Follow his lead, move with his rhythm, walk his walk.
For the life of Christ shows us how to dance with God, to partner with Gods love in the intricacies and rhythms of our own truths in our history and hope, our own life and times, and in all the different communities where God loves to be found. Like any dance, it can begin with a single step, but keep working on it, playing with it, living it out, and it will change your heart, it will change your mind, it will change your life!