Sermon for Christmas Eve, 2017 - Luke 2:1-20
Jesus came for you. Jesus has come for you. Jesus will come again for you. This is what our Christmas is this night. A night before the birth. The before-party. Some think the party is awesome. Others think the afterparty is even better. But, oh, the before-party. The time when we come here and imagine that this child, each year, is remembered as about to be born for you. One who was upon a throne in heaven, choosing to be relegated to a stall, all because of you. Not the best part of you either. The worst actually. The parts we don’t want anybody to know or see, the things that shame us. That is what he came for. That is why the before-party is so great. Each year anticipating that once again Jesus comes for you for the things you hope to forget, so that he can wipe them away.
This is the reason for Christ. This is why he is here. This is why we have the Christ-Mass. The service in which this table is given even more meaning for you, as you cradle this Jesus in your hands as the Body and Blood broken and shed for you, for the forgiveness of sin. It’s why we have church. We come together to hear these words over and over again. To remember that each Sunday we gather to take in hand the very Son of God given for you as life, and love, and mercy. But, with all of this, I ask - why are you here? What has brought you through these doors? To these pews? This service? This day? Why are you here?
Maybe someone made you. Mom, Dad, Grandma, Auntie, your son or daughter. You don’t necessarily want to be here, but you came because you are obedient. It’s Christmas after all. Well there is a place for you in the story. In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. The place of this Christ, where the Messiah must be born, came about because someone said so. The Emperor said, “Go”, so they did. They were told to. Made to. You may think your discomfort as an attender at just one more church service is somehow the worst thing ever. But you have a place here. You are written into the story. You obedient citizens of the empire.
Maybe you are here, not because they made you, but because it is what you do. You can’t imagine Christmas without church, and candles, and carols, and family. You are here because it is what you have done as tradition for so long. Well there is a place for you too. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. Joseph not only went, but he had a place to go. So did Mary. It was where he was supposed to be. As the family of David, he was to go to the city of David. Bethlehem. It was just what he did. Part of his life. His connection. So, just as those who are obedient citizens, you who do this as what you do, you have your place here in the story of Christ. We can’t have the story without you.
Maybe your presence here is because you heard something. Something of this Jesus. This one who is to be Christ the Lord. You Shepherds, you. And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord…”…the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”
You, like the others have come here. Some out of force, others because of habit, you because of news. This Jesus is spoken of, tingling in your ears like the latest rumor on the street, and so you are here. Now. Wondering if this might be true. Having your part as well, with the citizens, and family-connected. Spoken a word, maybe an angel, maybe a friend, maybe you wandered in off the street. You are here. Welcome.
It doesn’t matter though. Let me say that again. It doesn’t matter. Obligated, habitual, hearing. No matter. You are all here because God has brought you here. The Spirit doing her work. You think it some other reason. Some experience or intention. No. It is God. The census, Bethlehem, Mary, Joseph, Angels, Shepherds, Jesus – all of it. God did it. Is doing it. In you. Right now. Galatians 4:4 & 5 – But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. This working of the whole Christmas thing. The trip to Bethlehem, the birth, the glory – all of it is a God thing. Working in you now. Like birth pains come suddenly, unknowing the moment. Like death coming to you at an unknown hour, now it is the Gospel of this baby born for you. The time was then, made perfect by God for you. And the time is now. Suddenly in your ears, now. You have heard it so many times. You probably have seen it on TV, in books not the Bible, in theater. Heard it from this pulpit even.
But there is no pageantry. No amazing Hallmark miracle. You won’t leave her and go out perfect. Never sinning. Never hating. Loving everyone. A heart growing three sizes tonight. Some sort of Christmas miracle. Instead, close your eyes. Close them. And listen – “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Merry Christmas. Thanks be to God. Amen.