At this time of year we are confronted everywhere we go with all sorts of Christmas stories. There are so many Christmas stories – White Christmas, It’s a Wonderful Life, the Grinch Who Stole Christmas, The Santa Clause, Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer…
With all of these stories that you hear from Mom & Dad, on TV and at the movies, it’s hard to see past all the glitter and ribbon and blinking lights and to remember a story of a much simpler time, a long, long time ago. The first Christmas story is a very simple one.
Do you know the story of Jesus, the one that we tell at Christmastime?
It is the story of Jesus’ birth.
And the great thing about all the stories we hear about Jesus all year long is that they are stories about God’s great love for each of us.
Every story that we hear about the life of Jesus, when he walked the earth as a human being is grounded and surround in God’s great big huge holy love for us.
Some of these stories are of Jesus talking with friends and eating and drinking together.
Some are stories of those who touched Jesus and were touched by Jesus and received healing.
Some stories talk about the Jesus telling stories, and teaching lessons to the people.
In some we hear about Jesus praying to God, asking for strength and help to do the work he was sent here to do.
In all of these stories we hear about Jesus’ life and ministry here on earth he was pointing again and again to God’s great big love for us throughout time and throughout history.
Today’s story is about the day Jesus was born, and even this story tells us about God’s love for us.
God loved us so much that a long, long time ago he asked Mary to make room in her life and in our world for a baby that she was not expecting.
God asked Joseph to make room in his life for this baby is well.
They both agreed to take on the responsibility of caring for this child – to love it, to foster it, to give it a good home and a good upbringing – the best they could offer – which wasn’t much, considering Joseph was just a carpenter.
You would think that if God wanted a child to be cared for, one as special as Jesus, that he might ask a great queen and king, or a strong and powerful soldier, or a highly educated priest or professor to care for it.
But no, God believed in Mary and Joseph, and God knew what he was doing.
Mary and Joseph did care for the baby as best they could – with what little they had – so little that the baby was born in a barn with all sorts of animals around.
And the baby was greeted by shepherds – a despised, lowly group of young men – equivalent power and privilege in this day and age to a custodian, or a cleaning lady.
Regular everyday folks were there to greet this newborn baby that God had sent into the world – a child born so that God himself might know what it is like to live in the human world as one of us.
No one was wearing a special Christmas dress. There were no Christmas cookies yet; no shiny wrapped packages placed them under a decorated tree. There were no blinking lights – except for the beautiful stars shining in the night sky.
All of the wonderful things that we do to get ourselves ready for Christmas, to remember the day of Jesus birth, those traditions didn’t even exist yet. Just a mother and father and their newborn child, and God’s great big love born into the world in a brand new way.
Most of the stories we hear in the world around us are full of action – big picture, big adventure. But the story of the birth of our faith tradition, it’s just a simple little quiet one. One that we can remember and be reminded of by looking up at the stars at night, by looking into each other’s eyes and saying I love you; one that we can remember and enact by saying to someone, “I forgive you” because I have received forgiveness.
That baby that God asked Mary and Joseph to care for, the Jesus whose stories we tell again and again, they are reminders to us that we are loved with the great big heart of God, and that even when we get upset with a friend, or with our parents, or with our children, we are still made to give and receive love.
Just like Mary and Joseph, God asks each one of us to allow love to be born into the world. How do we do that? By remembering the importance of learning and living Jesus’ story and stories all year round. By being willing to give away the kind of love that God has for us, and by sharing that love, expecting it and seeking it from those who have nothing to give back – not those with great power, but those who are the most vulnerable and in need of love in the world.
To all of you who are here tonight, my Christmas prayer for you and for your new year is that you will remember that God’s love was born into the world in the same way that we all came into this world. That love can be born in us again and again, all we have to do is give it away, by seeking out those in the greatest need, and those with the least amount to give.
Because that is how God did it, and faithfully, God, and the world, received the most wonderful gift of all. The life, and love and resurrection power of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Delivered by The Rev. Mary Catherine Enockson
December 24, 2007, The Episcopal Church of Our Saviour, Rock Hill, SC