Love has come!
Love has come to you!
The marvelous part of this story is not that it happened a long time ago in a place far, far away. The Word is waiting to become flesh tonight, right here in this room, right in you! The Word is waiting to take on your flesh, to be reborn in your heart.
This is such a human story. A couple faced with a difficult predicament. A poor family left out of the comfortable accommodations. The message comes to a simple teenager. To working men, the kind who would have had to shower after work if they had had showers then, right at their jobsite.
Yet it is the fulfillment of a centuries old promise, the working out of divine will. Isaiah promised that the zeal of the Lord of hosts – the love of God for all of God’s people – would bring this child into the world. He is not born to be tender and mild. Nor is he born to be meek and make no crying. The songwriters of the church have long told of the cosmic significance of Christ:
This verse from "What Child is This" often gets skipped at Christmas:
Nails, spears, shall pierce him through / the cross be borne for me, for you.
And listen to this verse from "O Holy Night":
Truly he taught us to love one another / his law is love and his gospel is peace
Chains shall he break for the slave is our brother / and in his name all oppression shall cease!
This is big! The story of Christmas is not just about a child in a manger. It is about the healing of the world. The mending of all of our broken parts. The release of prisoners and captives of every kind. It is about, as St. Paul writes, the very essence of the universe, of life – Jesus Christ is in it all and holds it all together, even – especially – when it seems that it is all about to come flying apart.
And that is why it is also our story. This Savior of the world is born in dirt and straw. This king is descended from rulers, and prostitutes and murderers. His significance is recognized by working people and outcasts, the sick and deformed and completely missed by the religious elites. He eats with sinners and tax collectors, and is executed as a political prisoner – a terrorist.
This is not a story of the world rising to God’s standards. It is the good news that God comes to us where we are, just as we are. God comes to you – right now – no matter what you’ve done wrong, what you are struggling with, no matter what darkness you dwell in. God invites you to join him, to join Jesus in fixing the broken parts of this world, and to learn from him how to live freely and lightly.
Yes, love comes down to us. And that love didn’t stay in the manger in Bethlehem, or in Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth, but walked across the land, to Jerusalem and eventually to Golgotha. So the love that comes to us isn’t a secret treasure for us to hoard, but is a gift that we are called and compelled to give to our neighbors and our world. Our forebear in the faith, Martin Luther, once said that the truest mark of whether an action was Christian was whether it cared for our neighbor. Love comes down, but it must move out through us to those around us.
This Christmas, after all of the presents have been unwrapped and the celebrations are over, beneath all of the joy of giving and the worries about the economy, know this: Emmanuel – God is with us! Right here and right now. Just as we are. And it is this reality, this love, that is the strong force that glues your life, your family, our community, the whole world together.
Love has come. Love has come for you!
(Followed by a visual interpretation of "Ten Thousand Angels," by Sandra McCracken)