I want to encourage you this night to think of the Christ-event, the birth of the babe who would be Messiah, as an invitation.
Jesus spent his early ministry inviting fishermen and tax collectors and other marginal types to “follow me!” Then he spent long months on the road with them, inviting them to glimpse and then embody a new kind of life – a life that was ultimately rooted not in their culture and economy, not in their ideas of themselves and the world, but in the Kingdom of God that is here, right now…if you have eyes to see it.
Christ didn’t just issue this invitation to historical figures once-upon-a-time. Christmas reminds us that we are each invited to follow Jesus into a changed life, and that God has blessed us with all we need to receive that gift.
It’s an invitation to be our true selves, our child-of-God selves. An invitation to step out of the rat-race of measuring ourselves by the world’s yardsticks, and looking at ourselves as God sees us – as beloved children. The world tells us that what matters is our job, the school we go to, our net worth, our GPA, our usefulness to our work and our family. God calls us to see ourselves and our neighbors – even our enemies – as equally worthy children of God. As flawed, stubborn sinners, true – but also as beloved, redeemed saints.
Jesus’ invitation is also to come as we are. Like the kings who traveled from the east, taking months to follow a star. And the shepherds, who left their flocks alone and hurried to Bethlehem. It’s tempting for us to think, “Well, that’s OK for them, but I can’t drop my nets and leave the boats. I have responsibilities.” But God doesn’t ask us to be Balthazar, or Peter, or Paul. God asks us to be us, and to use our strengths and weaknesses and the situations we are in to be ambassadors of God’s good news for all people. We don’t have to wait until we have enough time or money, until we’re out of school or retire. God can use who we are and what we have, right now!
Most importantly, Christmas reminds us that the invitation is to join God in healing, reconciling and blessing all people. Christ became human – the Word became flesh – so that God’s people could see what it looks like to live the Kingdom of God here and now. Jesus went about healing those who were sick in body, mind or spirit. He fed the hungry and made the unclean clean. He forgave sins rather than holding them against people. He also challenged hypocrisy and spoke truth to power. Through the Spirit he is still doing this today – and he invites us to be part of this work that is changing the world.
This Christmas, love has come to you just as it has came to that stable in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago.
This Christmas, give yourself the gift of drawing near to the God who is near to you and learn who you truly are, and who you belong to.
This Christmas, give yourself the gift of knowing that God has already given you everything you need to join God’s mission.
This Christmas, give the world the gift of sharing your love like Jesus did, pouring out blessing as the Bethlehem star once poured out light on all the known world.