a few years ago I was asked to preach at a little interfaith community in Seattle on the topic of Christmas for Christians….this is what I said:
It has been said that a community is a group of people who tell the same stories.
And this story—this Christmas story—is a central story to the Christian community. And even if this story isn’t factual—and it isn’t—it is True for me, and for Christians around the world. It is a story that discloses much about God, about our world and the people in it, and about the ways we are supposed to live our lives.
So what is this Christmas story anyway?
It is a story of angels and shepherds and kings from afar. It is a story of a poor couple doing the best they can under some very difficult circumstances. This is the story of Emmanu-el—God among us. But most of all—this is a story about an unlikely baby who came most unexpectedly and changed everything.
This central Christian story tells us something amazing about God and about the power of God.
For God’s power is not the power of conquering armies. God’s power is not wealth or position. God’s power is like the power of a baby. We often think of babies as powerless—and in some ways that is true. We must hold and feed and change and care for a baby in a hundred ways or the baby will die. On the other hand, babies are powerful.
They come into our lives and change everything—God’s power is like that!
They often come when we least expect it—God’s power is like that!
A baby comes along and poof—you’re a mother, poof, you’re a father, poof you’re a sister, poof you’re an uncle, poof you’re a grandmother! Babies have the power to make us something new—even something better—God’s power is like that!
Babies enter our lives and sometimes we find it in ourselves to be a little more patient, a little more forgiving, a little more generous—God’s power is like that!
Babies smile and our hearts are filled to overflowing with love—God’s power is like that!
Babies cry and our hearts are broken with tenderness—God’s power is like that!
God comes into our lives like a little baby and changes us forever. A child is born and nothing will ever be the same!
Now I want to point out another feature of this Christmas story. God’s messengers are everywhere. They appear to Zacchariah, to Mary, to Joseph, to shepherds, to kings! And every time they appear they say:
Which gives you some idea of what they look like!
Fear not! Do not be afraid. I have heard that these words appear 365 times in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures—once for every day of the year.
God’s message? Do not be afraid!
I know I am asking a lot. Do not be afraid!
I know this isn’t what you planned. Do not be afraid!
I know this will change you, turn your life upside down, and that nothing will ever be the same. Do not be afraid!
The Christmas story reminds me—reminds us all, to choose love over fear. To let love come into our lives and change us—forever. Do not be afraid—say YES. Say yes to the impossible or at least the improbable. Say YES to me, the creator of the universe, and let me be born in you today!
That brings me to the final thing I want to point out. Steven asked me here today to talk about the Christian perspective on Christmas. As if there were ONE Christian perspective on Christmas. And I have shared a couple of things this story, this celebration—this Holy Time of the year means to me. But I also want to share this with you. Not just keep it for the Christians. In fact, the story itself goes to great pains to point out that this story—and this baby—belong to everyone. This story is for everyone, the baby born in a barn is for everyone, God is for everyone. God’s power and love as disclosed in this newborn child—came to a poor couple, an unmarried couple, a couple who would soon be refugees. But Jesus didn’t come just to Mary and Joseph. This baby came to poor shepherds, to rich foreign kings, to those who had no room in their inns…God is here among us—all of us, the rich and the poor, the Jew and the gentile, the foreigner and the neighbor. God is here for everyone!
And watch out!
This will change everything—will change us inside and out—if we take a leap
And like Mary, say Yes to God
Yes to a most unexpected calling
Yes to having our lives turned upside down
Yes to the power of Love to melt our stone hard hearts and bring out the very best in us Yes and Yes and Yes!!! AMEN!