Pastor April's Christmas Eve Sermon - 12/24/12 I was overhearing a conversation between 2 people – one was a children’s minister who was preparing her young people for a live nativity – and no matter how hard she tried, she just couldn’t get the kids to do what they were supposed to do – and she was stressing about this – because her live nativity wouldn’t reflect the peaceful and beautiful and quiet and perfect night of the real Christmas.
And the friend she was talking to asked a great question –
Do you really think it was a silent night? Is that really what the story is all about?
As I Overheard this conversation, I just had to smile. We do make Christmas to be like this fairy tale, this picture of perfection completely removed from the reality of our lives and also probably removed from the reality of the original event itself.
We don’t know a lot about what happened on that night – Luke doesn’t include for us very many of the details – but the few things we know –
1. Mary gave birth to a baby – the fact that Luke simply includes this as if it happened the same way other babies came into the world leads us to believe that
I have had a baby – and let me tell you – labor and giving birth – is not particularly a quiet manner.
And Mary went au natural and probably without a midwife. There was no epidural.
It was not a silent night.
And birth itself – it’s messy. It’s a beautiful amazing thing – but it is messy – I had two simultaneous thoughts when Marcus was born – oh my gosh, I have a son! And Oh my gosh, he’s really gross and covered with goop.
And babies cry – they are fussy – they wake up in the night. They need to nurse and eat and all of that is very messy, sometimes painful, and not a perfectly peaceful process.
It was not a silent night. And it was probably even a little messy and imperfect.
But it was real life and into the real world – Jesus enters.
2. Luke also tells us that Jesus was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger – a manger is a feeding trough or a stall – but either way – Jesus’ birth came in a humble way – and to our world of parents who are overzealous about hand sanitizer – the idea that from the beginning, Jesus was connected to the grit and the dirt and the stink and the mess…
That was real life and again – into the real world – Jesus enters
3. Luke also puts the story in context – it happened during a time of Roman rule – when Jewish people were being oppressed by the Roman Empire and
ordered to participate in a census by Augustus – a ruler who was said to be a perpetuater of peace. But let’s be real. This census was really about power –and making sure that the powerless continued to pay for the powerful’s positions.
It is Into this divisive and heated political climate, into a world of oppression and violence that – the true prince of peace enters the world.
Luke sets the scene very intentionally, by giving us just a few small details about the birth – And he wants us to know – that the setting of this cosmic event that would change the world forever – the setting…. Was THE real world –
the messy and complicated and stinky and poor and politically complicated and violent world – that the Son of God enters.
This is not a fairy tale, but it is a good story – filled with VERY good news - and the good news continues…
Because this good news – coming into the real world – comes not to the kings and the queens -
To the shepherds, the poor shepherds, a group of people who were outcasts and looked upon with disdain in their own time and culture – to this group, the angel of the Lord appears and tells them
I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people.
The setting is the REAL WORLD and the stars of the story – the recipients of the good news – are ORDINARY PEOPLE.
The beauty of Christmas is that God – actually physically enters into the mess with us.
A picture perfect Christmas story wouldn’t transform us and change us – but the God of the universe – diving into the messy and stinky and imperfect world – making real the love of God into the darkest of places – THAT can make things different.
So if you are looking for Jesus this year – you won’t find him in a picture perfect fairy tale. You’ll find him in the mess. You’ll find him in the places of darkness. You’ll find him with the people you might otherwise have ignored.
You’ll find him with the lonely and the sick and the poor and the helpless. You’ll find him in the places of struggle and in the places of noise.
you’ll find him in the children who can’t seem to stop poking each other and climbing out of the manger asking for candy. You’ll find him in the houses of people whose children were killed just days ago – and you’ll find him in your home, your real home, your real life, with your real problems and your real mess
And if you really want to know what Christmas is about – what the love of Jesus really came to do in the world – then you won’t be afraid to go into those places too. You won’t be afraid to bring your light and your love to the places where it is most needed.
Let Christmas not be the time where we try to escape from the reality of the world – to try and preserve some falsely perfect evening that makes us more able to deal with the reality of our lives the rest of the year.
Christmas has everything to do with the grit and the mess and the hard stuff of life that we live every other day of the year.
There are lots of stories about the inspiration behind the Christmas Carol – Silent Night – that was written in Austria in the early 1800s.
But the one I like best – tells that at the church of St. Nicholas, the organ was broken. And so the church on December 23, reenacted the story of the nativity and led their songs and worship to a simple guitar. The service put the assistant pastor – Joseph Mohr in a meditative mood and so instead of walking home that night directly, he walked out onto the hilltop overlooking the village. AS he gazed out at the snow and the quiet, calm evening – he was struck by the beauty of the moment and the upcoming events of Christmas Eve and he was inspired to write the words of Silent Night.
In a sense – he was writing about the deep ways that the power of this story struck him on a silent night.
In his real world – how the story of Jesus came into the real place where he was living – the light in the darkness.
So as we sing this song – may we think about how this story of light and love might come into the moments of our real lives – inviting us to experience anew – the
That we might shine our lights into the darkness and that we might choose to go where Jesus already is.