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Hoosier Musings on the Road to Emmaus

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas Eve sermon

Christmas I
Isaiah 9:2-4,6-7
Titus 2:11-14
Luke 2:1-14(15-20)
Psalm 96 or 96:1-4,11-12

"And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger. . ." and nothing was ever the same again.

In this, Jesus was no different than any other baby. New babies inevitably change things. This is most obvious for parents, of course-- the lack of sleep, the extra items on the grocery list, the not being able to go anywhere without baggage that weighs threee times more than the baby does, the constant concern and attention that is suddenly part of every fiber of one’s life.

But no newborn touches only the lives of mother and father. Grandparents, who fall in love all over again; aunts and uncles and cousins; friends and neighbors. . . even the mail carrier who is cautioned not to ring the bell “because the baby’s sleeping.” It’s impossible to name all those who are impacted in some way by the arrival of each new life into this world.

Of course, Jesus was born with a far greater purpose. The changes he brings are deeper and more profound than even the deepest and most profound gift found in the new life of the most beloved child. The angels first made this known even before he was conceived; and then trumpeted the news of his arrival-- as Messiah, as Savior-- in overwhelming, miraculous ways.

I think it’s significant that the first people to hear the news of jesus’ birth were a ragtag group of shepherds sitting out on a hillside. Disreputable characters, untrustworthy outcasts with whom no respectable citizen would associate, were the ones with whom the angels honored with the news of Jesus birth. No wonder they were terrified! And yet, scripture tells us that they picked up and went to see the things that the angel had described. And then “they returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen.” Nothing was the same for them after that.

The whole world is offered that same gift. And yet, that change we long for, that “peace that passeth all understanding” can be hard to find, can’t it? As my friend Micah commented last week, “"Every year Christ comes to save the world, and every year it still needs saving." All it takes is picking up the newspaper, or turning on the television to know that the world is as desperate need of the peace and salvation that Jesus offers as it ever was in the days of those ragamuffin shepherds.

My brothers and sisters, this is where we come in. As Christians, we are charged with the task of spreading the Good News of the salvation that Jesus offers to all people. We are called, from the moment of our baptism-- our own moment of godly new birth-- to claim and to share those gifts we've talked about as we've lit the Advent candles each week: the hope and the peace, the joy and the love, that can be found in following Jesus. We are integral, component parts in God’s plan for salvation “to the ends of the earth.” It is an enormous task, and we-- you and I individually, and all of us together-- are vital to the work.

The 16th century St. Teresa of Avila said it well:

Christ has no body now but yours
No hands, no feet on earth but yours
Yours are the eyes through which He looks
compassion on this world
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

This is our task, brothers and sisters; this is our call, our solemn obligation and our joy. I challenge you this night to consider: How can we listen to this call, and then act on it? How do we see the world around us with Jesus’ eyes; and to work in Jesus name? How do we help that helpless baby we welcome tonight grow into the fullness of all that he is and can be in this world?

As we celebrate the miracle of God born for us, let us pray also for God to be born within us. Welcome the newborn life, just as Mary did... and nothing will ever the same.


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