Date: Christmas Eve, 2007
Scripture: Isaiah 11:1-10; Luke 1:26-38; Luke 1:46-55; Luke 2:1-7; Luke 2:8-14; Luke 2:15-20; Matthew 2:1-12
Meditation: Rev. Kim Wells
How do you capture the wind on the water?
How do you count all the stars in the sky?
How can you measure the love of a mother?
Or how can you write down a baby’s first cry?
Find him at Bethlehem, laid in a manger:
Christ our Redeemer asleep in the hay.
Godhead incarnate and hope of salvation:
A child with his mother that first Christmas Day.
Candlelight, angel light, firelight and starglow
Shine on his cradle till breaking of dawn.
Gloria, gloria in excelsis Deo!
Angels are singing, the Christ child is born.
— John Rutter
In stunningly beautiful poetry, John Rutter captures, as well as words can, the magic and mystery of Christmas. God is with us! In a timeless tale of shepherds and kings, angels and animals, we are told of God – with – us.
This God chooses not to remain distant, far off and remote, but to be with us, one of us. The beautiful nativity story not only tells us of God with us, but of God – with – us in a very particular way We are told of a child born on a trip away from home, away from friends and family, and loved ones. We are told of parents lonely and afraid. We are told of a child born in a barn, with an animal trough for a bassinette. A refugee almost. We are told of a child born in a small town, not a major power center. In a territory dominated by a foreign empire that was taxing their population into poverty to maintain control.
We do not hear a story of a baby born in a 5 star birthing suite with champagne and jacuzzi surrounded by family and friends. This is not a celebrity birth to be flaunted in the media. This is not a birth to a rich and powerful family. This is not a birth of one with status, authority, or prestige. This is a birth in the most humble of circumstances, to insignificant parents, living under a cruel dictatorship. This is how God chooses to be with us. Not as a distant, austere, authority figure or judge, but as a vulnerable, helpless, dependent baby.
The story we celebrate this evening is of a God whose love is so deep, so passionate, so compelling, that God will go to any length to be with us. Whatever our circumstances or our condition. Regardless of our mood or our money. Sick or well. Perky or brooding. Homeless or haughty. We are human beings. That and that alone makes each and every one of us God’s beloved. In this birth, God says to absolutely everyone, “I love you. You are not alone. I am with you.”
- I am with you in the dislocations of shifting relationships, of the death of a loved one, in the loss of abilities as life progresses.
- I am with you when you feel alone – When no one understands the grief and hurt you feel at your core.
- I am with you when you feel lost. You can’t see a path. When the changes in seasons of life feel disorienting.
- I am with you when you face injustice, oppression and violence.
- God is with us – just as God was with Mary and Joseph and Jesus
- God’s love for us, this incomparable intimacy is magical and mysterious.
Susan Mangum, an artist and hermit living in upstate New York tells us of an intimate encounter with a cow:
“Year after year in the springtime, I watch my neighbor’s cows – watching for one who begins to withdraw from the herd and get that inward look. And when she doesn’t show up at the barn for feeding time, I search the pastures and woods. Most times I find the cow already crooning and licking over a little, wet, glistening white-faced creature. I’ve learned not to get too close; mama can be quite protective. For a few hours, mama and baby are alone. The calf is scrubbed and scrubbed. It stands, falls, stands, and learns which end of mama is full of milk. Then, side by side, they begin their first journey together. Ordinarily they stop as they near the herd, and mama steps back and presents her child. One by one, cows come to greet the newborn with a gentle sniff.
“On a cold, rainy morning last spring, big old “Gramma” didn’t show up at the barn. After a long, wet search, I found her way down in the woods with her newborn. I stopped a way off. Gramma looked at me, sang that low sweet sound, stepped back, and presented him to me. Never before had this happened to me – this sacred ritual of infinite courtesy. And after I, on my knees in the mud, had joyfully caressed the new life, and Gramma and he were heading to meet the others, I thought, “I’m a cow!” No, Gramma and I know differently. But I’m no longer an intruder: I am one with them!”
This night we celebrate that God has chosen to be one with us. This night we celebrate a birth which makes every birth holy. This night we celebrate God’s presence in a life which makes every life sacred. This night we celebrate God who comes to us in weakness and vulnerability and dependency revealing that we are never alone. This night we celebrate a love as earth and heaven in harmony sing – Amen.