Once again, good evening friends, and welcome one and all.
Come, let us harken head and heart within this hallowed hall.
Come friendly beasts,
Come last, come least,
Come sinners, saints,
For us our God has set a feast inside a cattle stall.
It is a quite peculiar place for meeting,
What with its cows a-lowing, sheeps a-bleating,
And yet it’s here that God has set our scene,
A creatures’ creche, unkempt, uncouth, unclean.
Good people all upon this Christmas Eve
Let us consider this, and see what we believe.
It’s fair to ask “Who comes this night?” It’s fair to be uncertain.
Is this the one we need, or just some man behind a curtain?
Is this the One?
God’s only son?
What child is this?
Why has he come?
What does it mean to say that God is born, and from a virgin?
In short, it means the prophets got it right.
It’s who they said would come who comes this night.
To really understand this new arrival
The ancient ones will point us to our Bibles.
The story, like each Advent, starts in darkness.
That’s where the Lord of Life decides to start this.
It happens with a Word, “Let there be light.”
(That Word? That Light? That’s who has come this night.)
In that beginning God creates an Adam, and an Eve
But then a serpent slithers and God’s children he deceives.
When God comes back to find them, well, the truth is out! They’re naked!
The Lord would give them everything. Instead they chose to take it.
The story then continues on, but chapter after chapter
Like us, the people try to grasp at their own happ’ly ever after.
From catastrophe to covenant, captivity to freedom
The prophets say, “The Lord has come, but you’re too blind to see him.”
The prophets preached the problem to an exiled Israel
When things get bad enough they cried “O Come Emmanuel.”
The prophets heard the people’s cry, and God could hear it too
And in the fullness of all time, here’s what God chose to do.
God sent the prophets back there to announce “The time has come
“For God’s messiah to descend as Servant, Savior, Son.
“The ox and ass shall know his voice, the wolf and lamb lie down.
“He shall your swords and pistols prune, and water desert ground.
“He may not be the king you want, but you’ll need the news he brings
“He’ll have forgiveness on his lips, and healing in his wings.”
This is the shocking thing we say occurs for us this night
The world is saved, inside a cave, by silent candlelight.
The word of God
Is now made flesh.
The mystery is manifest in meekness, not in might.
It’s almost too much to take in: the Father’s Spirit’s Son
Is born a babe from Mary’s womb? The Godhead has a mom?
O can it be?
Is found in such
In flesh that breathes? And poops? And pees? O what a work God’s done!
But why, (again, it’s fair to ask) has heav’n to earth come down?
Why would our God come pitch a tent upon such thorny ground?
In baby’s breath,
He’s come. To bless,
Our form, our mess,
Our sin, our death.
To take on and redeem our flesh, “far as the curse is found.”
Tonight we cheer not just his birth, but what he came to do
To reconcile us with God, divisions to undo.
He joins the Gentiles
With the Jews
Joins R’s and D’s
His outstretched arms unite us all including me’s and you’s.
That’s why he’s here, why him we praise, with lute, and drum, and fife.
Within his body Christ has borne all suffering and all strife.
He came to live
And also die
‘Cause so will you
And so will I.
He came to make of death’s dark tomb a womb to risen life.
And so, what shall we give him (as the Christmas carol asks)?
What have we in our power to give? Tis far too big a task.
I guess if we were shepherds, we’d have to bring a sheep.
No, there’s no way that’s enough. This grace can’t be that cheap.
It’s not. It came at quite the price, but children, don’t you see?
All of this is God’s own gift, offered to us for free.
So if you wish to give him something on this Christmas Eve
Give him what he wants, what he came here to receive.
Give him your sin, and your shame, and your doubt,
Give him the things you can’t talk about.
Give him your rage, and your age, and your cancer!
Give him your questions that don’t have an answer!
Give him your best, but then, give him your worst
For inside his kingdom the last become first.
The reason he’s here, why we gather this day
Is to witness as Christ bears our burdens away.
Can you hear what the prophets and angels still say?
Do not be afraid. This God makes a way.
A way through the muck, a way through the mire,
A way through the desert, the flood, and the fire,
A way to come rescue the lost and the lame,
A way to restore us by the power of his name,
A way for the gospel to once more be unfurled
This gospel of grace, of joy to the world.
And so, one more time, before our Christmas snooze,
Lend me your ears, and hear the Good News.
For all of you fallen, afraid, and forlorn,
For you Christ has come, for you he is born.
Receive him, my friends, here laid in the stable,
For you he has journeyed from manger to table.
He waits for you here, his grace to impart,
To save you, and bless you, and transform your heart.
In the name of the Christchild whose love has no end,
God bless you, Merry Christmas, Amen, and Amen.