Today is the last Sunday of Advent, the season when we’re supposed to prepare for Christmas and the birth of Jesus. In a few short days, we will celebrate another Christmas. We sing of joy to the world. We give presents to people we love. We smile and wish each other a ‘Merry Christmas’.
If you know about Christmas at all, you know about Mary and the angel Gabriel, about the dangerous journey to Bethlehem, about Caesar’s decree, about Herod’s insane jealousy, about the inn with a “No Vacancy” sign, about the angels and the shepherds, and about the mysterious Wise Men from the east, and the last-second flight into Egypt. All of these stories are so well known that when we hear them again, we don’t really hear them at all because we’ve heard them all before. We hear, but we don’t hear.
The Christmas story tells the most amazing story: that God came down to earth in the form of a tiny, helpless baby.
Let’s hear again the ‘good news’ from the Christmas story:
- “I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11)
That little baby was born for all of us!
And we put a lot of stock in that little baby, born in a strange place in a far off country. Yet, this little baby came to change the world. . . came to teach us about the love of God and how we are to treat each other.
What a terrible burden for such a little boy. But this little boy, hunted down by Herod the Great, exiled to Egypt – a refugee in a foreign land – taught us how to live.
From the humble beginnings in a stable, Jesus grew into a man that today 2-3 billion people in the world worship and look to for how to live a good life. From such humble beginnings came a great man – born as a human, as we all are. Died and rose again as the Savior of the world. Jesus lived in the real world, at a real time, with real people dealing with real problems. He did not live in isolation; he walked among the prostitutes, the misfits, the rejected, the tax collectors, and the murderers. He sometimes riled the feathers of the temple and Roman officials, throwing the money changers out of the temples and teaching that the Kingdom of God was greater than any earthly rulers.
But, He started as a helpless, tiny baby born in a stable.
Do you know that there are 365,000 babies born each day in the world? – 365,000 babies a day! And each one of those babies has the potential to grow up into an adult that makes a difference in the world. Probably not with the same impact as Jesus, but each one of us can make this world a better place.
Throughout the Bible are teachings given to us by prophets and disciples and Jesus that are the foundation of how we should live:
- “do to others what you would have them do to you,” (Matthew 7:12)
- “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:36)
- “love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 22:39)
Sometimes in the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, we tend to forget the little things, although not religious, that remind us of the true meaning of Christmas:
The more we learn to love… the more we act like God.
- The love that God showed us when He sent his Son
- The love people show to each other in little, insignificant ways that reflects that love of God.
God does not want us to live our lives isolated and separated from Him. He understands our limitations, our struggles, our hopes and dreams., God entered our real world as Jesus to draw us nearer to Him! The real question is whether we will let him into our lives.
For those of us who acknowledge that Love is the defining message of Jesus and of God, and for those who believe that God’s love is everywhere for every human being without restriction or condition, then, the task of life, the purpose of life, is to let as much of that Love in – love for self, love for God, love for neighbor and, above all, love for the enemy (Matthew 5:44)
We hear in the Christmas carol, In The Bleak Midwinter: (sung)
- What can I give Him, Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him, Give my heart.
So, let us remember that tiny baby who came into the world just like the rest of us and asks only one thing:
- To love and serve him.
Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH; 20 December 2015