One of Us (Christmas Eve)

This is going to sound sacrilegious. But this is sacred. In Christ, God—the one who calls the worlds into being and sets the earth on its foundations—is one of us.

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This is the night.

It is the last and final night of Advent. It is the last and final night of that season before Christmas—the trees and decorated and the stockings are hung—when we gather here, and light a candle, and tell a story… a story that you have heard a thousand times before…

…by itself from the Gospel According to Luke and mashed up with other stories in Christmas pageants and nativity scenes…

…in the archaic and poetic language of King James and in the modern words of the increasingly ridiculously named New Revised Standard Version (Updated Edition)…

…told on television in Christmas specials… and sung in carols on doorsteps… and recited by Linus as he stands in a spotlight in a school auditorium near the sad little Christmas tree that stands on Schroeder’s piano…

…a story that you know by heart.

God loves the world this way:

In Christ, the Word who is in the beginning, who is with God and who is God, through whom all things come into being and without whom not one thing comes into being…

In Christ, God lays aside glory and comes into this broken world among a dispossessed people in an occupied land, to parents who are far from home and lodging with livestock because some idiot of an emperor—do not get Mary started on this guy, but he is going to be brought down from his throne and sent away empty—decided to have a census where people had to go back to their ancestral homelands to be counted…

And in the wee small hours of the morning, God lets out a first glorious cry and sucks in the breath—the ruach that swept over the waters in the beginning when the earth was formless and void and a formless void—the breach that is life.

God has a little blood and amniotic fluid dabbed off and is held close my his mother. God is kept warm and comfortable. God latches on and has his first meal. God is washed and dried and swaddled and laid in a manger. And God falls asleep.

And God is perfect in that way that every newborn is perfect. And this little family is holy in that way that every family is holy. And, because they are among the livestock and all of creation is celebrating this birth, they rest under the watchful eyes of the gyne-cow-logist and the obstre-chicken.

This is a story that you have heard a thousand times before. This is a story that you know by heart. And I wonder, sometimes, if we’ve gotten so used to this story that we just kind of gloss over the fact that this is an outrageous story.

There are stories about gods who come into our world who look like humans. And there are stories about gods who come into our world disguised as humans. And there are stories about humans who are the children of gods and humans and who are weak gods or powerful humans.

And we are fine with those stories. Sometimes we make this story into one of those stories. Sometimes we retell this story in a way that makes this baby into something less than what he was… into nothing less and nothing more than gentle Jesus, meek and mild… God in a human costume or a little boy who is especially close to the divine.

But those stories are not this story.

Because the cornerstone of our faith is that we find God

…the one who calls the worlds into being and sets the earth on its foundations, the one who creates and sustains the incomprehensible wonder of the universe that surrounds us, the one who gives grass to the cattle and prey to the lion and wine to gladden the human heart…

…not in commandments or statutes… not in idols or symbols… not in the pages of a book or the traditions of a community… but in a human person. In a life that is fully, completely, utterly, and absolutely divine; and that is fully, completely, utterly, and absolutely human

…and that includes everything that comes along with being fully, completely, utterly, and absolutely human.

And this is going to sound sacrilegious. This is going to sound like a stumbling block. This is going to sound foolish. But this is sacred.

In Christ… God breathes. God yawns. God sneezes. God nurses. God stares and smiles and reaches out and grabs. God laughs and God cries. God spits up. God poos. God gets bathed.

God rolls over. God crawls clumsily across the floor. God pulls himself up. God takes his first steps and God is guided by caring hands. God falls over and God is caught. God bumps his head and lets out a wail and is cuddled back to health.

God plays. God copies sounds and movements. God does that thing where he mimics the rhythms and gestures of conversation with nonsense syllables in the place of words. God says imma. God says abba. God’s imma and abba argue over which one he said first.

And then… because tonight we’re reading from the Gospel According to Luke but next week we start reading from the Gospel According to Matthew…

God’s imma and abba pack God up and run to Egypt to escape the wrath of a local king. God lives as a refugee in a foreign land. And when God’s imma and abba bring him back to Judea, God grows up in Nazareth, in Galilee, among his dispossessed people in an occupied land.

God is baptized and God is tempted. God loves his parents and his siblings; and God argues with them. God makes friends and God loses them. God celebrates small victories and God weeps over graves. God lives… God loves… God is betrayed… God is arrested… God stands before the might of the Roman Empire, and…

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. One foolish, stumbly, sacrilegious-sounding, outrageous story at a time.

And as if that’s not enough…

God does not do any of this alone. None of us do.

Even now, there are angels delivering good news of great joy to shepherds on a hillside. Even now, wise men are following a star toward Bethlehem. Even now, there are the gyne-cow-logist and the obstre-chicken. Even now, there are imma Mary and abba Joseph watching over God as his sleeps in a manger.

And later…

There will be the baptizer. There will be apostles and disciples and followers. There will be all those people—thousands on thousands—who will find healing and nourishment and grace in him. There will be Pharisees and Sadducees and lawyers and more who ask him questions.

There will be the women who, one sad Sunday morning, when it looks like it’s all over…

And there will be so many more, down through the ages, who find God in the story of this life… who learn to find Christ in pleading faces and outstretched hands… and learn to serve Christ in the least of these… and learn to be the body of Christ in this broken world… and learn to do justice, and love kindness, and walk humbly—even if so imperfectly—with God in Christ.

And all of that is a foolish, stumbly, sacrilegious-sounding, outrageous story. And all of that is a sacred story; all of that is a holy story. All of that is a story that offers the chance of being allies and co-conspirators in a revolution against the world-as-it-is and in favor of the world-as-God-is-calling-it-to-be.

This is the night.

It is the last and final night of Advent. It is the last and final night of that season before Christmas, when we gather here, and light a candle, and tell a story… a story that you have heard a thousand times before… a story that you know by heart.

And here’s the thing:

This is not a story about a God who is safely sequestered in heaven, or a God who is neatly divided from humanity, or who comes into our world disguised as one of us. This is not a story about a God who lives in a list of rules, or in a set of symbols, or in the pages of a book that we can read and close and put back on the shelf while we get on with our lives.

This is a story about a God who puts on creation… who puts on the very being and the very brokenness of the world-as-it-is… and everything that comes along with that… the joys and the sorrows and the everything-in-betweens… and lives it… fully and completely and utterly and absolutely.

And by doing that, God starts filling the cracks and chips and crumbling bits of this broken world in with divinity… with God’s very being… with love.

And, since there’s enough and more than enough to go around, God invites us to join in this work: to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captive and recovery of sight to the blind, to free those who are oppressed, to declare that there is peace and goodwill all around us.

To live lives are are wild… and maybe a little bit dangerous… and absolutely full of grace.

Thank you for sharing!

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