So it's almost 2am, and I've been sick, and my wife has a routine medical proceedure at 6am tomorrow that has required a day of misery for her, so of course I can't sleep and all I can think about is Christmas Eve and church, so over the past 10 min in an attempt to clear my head, I've typed up the "Sermon I Won't Get To Preach This Christmas Eve" (not that I want to preach, just a fact that there is no reason for me to write this sermon). And since it won't get preached, I thought I'd just share my thoughts this Christmas:
There has been a comic working it's way around this Advent, and between that, what my confirmands have written for a Christ Candle Litany and our Children's musical, there is a sermon that is preached time and again. The comic shows a modern day Mary and Joseph who have just arrived to find no room in the inn. That's simple enough for us to picture, but what's important about the comic is that this isn't the Ramada Inn where people have called ahead to reserve their rooms and where there will be a continental breakfast in the morning, no it is the highway hotel with the $250 a week sign, the worn down single story hotel with bars and bullet proof glass separating the night shift manager from the customers, the place not found on your phone app, where you wouldn't want to have to stop for a night even when it's the only choice available, except in this comic even it shows NO VACANCY on it's broken neon sign.
So here are Mary and Joseph looking much like those who you might think to find looking into such an establishment across the street at the former gas station that now is just a “convenience store,” a last oasis of questionable humanity. And outside here sits Joseph thumbing through a phone book, not a smart phone, or even trying to call for help, looking at a phone book, desperately seeking something, anything that will allow some sort of peace on this night. And there sits Mary, impregnate as can be in clothes not made for someone who is with child, but just what she had available. If we saw them today most of us would be more concerned for ourselves than for their safety. This is important to remember, that God did not just come to the common folk, but to those at great risk, those who are desperately outside the social norms. Those who are so far on the edges that we prefer not to think about them. But God doesn't care who we want to think about or about who we're comfortable being around, God is always around the outcast, the hurting, the homeless, the shunned, the degraded, the ones we call sinners, and all those who we view as lesser than ourselves.
That didn't start with Jesus, it just was made crystal clear when Emmanuel, God with Us, arrives in such a way that we can't deny it. It was true when God called the old man with no child in Abram, when God's people had no land and were slaves in Egypt, when they rebelled time and again and God did not disown them, but kept claiming them as God's own. And then there is Jesus. The one whose birth we celebrate tonight. Jesus who personifies those things we've talked about throughout Advent: Hope, Love, Joy, Peace.
Jesus, the bastard child born outside the dirtiest place in the city of David, is God with Us. The provider of Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace is nothing like who we expect. We take that so for granted now. We think of 33 year old Jesus who has performed miracles and shaken the world he was part of and we think we're the decedents of this God who came to earth and WON! The problem is, God with Us is only the example of what can be, and we are called to live into that holy night when Hope became flesh, Love took on our form, Joy was fully possible, and Peace began to be understandable. We are called to shake up a world full of comfort and full of stuff. Full of packages and things we think WE need. Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us doesn't come to give us some sort of prosperity gospel, no that good news isn't good at all. It's not enough to come out a winner, God with us means we have to work for so much more.
Our confirmands reminded us that we have to be the examples today of those attributes we assign to Jesus in this season. We must provide Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace for all, and that means living with Grace and Mercy. Grace for those who we may not agree with. Mercy for those struggling with things we may not understand. It doesn't matter what labels we want to give someone, all that matters is that we see them as created in the image of God, that we see others as God with Us. Our children's musical likewise reminds us that in a world where we often see things through a lens of what we want, that Christmas brings about a change in what is real. Never do we truly have no room, truly there is always “Room for everyone in Bethlehem this night.” That is the story of Christmas. There is room for all, hallelujah, amen.