December 24, 2017

Christmas Eve, 4:30 pm service

The Rev. Carissa Baldwin-McGinnis

Christmas Eve – Lessons & Carols, 4:30 PM

Isaiah 11: 1 – 10; Luke 1: 26-38; Luke 2: 1-7; Luke 2: 8-14; John 1: 1-18

The Rev. James M.L. Grace

In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  AMEN.

            This year I received a Christmas gift from a parishioner which is a magnet, with the image of a two lane highway going off into the horizon.  The caption on the picture reads: “The fact that there’s a Highway to Hell and only a Stairway to Heaven should tell you something about anticipated traffic.”

            It’s a funny statement, but I don’t think it is true. 

            I don’t think it is true because what we are celebrating tonight, the birth of the Messiah, or to be more technical, the Incarnation, is God’s greatest endorsement of humanity.  The fact that God becomes a person to be with us, to learn from us, to love us, is almost beyond all belief. 

            But that is the story we hear today – the story of God’s desire to be in relationship with us.  But it is more than that, because God has already been in relationship with us prior to Jesus’ birth.  The story we hear today is a one of God becoming vulnerable. 

            Much has been written about vulnerability in the past ten or so years so I won’t go into that except to ponder what it says about God that God desires vulnerability and authenticity – to be amongst us as a child, an infant, who needs to be potty trained, who probably tantrums, and wakes up in the middle of the night.  In other words, God becomes just like us.  God assumes all our fears, all our insecurities, all our pain, and carries it with us.

            The reason why some call that “good news” is because it means that we never carry our burdens by ourselves.  It means that we have a companion who understands what it means to be human, and who understands what it means to be divine. 

            Tonight we celebrate Incarnation, which has at its root – the Latin incarno which means “in flesh.”  It’s the same word that informs the Spanish word for meat, which is carne as in chili con carne.  Incarnation is simply God putting flesh on.  Does Christianity have a monopoly on incarnation?  Is it the only religion that espouses this concept of a timeless God becoming somehow human?  No. 

            But for me, the Christian story of Jesus’ incarnation is by far the most compelling because it introduces a vulnerable God in human flesh, who ultimately gives everything, including his life, for the sake of the world.  So powerful is this message of the incarnate God in Jesus, that I know atheists who do not believe Jesus is God, but have tremendous respect for his teachings and the kind of life he lived.

            So, Merry Christmas.  Merry Christmas because God has chosen a body.  A body to work through to bring healing and salvation to this world.  The body of Christ accomplished this, but now God is in a new body, continuing the work of redemption, continuing the work of healing.  Which does God currently reside in?  Which body is God working in and through to bring hope into this world?  Well, it’s yours, of course.  You are God’s body now.  What will you do with it?  AMEN.