For Unto us a Child is Born
What is there to say about the festival we have come to celebrate tonight? We have all heard the story more times than we can count but we can always find something new in the story.
Tonight the fulfillment of a long wait is realized. Tonight our hymns switch from “Come, thou long expected Jesus” to Joy to the world. At the start of the Advent season, the world aches for a Messiah: now those who walked in darkness see a great light, for a child is born.
Christmas is not merely an anniversary celebration of the birth of Jesus but it is the active remembering of what God has already accomplished in Jesus Christ and the promise of the coming completion of the reign of God. At Christmas we proclaim not only the birth of Jesus, but the birth of a new creation. Despite what the newspapers seem to say every day, the way has been made clear; the chasm between God and humanity has been bridged because of the birth of Christ, and God’s reign of justice and peace has already begun.
Tonight we hear the message of a world-transforming reign of righteousness and justice that is a radical prophetic claim. The main actors in this narrative are the shepherds, the unlikely messengers but God does not always do things the way we think he is going too. God chose the shepherds to deliver his message, the lowly were to be the first ones to preach the good news that the savior has been born. God chose to take on humanity and to be born of a woman, not in some palace but in a cave designed for animals. God chose to be born to a race of people in an economically depressed place to reverse the course of history; he has exalted the lowly and removed the powerful from their thrones.
The message of tonight, the message of the Gospel is that God loves each ones of us just the way we are. The birth of Christ ushered in a new way, a new of thinking, a new way of acting, and a new way of believing. Down through the centuries the Church has not always been good at proclaiming the good news but we are getting better at it. The good news is that God loves each of us and forgives us unconditionally.
In a few moments we will dim the lights in the church. During the four preceding weeks we have lite one candle on our advent wreath and tonight we lite the center candle the one we call the Christ candle. From that single flame we will light each candle here in the church and as we begin in the front we will watch the light spread to each person in each row.
Light is a powerful force in the darkness and tonight we are called to take that light with us as we leave this place. We are to take not only the light but the warmth that the small flame gives off, that warmth is the love of God for each and every one of us. We cannot simply take that light with us but we have to take it with us and share it with others so that the light spreads and the warmth of God’s love spreads to everyone.