Monday, December 25, 2006

Festival of the Nativity

NB: With a bit of help from Willimon’s Pulpit Resource

Maybe you’ll notice that when it comes to thinking about Christmas, suddenly the camera goes out of focus and everything gets blurred. Inside, the turkey is roasting in its own juices. Outside, in some places the snow is blanketing the earth. At the mention of the magic word Christmas, everything becomes nostalgic, comforting, and sweet.

Christmas here drowns in nostalgia, carols, and candy. Your favorite Christmas CD playing in the background while opening presents, before retiring to the TV room to watch It’s a Wonderful Life for the 38th time. There’s nothing like an old fashioned Christmas.

Maybe that’s something the bible might say a hearty “Amen!” to. There is nothing like an old fashioned Christmas, if by “old fashioned” you mean “first century.” Where the world is not a winter wonderland. Where Santa is not in the North Pole making toys for good little girls and boys. Where miracles have yet to appear on 34th Street.

Christmas in the bible isn’t the same as Christmas at the mall.

Instead, the first Christmas was in a world where rulers raged and wickedness flourished. Where children were murdered and countries destroyed each other. Christmas, first century style, is light – light slipping into the darkness, almost unseen.

Christmas, in our hands, looks nothing like that. After we’re done with it, Christmas becomes a dream, an escape, a vacation.

Maybe that’s because of today’s newspaper headlines – who wouldn’t want a vacation from all that? - and they’re all there in Matthew and Luke as well: massacres of innocent children, political corruption, lies, deceit, fear, and the holy family just barely escaping with their lives as political refugees in an unwelcoming world.

While our lives may not be so dramatic, many lives around the world are. But if we look hard enough, we all find ourselves in the story. We all find ourselves living our own little dramas. Loneliness. Frustration on the job. A painful illness or agonizing loss. Maybe it’s all wrapped up into one. That’s what makes us jump feet first into this story to find our place within it. We wonder how the drama of our lives connects with the drama of this story.

Where are you in the story? That’s a hard question when you think about it. I know that I don’t have a clue where I fit in to this story.

I don’t see myself as one of those shepherds, that’s for sure. I don’t like staying up late at night. I’m not all that outdoorsy, and if I saw a choir of angels singing in the sky I might be more inclined to think it was bad shrimp rather than a divine announcement.

I don’t think I’m one of the Magi – or three wise men. I’m no star gazer. I don’t look to the sky to find out what’s going on in the world. I get my news from the Internet. I dabble in RESPs for my kids, not in gold; frankincense irritates my sinuses; and I prefer myrrh to be locked away at the funeral home instead of nestling in my backpack.

I’m certainly not Mary. It would be physically impossible for me to play her role. But then again, it was for her as well. And while I’m told I look good in blue, my bald head and beard might just make the story a little too creepy.

So, perhaps I’m a sheep, just like I was in a Sunday School play a thousand and one years ago. It could be my job to add scenery, atmosphere, mood. Instead of woolly garments I wear fancy robes to add an environment of sacredness to our Christmas celebrations. But then I realize that you’d be here even if I wasn’t. Plus my vanity won’t allow me to see myself as mere background in God’s saving story.

So maybe I’m a Roman – Caesar even. Strong enough to conquer the world and proclaim myself as God. I love that image of myself! Who wouldn’t? There are days when my head won’t fit inside my hat; but Rebekah has a way of deflating my over-indulged ego.

Maybe I’m the guy that Luke was talking to last night when he tried to get weasel his way into my thick skull with tales of angels in the sky and a baby lying in a manger.
Maybe I’m the guy John recites his poetry to just in case I didn’t get the point of Luke’s story. Maybe I’m the pages of the book that tells the story and announces the good news.

Maybe that’s my proper place in the story. Maybe it’s yours as well. Maybe it’s our place to pick up where the Luke and John left off. Maybe it’s our job to live the salvation story; the story of light shining in the darkness, the story of a saviour born in a barn. Maybe it’s our job to tell the world:

“[…to] not be afraid, for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.”

The angel didn’t say good news for some people, or good news just for these shepherds working the night shift. The angel said good news for ALL people. ALL. All people need to hear it in the midst of all their grief, loneliness, fear, and shame; among their failure, loss, anger, and sin, we are being asked to be messengers of healing.

Perhaps we need to tell the story to ourselves; when we feel like our lives are coming apart at the seams; when our relationships have grown cold and stale and we wonder if we will ever know intimacy again, and we worry if we are doomed to a life of loneliness. When we lose a loved one. When a friend is gone. When we worry that when our hearts stop beating and we draw our final breath, no one will greet us. When the shadows form around us, when the darkness grows within us; we tell ourselves the story; that God’s light has slipped into our darkness and started to grow.

John said that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. God’s words leapt from the page and began to do a little Nova Scotia jig. And God invites us to join the dance; to join the celebration that God isn’t done with you or the world just yet. We cling with both hands to God’s biblical promises of new and everlasting life, daring to believe that those promises are for us as well. We find our place in God’s saving story. We sing with the angels, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace and good will to those whom God favours.”

So, maybe we can have an old-fashioned, first century Christmas after all.



Blogger Nastyboy said...

Merry Christmas Kevin.

5:34 AM  

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