And There Was Only One . . . Luke 2:1-20, Isaiah 9:2-7
Christmas Eve 2010
Though I know Christmas Eve conjures up in our minds images of hallowed manger scenes, beautiful people smiling and all seeming right with the world, have you ever stopped to think how crazy God’s plan of redemption was as it began to play itself out on that night long ago?
I mean, really, what was God thinking hanging all of the hopes of the world of the people who were walking in darkness, as Isaiah’s prophecy talked about, searching for a great light on one birth?
Yes, a birth, the middle of the ancient times when medical care was not at its peak—childbirth was very risky enterprise in fact. Yes, a birth of one child, of only one child, given from heaven to the fragility of human hands and a teenage mother at that with little training on child birth or raising! Yes, a birth, of one to a world where anything, yes, anything could go wrong at anytime? Yes, a birth, in horrific conditions that could have easily caused the most willing mother and the most support father and even the most eager shepherds to give up? What was God thinking, I mean really?
If you have any logical senses about you, hanging all your hopes in life on everything aligning correctly as God did in this case; is a pretty stupid thing to do in this world. Life is just too fragile, just too uncertain for the hope that only one plan would actually work perfectly.
Especially in an overachieving region of this world like this one, we are the people of a back-up plan: when we are applying to college or graduate school, it often asked “what is your fail proof school?”
When we are applying for our “dream” job, it is often asked of us, “what is your back-up offer?”
When we are searching for a spouse or a partner to grow old with, during late night sessions with best friends, we often ask, “If I am not with someone by this age, can we be each other’s back-up plan?”
For we are a people who like to know that that the odds of our decisions are working in our favor—and that if plan A doesn’t work, there is an equally good plan B around the corner.
But, in our gospel lesson for tonight, all of God’s hopes for the blessing of all the world were on one womb . . . one night . . . one mother . . . one willing partner . . . one band of shepherds . . . ONE chance to get it right or it would be a fail. For, there was not a back-up plan. There was only ONE plan.
And, in this one plan, God trusted Mary and Mary’s body . . . as there was no room for error. God trusted Joseph to be there for Mary . . . as we are told no midwife attended to the birth. God trusted the shepherds to respond . . . as there were no other visitors right away. God trusted the angels to sing . . . . as they were the creators of the first carols. God trusted the star not to refuse to shine . . . as without the star, the shepherds did not know where to go. The only ONE plan was build upon the audacity of God’s trust in everything happening as it should.
I was thinking this week if there was anything as audacious as this in our modern senses so to compare this to and I thought of a family facing foreclosure on their house, with both the husband and the wife out of work gathering up all the money that that had after buying food for the week for their kids and buying the most expensive lottery ticket. And, as they bought it, saying to themselves, “This is going to be our light in the tunnel we are stuck in. This is going to be what saves our family from living in the streets. This ticket is going to save our lives.”
Never mind you, that it is commonly known from statistics that one’s chances of winning the lottery on a single ticket are highly unlikely with all of the probability variables. Even if you play a single state lottery (you best case scenario), the chances of one’s winning with a single ticket are 18 million to one. But, even still, this family buys the ticket, holds on to it and believes it is their one plan out of destitution.
And, so, it was the posture of God that night. Though no studies have been written to qualify the odds of the whole Jesus being born in a manger thing working out, we know the fates of this world were all stacked against this plan working out too. . . . who could believe that a teenaged mother and a lowly group of animal watchers in a borrowed stable could be a part of something magnificent? What a motley crew!
But, yet we know on that Holy Night, the greatest lottery of all times came to be won as Jesus came forth and became called, Emmanuel, God with Us—welcomed by just these folks.
Though such a story can be hard to believe sometimes, especially for the most skeptical and analytic among us—in the most bizarre of circumstances, God hit the jackpot that night and a child, who was called Christ, the Lord was born and was thriving from the first day of his day in the arms of a mother who treasured all these things in heart. Everything unbelievable happened and the most unlikely of fail-safe plans worked out just as the prophets had spoke of it long ago.
How often, though, our faith is questioned and mocked at this juncture . . . had God lost God’s mind?
Yet, my friends, do we really want a story that makes perfect sense that is fully understandable? Do we really want a God in our lives who is just like us?
I don’t know about you, but as this year comes to a close and I look at all that has gone wrong and all that is not right in this world, I know one thing: that is that I need my God not to be just like me that I can understand, explain away and make into a pretty scene sitting on my coffee table.
Life is just too messy. Life is just too painful. Life is just too busy. Life is just too unfair for it all to depend on humanity’s finite minds can wrap itself around.
For, I want to testify tonight that I need a God who is faithful, even beyond my most faithful friend to bring about something beautiful in my life. I need a God who can work through the most impossible of circumstance to bring about something new, something that I cannot create on my own.
For, I need a God who can’t be explained through apologetics or formulas or charts. I need a God who can align the paths and people and places of this world so that in the midst of darkness a great light is seen again.
For, I need a God who is beyond all comprehension as my ability to fathom mystery is to rational for the conception of something as wonderful as Savior born unto me again this evening.
For, I need a God to do the impossible . . . . to show up, to be present once again and to show me that life is not as it seems just as it is now.
If you are with me with any of this, then I tell you the good news this evening: Christmas, then, is just for you. For just as we have been on this Advent journey all month, waiting for something, hoping for something, rejoicing with what was not yet, and imagining the possibility of loving fully once again: tonight, such blessing is here.
As simple or as stupid as the incarnation of Christ in a the form a baby, years long ago, it is this, it is just this, my friends, which has the power to bring us this Christmas exactly what we are hoping for. The celebration of God with Us again this year is THE gift of knowing in our darkest days we are not alone, in our most confusing journeys there is always more than meets the eye. In our life situations that don’t make a bit of sense, there is big star out there, guiding us, guiding us home again.
Silent Night, Holy, Night. All is come, all is bright.
Calling all dreamers . . . calling all wonderers . . . calling all grieving friends . . . calling all those who want a life different than you see right in front of you right now. Come, to the table this night. Come and receive the very life and blood of our Savior and Lord. Come, and receive what you are most longing for this Christmas: that yes, Washington Plaza, there is a God called Jesus Christ who loves you and is with you and wants to meet you here tonight.
Thanks be to God.