Christmas Eve, Born to Liberate
The scripture appointed for this service can be found here
Who here has ever played hide and seek? The classic children’s game, in which one person hides their eyes while everyone else hides from sight. Then, after an agreed upon interval, the seeker calls out, “Ready or Not, here I come!”. And, while some are well hidden, others call out, “wait, no, not yet!” or “You counted too fast.”
There are times when Christmas feels like this, a frantic scurry of activity in the days preceding and, then, “ready or not, here I come!” and despite any protestations that the house is still a mess, or the presents aren’t wrapped, or the music not rehearsed enough, or the baby didn’t nap, or the sermon not “perfect”, Christmas comes.
Christmas comes in its own time, not ours. And, when it comes, ready or not, we will be found. And, we will be found in part, because we won’t be ready, and God will look upon our imperfections and judge them with the standard of an all-encompassing love. We won’t be able to hide from the beauty and the grace. We won’t be able to hide from the light that illuminates even the darkest corners…for “the grace of God has appeared.”
And, thus, by grace we are found. And, by grace we are transformed.
Because it is precisely when we are not ready, that we are most in need of transformation.
It is precisely when we are most broken, that we are most in need of healing.
It is precisely when we are most lost, that we will be found.
And this is the defiant and hope filled gift, of a son born into a world that is not ready.
Madeleine L’Engle’s poem, “He did not wait” speaks to this
He did not wait till the world was ready,
till men and nations were at peace.
He came when the Heavens were unsteady,
and prisoners cried out for release.
He did not wait for the perfect time.
He came when the need was deep and great.
He dined with sinners in all their grime,
turned water into wine.
He did not wait
till hearts were pure. In joy he came
to a tarnished world of sin and doubt.
To a world like ours, of anguished shame
he came, and his Light would not go out.
He came to a world which did not mesh,
to heal its tangles, shield its scorn.
In the mystery of the Word made Flesh
the Maker of the stars was born.
We cannot wait till the world is sane
to raise our songs with joyful voice,
for to share our grief, to touch our pain,
He came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!
God did not wait. And God’s son the Christ was born. Born, in a time of great political insecurity. Born on the eve of impending genocide. Born to refugee parents, in a stable. Born, during a forced registration.
And, the heaven’s cried out, “Glory to God in the highest and peace to God’s people on earth!”
And, the empire quaked in fear. And, the people rejoiced.
They rejoiced. They rejoiced. And, their joy became ours. Their hope, our hope.
This birth served as a reminder that the Roman empire would not determine the future of God’s beloved people. That the end of God’s beloved people’s story would not be writ by oppression, but by liberation.
Contemporary theologians and religious leaders, the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu put this hope into writing for our own time and place,
“No dark fate determines the future - we do. Each day and each moment, we are able to create and recreate our lives and the very quality of human life on our planet.” (Book of Joy)
Our rejoicing gives us power, and we are liberated so that our birth, through baptism into the Body of Christ, will itself be liberative for others. If you will recall, the words spoken in our baptismal covenant, that with God’s help we will “strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.” We were born for this.
Born for liberation, born to liberate! “Each day and each moment, creating and recreating our lives and the very quality of human life on our planet”. Each day and each moment, a moment of new birth, new life, and a new hope—a reaffirmation that the story of God’s beloved people is the story of liberation.
This night serves as a powerful reminder that we ourselves enact the story of God’s salvation. We, zealous for good deeds, and empowered for the work of transformation. We, who are the story, who are the Body of Christ, in this story about God, which is a story about us. A story set in a world where the need is great, but God’s love is greater. A world in which God shows up, not because of our perfection but because of our very imperfection.
So no, the world is not ready, but we will show up anyway. We will show up, because God shows up, and in our new life and new birth, we promise to show up to this unready and unsteady world. And, in our showing up, to act with the power and might of the liberating God who has promised that the tools of the oppressor will be broken “as on the day of Midian”. (Isaiah 9:3) Defiance and hope intermingle and, in their union, become our joy…
So, ready or not, here we come!
+++"May the joy of the angels, the eagerness of the shepherds, the perseverance of the wise men, the obedience of Joseph and Mary, and the peace of the Christ-child be yours this Christmas; and the blessing of God, Creator, Son and Holy Spirit, be upon you this day and always. Amen." (Seasonal Material, Common Worship)