Christmas 2019

Merry Christmas!

What’s the most creative thing you’ve ever done? It doesn’t have to be a painting or a novel. Maybe you’re good at seating people around the dinner table at Christmas so that everyone gets along – that is your act of creativity.

What if we asked God, hey God, what’s the most creative thing you’ve ever done?

Knowing God, God would stay silent and let us look at God’s body of work. We’d look at what God has provided: the heavens and the solar system. With stars and nebulae and black holes for astronomers to examine. Part of the fun of the heavens is that we haven’t discovered everything, and that’s part of the wonder, there is MORE to be revealed. And that’s just the solar system.

If we ask God, hey God, what’s the most creative thing you’ve ever done? God might point silently to the oceans. The average ocean depth is 2.3 miles! We KNOW we haven’t explored every inch down there; the sea life is wondrous. There are coral reefs of such beauty.

Or God might point to our forests of giant redwoods where they’ve been growing for centuries. I’ve been to Sequoia National Park and the quality of the SILENCE of these ancient forests is amazing. They’ve been longer on this earth than any of us. Did you know that New Zealand once had giant trees whose trunks were 4000 years old and 17 yards across – that’s bigger than a lot of homes.

We could be persistent, asking God, God what’s the MOST creative thing you’ve ever done?

God, what tops EVERYTHING – tops the solar system, beats the giant sequoias, better than gorgeous coral reefs? God might silently point to our bodies. As psalm 139 says, “We are fearfully, wonderfully made – wonderful are your works O Lord.” 

But let’s say we’re being real pains in the neck, and say, God, what is even more amazing than the WONDERS of the human body? What tops EVERYTHING?

God would silently point to a specific baby two thousand years ago, wrapped tightly against the cold and laid in a manger. God would point to Jesus, snuggled up against Mary’s breast, with Joseph hovering over them protectively. God’s most mind-blowing creative act was to give us his SON – vulnerable like all of us when we are born. His Son who would need humans to protect him. KNOWING how harsh and hostile the world is. A world that NEEDS Jesus and at the same time REJECTS him.

The SON, enters time like any of us – captive to TIME like us; he has a specific beginning and end, just like us. Jesus enters the timeline, which is such an act of humility, to face the insecurity of a birth like any of us. Jesus gets a birth story like us . . . where we could say about our own birth “. . . and we got to the hospital JUST IN TIME . . .” OR “and if we hadn’t blown through a couple of red lights, we would have never gotten to the hospital . . .” And Jesus has his own human story: “. . . and there was my mother, bouncing on a donkey, nine months pregnant, and she had to go get counted by this dumb census . . . yeah, Caesar Augustus . . .”

God shows such TREMENDOUS respect for our frail human bodies, and our vulnerability to time, by putting his Son into our own dilemmas and captivity to time.Christmas is the day when we sit back in wonder about when the stars shone even brighter. The angels sang. Shepherds ran their joy to a stable in Bethlehem to see for themselves with their own eyes – could this be true. When angels speak, we run! These are shepherds – who stank of their sheep. Whose hands were dirty; who were closer to homeless people than we like to think . . .

So, this creative God has given Jesus the restrictions of time like all of us. He shares with us a real beginning, a real birth day. Jesus is also vulnerable to the vagaries of human events. Gives him two good parents, but who themselves are vulnerable, who don’t have super powers. They have to walk a path of safety, listen carefully, follow God’s lead.

Joseph has a crucial role as a protector and a listener to his dreams for direction, like his ancestor Joseph before him. It makes perfect sense to Joseph to run to Egypt for safety. After all, his ancestor Joseph had found a safe haven there.

We say we have to learn to trust God. Do we wonder how God TRUSTED these two humans, Mary and Joseph, to keep his precious Son safe and out of harm’s way? That they would follow God’s leadings. God TRUSTS these two humans to keep the SON safe.

We see God’s vulnerable heart. Knowing that cosmic evil – evil on a huge scale is ready to POUNCE. Cosmic evil lacks the imagination to see clearly the HEART of LOVE that God has for his fragile, vulnerable people. The God of LOVE who sends his love as a BABY. Sending a baby – that’s the same as God sending God’s heart to us. Saying, THIS is how much I LOVE you. THIS much.

At Christmas, God shows GOD’s HEART of love, and mercy and justice in this profound creative act of giving his Son. The Father and the Son are UNITED in the giving of THEMSELVES to US, frail, vulnerable, sinful people.

We celebrate Christmas as the time when God invaded territory held by the PRINCE of DARKNESS. Jesus, the babe of Bethlehem is the PRINCE of PEACE, who is more powerful than the rulers of DARKNESS.

The battle against death and evil begins with Christ’s BIRTH. This is where God sends a SON who does not come as a powerful king like David. On Christmas DAY we celebrate his breaking THROUGH to show us what LOVES look like. Because we NEED a REAL picture of what LOVE looks like. Love looks like a baby.

Years ago, I received a Christmas card in the mail, that I kept until it fell apart. The picture was of an icon, the Holy Family in a cave – the cave was the stable. On the back of the card, it explained that the world was SO hostile to Jesus’ coming that all it could afford to give him was a CRACK in the earth. That is what a cave is: it’s a CRACK in the earth. Jesus TOOK that crack, PLANTED himself, and he GREW and FLOURISHED.

We could say that our hearts are like that STONY CAVE, too, and if we can offer just a CRACK in our hearts then Jesus will take that crack and plant himself in us. Jesus looks at our stony hearts, and thinks, I can use that heart. I can see a small space where I can plant myself. And he comes to us as we HUNGER and THIRST for him, and he PLANTS himself there, in our hearts so that WE may flourish. That is his Christmas gift to us.

Christ grows amid the rubble of our hearts, among the sin and desperation. Christ grows among the fear and the anger.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish, but may have eternal life.” Not to CRUSH us. Not to condemn us. Not to judge us. That would be too easy, like shooting ducks in a barrel. “But so the world might be saved through him.” Saved by believing that there IS such love. That this LOVE does save us – from despair, from empty lives, from nonsense. Love heals. God’s love heals our wounds and saves us.

God sends his SON to heal generations of sin and wounds. God sends his SON to tear down whatever separates God from God’s people. In Jesus’ final minutes as he finishes his life on earth, and dies on the cross, the “curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom” (Matthew 27: 51) In that tearing of the curtain, God wants NOTHING to stand between God and God’s people, not even a symbolic piece of fabric. And that’s the GOOD NEWS.

When Mary sings in her Magnficat that God has looked upon her lowliness, she acknowledges that she hasn’t done anything to deserve this tremendous favor. She hasn’t been chosen because she’s won contests for virtue. God could do something with Mary because she knows her need for God’s grace.

When we are empty and we KNOW and acknowledge we are empty, then God can fill us. God can enter our lowliness and weakness and do something new.

So that is the good news for ALL of us, because we ALL are lowly and weak. Christ’s GIFT to us is the GIFT of himself who FILLS us so that we can LIVE and MOVE and have the FREEDOM we crave.

I thank you Lord, that you chose to live among us.

That is the most creative thing you’ve ever done.

The good news is that you’ve chosen the weak and the lowly so that we can flourish and live abundantly. We ask you to bless those who are in need in our country, children who are separated from their families. Lord, come to all families who are I need of your healing. Our Christmas cheer is your promise of abundance – eternal life with you right NOW. Yours is the most creative act – YOURS is the kingdom and the glory.