Christmas

It’s truly a pleasure to see you all here tonight to celebrate the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ with our church family, in such a beautiful place, in such extravagant ways. I’m not prone to extravagance outside of worship, but one of my great extravagances is that I subscribe to Sports Illustrated magazine, which costs about as much as rearing a small horse. It’s really a great magazine, but lately I think they should change its name to Tebow Illustrated, for all the coverage he has been getting. Tebow has become a household name as much for his faith as his performance on the field. Tebow celebrates his touchdowns by taking a knee and praying, which has sparked the nationwide craze of Tebowing; every time I see him or someone else Tebowing, I want to tell them that that’s called genuflecting; we own that move! I like Tebow; I like his strong faith, his toughness, his work ethic, his ability to lead and inspire, but most of all I like his humility.

“I can’t wait to look in the mirror cause I get better looking each day,” sang Mac Davis, never better than when he sang it with the Muppet star Link Hogthrob, the handsome pig actor best known for being the captain of the Swinetrek spaceship in Pigs in Space. “Oh Lord it’s hard to be humble when you’re perfect in every way.” If you remember that episode of the Muppet Show, Link Hogthrob couldn’t help but agree with Mac’s sentiment, but you don’t have to be a porcine movie star or a real country music star to have trouble with humility.

Now imagine that centuries before you were even born, prophets were telling of your coming; your name would be Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Your birth would bring light to those in darkness, sight to the blind, release to captives, even life to the dead. When you are born your father doesn’t hand out cigars with little blue bands around them, he sends armies of angels to announce your birth in song. A star hangs still in the heavens above where you sleep. A king slaughters your whole generation lest you live to challenge him. Maybe knowing all this, you might have a little trouble with humility. I know I would.

There has never been a more beautiful event than the birth of Jesus Christ, and yet, His was a humble birth. A cold stable for a maternity ward. A feeding trough for a crib. The baby was carefully wrapped in strips of cloth, strips that Joseph no doubt ripped from his own cloak. For a time the only visitors were the animals roaming in and out, their braying and bleating and lowing were the Child’s first benediction. Then came men with more animals in tow, just what they needed, shepherds not being the type of people you invite to a baby shower. The King of kings and Lord of lords most likely slept through most of this, when He wasn’t crying for milk or fresh linens.

Each Christmas we get together to recount this improbable birth, to celebrate the unspeakable gift God gave us in His Son. We surround Christmas with all sorts of traditions, some better than others. I don’t mind so much the excesses of Christmas, the gaudy lights and the clay-mation TV specials, Santa Claus on every available surface. Most of that stuff is all in good fun, right up until the time it leaves us totally unprepared for that moment, that moment when we are confronted, maybe even smacked in the face, with the incomprehensible, discomfiting, almost intolerable humility of God.

That’s what always gets me at Christmas. Christmas isn’t like Easter and the blinding power of the Resurrection; Christmas reveals to us how God thinks, it shows us in what God finds favor. It seems that God favors qualities that we might overlook. God favored a heart that dared to ponder holy mysteries, He favored a patient and loving man who dared to listen to Him despite the costs. God favored Mary and Joseph, He prized their humility; He chose Mary to give substance to His Son and He chose Joseph to show His Son what being a man looked like. God chose the humble amongst us, and then God came to us in humility to show us that it is only in humility that we can go to Him.

This and every Christmas, it is meet and right to pull out all the stops, to join our voices with angels and archangels, to be extravagant in our worship of our Lord. But in the midst of the rest of our Christmas excesses, take a minute to wipe away the Hallmark glaze, to look with clear eyes and grateful hearts at Joseph and Mary and Jesus on that first Christmas; take a moment to remember that the Lord comes to us both wildly and quietly; and that whoever you are, wherever you are in life, you can turn to Jesus, for He is humble in His glory, He is ready to receive both shepherds and kings at His throne, He is ready, this Christmas, to receive you.

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