Merry Christmas, everybody. Thank God it’s Christmas, huh? 2017 has been a long year for an awful lot of people, and I think we needed Christmas to come. 2107 gave some people what they deserve. Time Magazine named ‘The Silence Breakers’ as its Person of the Year, and so if things work out the way they should, sexual predation will no longer be tolerated as it has been; we can only pray that those who did or could say “Me Too” won’t face further victimization. 2017 has been the year of the storm: between the hurricanes and the firestorms, it’s hard to tell what’s worse. Then there’s the barrage of shootings and terrorist attacks here and around the world. It’s been a dark year, and I think we’re all ready for Christmas, ready for a little hope.
But how ready are we? Last week I admitted that I hadn’t even started Christmas shopping, and I’ll admit now that I barely got started – I did get my wife something, so really, it’s all going to be alright. And because of the generosity of our parish and many friends of the parish, I had the pleasure of delivering carloads of gifts to several local families who needed a little boost this Christmas. There was a lot going on, and the retail and shipping businesses of the world are in the process of making a fortune on my unreadiness this year. The Church has a whole season of preparation for Christmas – Advent is supposed to get us ready for Christmas, not just give us a piece of calendar chocolate every day, but I do wonder how many of us are any more spiritually ready for Christmas, presents aside. But if Christmas teaches us anything, it’s that Jesus has a penchant for showing up when we are unready.
And praise God for that! Imagine a world in which Jesus didn’t show up until we were ready for Him. Mary and Joseph were surely not ready for Jesus to be born, any more than any parent is truly ready for the arrival of their child. Having a child is a life-changing experience. As our presiding bishop pointed out in his Christmas message to the church, if you’ve ever been in a house with a new baby, you know that this seemingly powerless being somehow, nevertheless, takes over the whole house. Every routine is broken, every priority is moved down, all that had been usual is made new. There’s so much stress and fear and anxiety wrapped up with so much love and light and hope.
And then imagine that you had that baby in a cave on the edge of a town of about 300 people under the occupation of a brutal foreign power and that your first visitors are a bunch of unwashed shepherds. Not a good way to start out, and not a sign of efficient preparation. But Jesus was born nonetheless.
That’s because Jesus came not because of our readiness, but because of our need. He came because human sin had rendered the world unready and unsuitable. He set aside the unceasing worship and praise of choirs of angels in order to become fragile, humble, and vulnerable. He exchanged the spotless raiment of heaven for the all too physical realities of childbirth and livestock and adolescence and rejection and suffering and death.
Jesus came because we were unready for God, yes, but also because God was ready for us. Jesus was born into this world so that God could physically touch the human experience, so that everything that happens to us could somehow happen to God. Jesus was born so that God could know what it’s like to learn and to grow and to have a tummy ache, or what it’s like to go hungry and thirsty and have no roof over His head, or know what it’s like to fear and be hunted and taken captive. Jesus was born so that God could be with us in every way; Jesus died and rose again so that we could be with God in every way.
It has been a dark year. But we are here once again to celebrate the birth of Christ, because in that dirty cave in that podunk town was born the light of the world. The King of kings and yet born of Mary; the Lord of lords in human vesture; Christ our God to earth descended, to be the light in our darkness, to be our life, our sweetness, and our hope. I won’t ask you if you’re ready for Him – He’s already here.
Merry Christmas, everybody.
*The theme and a few sentences of this sermon came from Fr. Bret Hays.