FOR YOU - Christ was born
A sermon for Christmas Eve - The Rev. Robin Razzino
As I was preparing for this sermon I stumbled upon an insight from Martin Luther that brought to light the subtle writing and subtle beauty of Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth. The whole story is gorgeous and filled with meaning upon meaning. And most everyone in here knows this story so well: the young woman, the man she was to marry, the journey, the inn, the shepherds, the angels, the birth.
Our knowledge of the text sometimes causes us to take it for granted, to gloss over it quickly, to neglect to pay attention to each word and each word’s intent.
“…the angel said to [the shepherds], "Do not be afraid; for see-- I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”
Martin Luther writes, “The angel does not simply say: Christ is born, but for you he is born.”
For you. For me. For the shepherds, for all the outsiders, for all the marginalized, for all in need of joy and hope and courage and peace this night. For us, Christ is born.
“What good would it do me,” Luther continues, “if he were born a thousand times and if this were sung to me every day with the loveliest airs, if I should not hear that there was something in it for me and that it should be my own.”
For all of you gathered here tonight, I want you to know that there is something in this story for you, there is something in this miracle of new life for you, there is something in it for you – this is your story too.
Christ was born – was given – to us this night, a night filled with silence and holiness according to the carols – but filled also with chaos and noise according to Luke’s account. His story includes descriptions of the ordinary details of life for poor people just trying to survive amidst the stress and demands of the land, the law, their faith, and their families.
Sounds somewhat familiar, doesn’t it?
The baby Jesus was born to Mary and Joseph, a young couple not yet married. His birth was surely a gift to them: specific and particular – just as surely that each one of our children is a gift to us from God. But this gift of new life and hope was not only for Mary and Joseph.
This gift, according to the Gospel, was meant for everyone, and by “everyone” or “all” God meant that the reach of his light and love extended out beyond the centers of power, the families of power, and the economics of power – his light and love would extend to the very margins of society.
In this story we hear that the angels appeared to shepherds – marginalized and poor, outsiders busy working the night shift. This detail is not included by accident. This detail like so many in the story is laden with meaning.
The shepherds were not expecting God’s angels; they weren’t actively listening for God or God’s messengers. There were simply going about their business, just trying to survive – fostering life in sheep, fostering hope in little else.
You see, Jesus was born while corrupt, violent, greedy men ruled the region and exploited the poor and killed anyone found to be threatening. When he got news of Jesus’ birth, Herod the Great even sought to kill all boys under the age of two or three in order that he not lose the throne to this baby he heard was to be King of the Jews.
Jesus was born while Ox and ass chewed their hay, mindlessly shaking their heads, as flies flew around them and their excrement and moths danced in candle light.
It sounds strange to us – gross even – but to Mary and Joseph and to the original hearers of the gospel this was all very ordinary. A stable, or place in the house where animals were kept - unlike the palaces and courts of the ruling kings and governors - would be familiar to everyone.
This is what life looked like for most people in first century Palestine – and this life was marked by fear, unrest, violence, poverty, and exploitation.
This was life – and sometimes it stank – sometimes it was dirty – sometimes it was unkempt – sometimes it was chaotic and terrifying.
But in the midst of this life – this very particular time and place – specific yet with universal relevance - Jesus was born.
God came to be with us in this life as we live it. Not despite the circumstances of our lives, but in the midst of them. Not despite who we think we are – but because we are who God thinks us to be – worthy and beloved. We are valued and treasured by God.
YOU are of great value - to the very creator of the universe.
The gift of this new born baby – who will save us all – comes to us in lives marked by division, addiction, brokenness, fear, surprise, pain, jealousy, greed, and despair. Then and now.
As one writer remarks, “If the son of God can arrive in such circumstances, so can truth [and] so can joy (Klink 120).”
This is the message of this night – God breaks in to our lives – even if and when we have shut God out – or not noticed God at all.
God comes in the darkness - in the song of Angels and in the life of a baby born in poverty, born in humility, born in love.
God comes to us still. God seeks us out ….like a lover….even if…primarily when(?) - we find ourselves in places of darkness, danger and grief.
God comes to us so that we might have the hope and courage of this young couple, these marginalized shepherds, these first followers of - and witnesses to - Jesus Christ.
God comes to us so that we will know God’s peace. Not peace that is found in the absence of pain or conflict or violence – but peace which withstands all of it.
In his commentary on Luke’s Gospel account of Jesus birth, theologian David Lose writes,
“Luke witnesses to the irony, even the absurdity of the event we celebrate this night: that God, creator, ruler, and sustainer of the cosmos would not only notice us – our ups and downs, dreams and disappointments, triumphs and tragedies – but would also care about us enough take them on, becoming one of us and one with us (David Lose, In the meantime, 2016).
For us, Jesus Christ was born.
The angel does not simply say: Christ is born, but for you he is born.
“What good would it do you if he were born a thousand times and if this were sung to you every day with the loveliest airs, if you should not hear that there was something in it for you and that it should be your own.”
Dear people gathered here this holy night – open your ears to the truth of this night – wherever you are – whoever you are – however you feel – Jesus was born for you – to bring you light, joy and peace.
When you come to the communion rail in just a few minutes –
I hope you can taste it, you can feel it,
you can experience this light, this joy, this peace –
that you can allow God’s blessing - God’s favor – to fill your hearts and give you the hope and courage it takes to accept God’s gift to you this night –
to accept God’s love and blessing
so that you can be a blessing for all whom you encounter this season and beyond.