“On Christmas night all Christians sing, to hear the news the angels bring.” It is a familiar story, one remembered in pageantry and song. For as we re-tell the story, we hear the angels’ message. And in our gathering, we share that message, proclaiming it anew to each other. Even our gathering is a proclamation. The world notices and, so, in a way, it too hears the good news. We have heard of the news of great joy, great mirth — the news of our merciful King’s birth. This is a night when we seek and celebrate mystery. It is a night for wonder and awe. In prose and poetry, we lift our hearts in joyful praise.
Yet, in the midst of our joy-filled celebrations, there is also a holy hush — a quiet expectancy. For even as we sing and celebrate, we wait for the good news to break into our lives and into this weary world in new ways. “Then why should we on earth be sad, since our Redeemer made us glad?” We are in a time and place set apart— a sanctuary from the chaos and busy-ness of the world. Yet, that reality hovers. It is in our thoughts. This time gives us respite — that holy hush time. But we know that the world beyond us waits, ready to claim our attention and even stoke our fears. Yet, the birth story reminds us of the One who came so that we might know the true source of hope and life, for “from our sin he set us free, all for to gain our liberty.”
“When sin departs before his grace, then life and health come in its place.” The world tells us that life and health are measured by success and well-being. Tonight we proclaim the angels’ message that life and health are found in God’s grace, in the promise of God’s incarnate presence in this world, in our very lives and in our midst. “Heaven and earth with joy may sing, all for to see the newborn King.” This child was born long ago, but tonight we remember that birth as a harbinger of God’s rebirthing presence in our world. The Christ was born in an out of the way place, cradled in a manger, and welcomed by lowly shepherds. Heaven came to earth, touching a world many would say was without merit or hope. Heaven came to earth in a small town, in an occupied country. Heaven came to earth through a human baby. We tell the story so that the angels’ message may become real to us as we look at the places in our lives and in our world that seem to be without merit or hope. The Christ is born into all those places, today, tomorrow, and forever. Christ is born in the war-torn places of our world. Christ is born in the harsh political discourses that so often divide us. Christ is born in the sick and the dying. Christ is born in hospital rooms, nursing homes, and hospices. Christ is born in slums and households torn asunder by domestic violence. Heaven touches all those places we think God couldn’t possibly be.
Christ is born! We speak about the birth of the baby Jesus, but it is the Christ, the resurrected Christ, who is born and reborn in the world today. The good news of Christmas is about God’s indwelling presence, not as a helpless baby, but as the One whose faithfulness would conquer even death, the One who brings peace and hope, justice and mercy.