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Hope Born in a World of Humbugs
Dressed up with presents, lights, TV specials, extra concerts, parties, and spending money, there is a sense that Christmas is the time to feel good, do good, and perhaps live a little better than the rest of the year. Even the most cynical get swept up in the idea that the world and their lives shine a little brighter. It is a sugar-coated holiday rush only to be met days later by an emotional crash. Yet these signs point to a deep-seated hope that is lodged in the hearts and minds of those moving into this season. There is a longing and fervent hope that God will enter in and counter the challenges and humbugs of our days and world. And to this longing and fervent hope we look to one who claims us from marginal lives and engages us in a central story of hope and promise.
Wrapped in every breath, song, and action is God’s direct connection with the earth and her peoples. This night counters voices and theologies that view God as distant and unengaged with humanity and the world. From old, the promise of God drawing near has been uttered; in the gospel we witness the birth of God’s yearning presence through a teenage girl; throughout we are invited to join the song of creation, hope, and salvation. Tonight we pulse with the exhilaration of Mary and the shepherds, and those who have lived at the margins, as we experience and proclaim, that “God dwells with us.” While people may often talk of the “magic” of Christmas, it is our call to speak to the incarnation of Christmas. As people come together to hear a familiar story and sing familiar hymns, the blessing and challenge is to witness again to God’s promise and promise-keeping with vitality and to join the chorus of joy in what God has done and continues to do in being made real among us.
Into the lights and presents, the music and gatherings, even the wars, poverty, little empires, and tumult of the world, God meets and claims us in that spirit of hope. God calls us to dream and live into a new reality as we encounter this babe at Bethlehem and find this Christ-child born in our lives again. Christmas speaks to our greatest longing, and turns the “humbugs” to carols of joy.
Gospel: Luke 2:1-14 [15-20]
God’s greatest gift comes as a baby in a manger. Angels announce the “good news of great joy” and proclaim God’s blessing of peace.
1In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3All went to their own towns to be registered. 4Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
8In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
14“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.]