O God, you make us glad by the yearly festival of the birth of your only Son Jesus Christ: Grant that we, who joyfully receive him as our Redeemer, may with sure confidence behold him when he comes to be our Judge; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
This year has been a year for the books!
I do believe when we say Merry Christmas this year we truly mean it in a different way.
For 10months this year we have had our routines changed, our methods and work redefined, and we have spent a lot of time waiting. It feels like we made the seasons of Lent and Advent last the whole year long.
I think that if we are paying attention, this year we see a little bit more clearly where God is in our midst and where change needs to occur.
This year, when we say Merry Christmas to each other, I think we have heard the nativity story in a new and simpler way, listening to the story of a young couple of whose life was rearranged, transformed and where God interrupts our world and seeks to give us hope and restoration.
Especially tonight, in this little town of Bethlehem.
Now ya’ll, I am going to brag for a moment.
I have seen the star of Bethlehem.
In my backyard
And not two days ago in the night sky, but in May.
LEMME EXPLAIN- In the early months of the pandemic people started walking more, people started to garden more.
While I was working from home I took time to plant zinnias (I am by no means a master gardener if you were wondering) and in a pot that we had in the backyard, we had some green things growing…they were what you call “volunteers”- I didn’t plant them, they just got there and started growing and I was excited to figure out what they were.
Then lo and behold it blossomed a beautiful white flower… it wasn’t anything stellar, but it was beautiful in its own right- it shone, right there beside my potted zinnias.
And with a little help from my friends, (disregarding those who said- it’s a weed, move on Abi) we figured out it was called “the star of Bethlehem” right there growing of its own accord.
Blooming away. In the midst of it all.
In the midst of it all.
Hope, fragility, and resilience, a new beginning occurring right where it was, just because the world needed it.
We read the nativity story each year reminding us that in the midst of struggle, conflict and brokenness, there is hope.
Emmanuel, God with us- right here. Fragile and resilient, God knows our pain and our struggle and interrupts our plans with the wail of a newborn baby.
800 years ago, a man by the name of Giovanni de Pietro de Branardone, or Francis (as his father called him) was transformed by the times he lived in. He was born into an easy world of wealth and privilege which allowed him do pretty much whatever he pleased whenever he pleased.
In the midst of it all, his eyes were opened to the disparity of wealth in his community, the need for change, not only in his own life but within the community and the life of the church.
The words he heard from God were “rebuild my church” and with that command he sought, right there in that space to rebuild the community, inviting people to care for each other, restore hope, and work towards healing the community and including those were cast out.
St. Francis, as we know him now, preached at all times to all the beloved creatures of God, animals, children, women, men.
And he persisted, letting nothing discourage him.
St Francis was resourceful and used any method he could find.
He is the reason we have our nativity scenes.
800 years ago, with his desire to teach about God coming to us right here in our midst, the word made flesh, living and breathing in our midst Francis made the concept concrete with real animals and people so that those gathered might hear the story with new ears, listen and see the hope that our scriptures tonight remind us of… that God came among us right in the ordinary to rebuild, restart, and restore hope in this world.
In a weary world where we need rejoicing.
In a weary world where we need rebuilding
In a weary world where we know that there is hope and new beginning.
God shows up in our midst right where we are in the unexpected, in the vulnerable, in the brokenness and gives us hope. God volunteers to be in our midst amidst the unplanned. Interrupting our routine and realigning our vision.
God opens our eyes, unveils the injustice in our community, and reveals the need for rethinking the way we do things and restructuring our own lives.
This year we have seen the need for rebuilding our own lives,
we have been forced to simplify our routines out of a desire to protect our greater community.
We have experienced death and mourned our loved ones in unique and different ways.
And we have seen hope through those who have worked relentlessly in the medical field, the education field, those who serve and protect, those who have cleaned daily to make sure that the greater community is safe.
We have seen injustice and poverty at new levels and have had to face the realities of the inequities of the world we live in.
And tonight we gather and remember the shepherds, the angels, the holy family as they welcome a new beginning. A baby, the word made flesh.
This baby reminds us that:
We are each called to hold that infant, the bundle of joy in the midst of the simplicity of that night.
We are each called to follow the voices of the angels and bear glad tidings to each place that we go.
And like St. Francis, we are called to rebuild this church and community so that all might hear the good news that Jesus lived and taught that we are to restore and rebuild the church and the community so that all might experience this joy and hope.
This is the message Jesus brings to us in his arms stretched out on the cross, reaching to each of us in sacrificial love. Seeking to restore us to wholeness and wellness.
Oh Holy Night, indeed, let this weary world rejoice as we remember the love that God has for this world found in this tiny child born this night!