A sermon preached on Christmas Eve at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Kingston, NY. If you’d like to read the scripture, click here.
We’re here tonight to talk about a miracle.
The person of Jesus, who some Jewish people came to know and follow over 2000 years ago, became, for them, the manifestation of God’s Love. After Jesus died, they kept telling the story of the love he shared, the love he gave. Those people became the first Christians. And one of them, a man named Paul, traveled hundreds and hundreds of miles to teach others about this man Jesus so the news of what God’s Love looks like spread to thousands and thousands. And those people told their children. And their children told their children across generations and generations.
And here we are tonight, in this place, over 2000 years later, talking about this person named Jesus and the miracle of Love that he was and continues to be for us who follow these teachings.
The word “miracle” is one of those words that tends to evoke skepticism. It’s not easy to believe in miracles, I know. Because a miracle is something that comes along and changes your entire life for the better. But it’s not anything that you could have previously imagined. And, because it’s nothing we could have imagined, it seems to turn everything on its head, redefining our world and redefining us along with it.
The other thing about miracles, is that they are always about Love. They change us for the good. They remind us who we are and whose we are, helping us to come home to ourselves, come home to our own heart. And this, more than anything else, is what God wants for us – to know our heart, to live in our heart. To live in tenderness, and in do doing, attend to the tenderness of others.
It’s is why a miracle comes along when we need it most, when we find ourselves in a place of fear or pain. When we can only see the world from a narrow and particular view. When we can only see ourselves in a particular way. When we have become so convinced of our own story and so influenced by the world’s story that we don’t believe anything else is possible.
For who would have thought that a baby, vulnerable and powerless, lying in a manger, filled with the smell of barnyard animals, carried by his parents to a foreign country… who would have thought that in this scene, a scene of danger and filth, lies the salvation of the world?
When our ideas of power and comfort are so particular, so dependent upon what the world would have us believe… who would have thought that this, is something that would change us? And, in changing us, would change the world?
Wouldn’t it be easier to pass it by? Wouldn’t it be easier to keep trying to live by the world’s demands? Wouldn’t it be easier to just not witness the miracle?
People do it all the time. And it’s not that people are “bad”… but it’s so much easier for us to stay lost than to realize that this miracle is for us, to open us up and remind us that this life we live is deeply connected to all of life. Love comes to us as a miracle, changing our entire life for the better and in ways that we could not have possibly imagined.
But it’s as if a part of us has always been waiting for this. A part of us has always known that Love is what is real.
We use the word “king” for Jesus because it mocks worldly power, because the reign of God is not the same as the reign of earthly kings. Earthly kings use power and privilege to control and maintain. Earthly kings build walls to separate instead of inviting people to a table of abundance. Earthly kings destroy the earth so they can suck everything they can and make money from it.
The God of Love uses miracles to inspire and liberate.The God of Love desires that everyone live in abundance and has given us an earth capable to feeding us all. The God of Love is the God of all Life.
Our Christmas story is a story about a miracle because when we realize that God’s salvation comes to us as incarnate love in the form of a human heart, it really is a miracle. It’s not something we would have expected… that God’s love would come to us through a human heart, through human hands and feet.
Jesus lived and breathed and reminded us all that the way of earthly kings is not the way of God. Love. Love is the way of God.
So, tonight we come to the manger again to be reminded of God’s love for us and reminded that more than anything else, God wants us to know our heart and to live in our heart. So that, in living in this tenderness, we might attend to the tenderness of others.
The words of poet Christina Rosetti remind us:
Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love Divine,
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and Angels gave the sign.
Worship we the Godhead,
Love Incarnate, Love Divine,
Worship we our Jesus,
But wherewith for sacred sign?
Love shall be our token,
Love be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.
This love is for us. This love is for all.
And what a miracle that is.