One of my favorite BBC TV shows is “The Vicar of Dibley”. If you haven’t seen it, please, I implore you to rent it on Netflix…it will make you laugh until your stomach hurts! Anyway, the Christmas special is one of my favorites because in it, the Vicar is plagued with writer’s block for her Christmas Eve sermon. After eating too many candy bars, dealing with parishioner’s problems and talking to her pictures of Jesus and Mel Gibson (which hang on the wall just above her computer), she decides to take a line from the pop group “The Spice Girls” as her sermon theme. I won’t tell you the rest, but I have to admit that I was having my own Vicar of Dibley moment this year. As I was trying to prepare for today, the dishwasher repairman came to adjust the handle on the kitchen dishwasher, I asked Sue several times if these were indeed the correct readings for the day, I went to therapy, took care of Warming Shelter needs, and ate entirely too many cookies, fudge, and brownies. And do you think I was able to overcome my writer’s block in all that? Nope. Instead, I dealt with ordinary, everyday events.
In the reading from Luke, we have a truly ordinary experience. Mary and Joseph are expectant parents travelling to take care of their business--the census. They don't have reservations at a fancy hotel. They aren't driving a luxury vehicle. There isn't a warm fire waiting for them when they arrive. Instead, they are two regular people, travelling by donkey to a somewhat unfamiliar place. As we know from the gospel and countless Christmas pageants and movies, there is no room at the inn, and so when it's time to settle in for the night--and for Mary to give birth--it is in a stable or barn…a very ordinary place.
Generations of women before Mary had given birth, and generations of women after her would too. But this birth was special. It was the in-breaking of God. After months of waiting, wondering, and hoping, this birth, foretold by an angel, was happening. The extraordinary life of the Divine came into the ordinary world of humans. And who are the first to hear about it? Not family members or friends, but shepherds. Also very ordinary people. There they were out on the hillside with their sheep, and angels appeared to them proclaiming this extraordinary good news! Suddenly everything that was ordinary about that evening had become extraordinary. And so being led by stars and singing angels, the shepherds are the first on the scene, and they are privy to a miracle.
In that moment, everything changed. In the birth of Jesus, the bridge between the Divine and human was made manifest. In that most ordinary of events, all of creation woke up to a new beginning. It's not every day that we witness these kinds of massive in-breakings of God. Instead, it's found in the little miracles that surround us daily. A sandwich for someone who's hungry. A card in the mail for someone who's lonely. A hug for someone in pain. These are all ordinary events in the ordinary lives of ordinary people. And yet, when we participate in these ordinary events with a heart of gratitude...we become privy to a miracle. You see, God needs all of us--even those of us who think we're 'ordinary'--to bring about the Kingdom of God. If you don't think it's true, just look around. Look into the face of the person next to you. How have they proclaimed the good news to you? In their words, in their actions, in their love? See...the gospel truth of God's steadfast love for us is found in the lives of ordinary people in ordinary places. What I learned from my experience of writer’s block is that in all those ordinary events…the dishwasher repairman’s visit, my bugging Sue about the readings, the therapy visit, the Warming Shelter work, and the overindulgence in yummy baked goods…God was present. All of those everyday encounters of sharing, laughing, and working reminded me that God is with us in all times and places. And the good news of the gospel is that God is not only there, but also calls on us ordinary people to help bring about extraordinary things.
And so I invite you to consider where God is calling you and how you might participate in bringing about the extraordinary in this world.
I don't know what the future of the church is, but I know that we will continue to be a place of sanctuary and hope, working towards healing in the world.