In preparing for Christmas, we sometimes get wrapped up in making everything perfect. We become focused on preparations, plans and agendas. I too have fallen trap to this. In the days leading up to Christmas Eve, I have worried about cleaning my house, making sure all the Christmas cards have been sent out, purchasing last minute gifts and making sure that everything I’m responsible for is taken care. And there’s hope that somehow everything will be perfect go off without a hitch.
But the reality is that in striving for perfection, we lose sight of the very perfectly imperfect story of Jesus’ birth, and how it’s extraordinarily good news for us.
In the reading from Luke for tonight, we have a truly ordinary experience. Mary and Joseph are expectant parents travelling to take care of business-- reporting for the census. They don't have reservations at a 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. 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...in the imperfect place of a barn.
And who are the first to hear about it? Not family members, friends, or kings, but shepherds...very ordinary people. There they were out on the hillside with their sheep, and angels appeared to them proclaiming this extraordinary good news! As Paul Gordon-Chandler describes in his book Songs of Waiting, in this moment “The darkness was shattered, as if the light were a hundred suns; the night sky came alive with the radiance of angels...what had been a silent night for those shepherds was suddenly resounding with the beating of thousands and thousands of the bright wings of angels, and also the sounds of their voices, like trumpets, singing a hymn of praise…[the angels] give us a...glimpse of who God is and what God intends to do.” 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 everyday 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 are 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, imperfect people in ordinary places. Sometimes we are called to go to places unknown or unfamiliar. They aren't necessarily places we'd consider 'home'. But when God is guiding us into these places, anywhere Christ is found, can become our home.
And so tonight I invite you to consider where God is calling you and how you might proclaim the good news and reveal the divine love of God.
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.