Christmas Eve 2016
Will you please pray with me:
Come and dwell with us here, tonight
Just as you came to dwell with Mary and Joseph and the shepherds and the cattle so many nights ago.
Be in our worship. Be in our celebration. Be in a hug between family members and a Christmas greeting between friends.
Be here with us.
I recently watched a short documentary about one of my favorite pastors, and the video ended with him saying, “I hope that I’m bringing people good news. That’s what gets me up in the morning.” I’ve been thinking about that all week. What a simple statement. What a simple idea. But it’s not always so easy to identify where the Good News is in life and how it’s working.
Every day, be it in my personal quiet time or as I prepare to preach a sermon, I look for the Good News. But Good News doesn’t exist in a vacuum. I read the news and I read Scripture, and the two rarely gel nicely. Sometimes they’re like oil and water, and I can’t find a way to make them come together. They just seem to pass by one another.
Other times, they’re too close together. They become muddled. They’re like two strings that have gotten so tangled up with one another, I can’t find where one ends and the other begins. I can’t trace out the good. Sometimes the good news of the Gospel seems swallowed up in the bad news of the world we live in.
Every morning, it’s like I get up, and hold all my past experiences and my current circumstances and the hope I have for the future, and the Scripture I just read, and the news I just read, I hold it all in my hand – in one big messy mass. It’s like I think about it all and I put it in front of myself.
And then I turn it this way and that, looking for the good news buried deep within all of that.
Sometimes it’s like a hard, unforgiving rock with veins of gold in it. I try to trace out the good news.
But that’s not the best metaphor, because it implies that I’m above these circumstances, that I can hold them at arms length, objectively. Which, of course, I can’t. I don’t hold them. I dwell within them.
So finding the good news is kind of like being Indiana Jones. Searching out that treasure, but with pitfalls all around. Sometimes we think we’re on the right track, like we’ve found it, but then we ask: is this really good news? Is it good news for everyone? What about in this scenario, or that scenario? Is this good news, or is it a trap? Is it false? Is it gold, or is it pyrite – fools gold?
So tonight, I’m supposed to give a short reflection on Christmas, and the question is: what is the good news of Christmas Eve? I’ve been reading through the Scriptures we’ll hear tonight, and the songs we’ll sing. I’ve tried to hold them all together, and turn them this way and that, looking for the good news that runs all the way through them all.
I’ve tried to enter into them as well – not only hold them in front of me – but to immerse myself in them.
And the Good News I’ve found is nothing new, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t profound. The Good News is in the name: Emmanuel – God with us.
The story of Christmas is the story of God becoming one of us. The Good News is that God doesn’t just hold the world, or our lives in front of Godself, either – turning it this way and that way, putting a touch of good in here and a touch of good in there, or weaving Good News like some kind of mystery to be solved if we’re only clever enough, like Indiana Jones. Like God purposely created this tangle of experiences and then dropped it in our laps for us to navigate on our own – like some kind of test.
The Good News of Christmas is that God has entered into it all with us.
Just like we can’t hold it out here, at arm’s length, neither can God anymore, because God chose to enter into the mess with us.
The story of Jesus, which began with a little baby in a manger is the story of God navigating life as one who was fully human while being fully God. The story of Jesus is the story of God navigating temptation and fear and grief and trauma and even death with us.
And it’s also the story of God celebrating with us: turning water into wine, going to wedding parties, laughing with his young disciples, rejoicing over miracles, celebrating holidays like we’re doing right now.
The story of Jesus is the story of a God who isn’t found out there, stoic and unreachable, but the story of a God who’s found most clearly in the mundane. In a manger, born to a poor young woman who got pregnant before she was married and her new husband. Celebrated by working class shepherds and foreign kings and farm animals.
God is the author of life, so it only makes sense that we would find God in the midst of life.
That’s Good News.