It seems, people don’t trust people. We are always questioning motives. We dispute outcomes regardless of what “side” we are on. We would rather divide and conquer than unite and share success. Numerous polls and research tell us people are more divided than ever before. More depressed, isolated, fed-up, critical, and angry than ever before. People are tired of the struggle, overwhelmed by their situations, stressed out and pulled in every direction. Some even wondering where the hope is anymore or if there is hope in such darkness.
Of all the stories, illustrations, and clever vignettes, or the myriad of ways I could weave together a Christmas Eve sermon, the only message any of us need to hear tonight is really quite simple and speaks for itself. It is a story that has stood the test of time, surviving threats from government authorities and political rifts. It has remained intact through wars, recessions, stock market crashes, denominational splits, cultural shifts, church growth, church failures, picket lines, majority votes, good pastors, bad pastors, t.v. evangels, environmental debates, and much, much, much more.
This night we press the pause button on our busyness and the noise that surrounds us to hear again the most important message ever shared.
Read Scripture - Luke 2:8-12 NRSV
People of God, that is the message of Christmas. That is our hope in the darkness of this life and in our world.
“Fear not” Be not afraid. Stand with courage as you walk through the uncertainties of your life; as you seek answers in what feels like darkness, or navigate new waters. Stand firm as you find your way, make transitions, battle illness, face treatment, take on a new job, adjust to a new normal.
“Fear not, I bring you good news of great joy” I don’t know about you, but I think we could use some good news in the world today. The good news that breaks through our world is that God’s very self came to be with us; God’s very self came to be with you and me - to live among us - to walk alongside us, and see us through come what may. We gained access to the very presence and power of God that night in Bethlehem. And it happened in the only way God knew we would be open to it - a baby.
“I bring you good news of great joy for all people” - Dear Church, the good news of great joy is not only for you and me. The good news is far bigger than our labels, boxes, divisions, sides, limitations, or judgements we put on each other or the walls we construct between the “us” and “them”. It’s not our job to decide who is in and who is out; who gets to stand in the light and who is pushed to the dark.
“To you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” In the middle of our mess - our struggle, fear and shame comes the very presence of God in the form of a baby. Our sign of God’s greatness, power, and strength is wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger - a feeding trough for animals. Everything about Jesus turns what we thought we knew on its head. To the stable of humanity in all its meanness, finger pointing, fighting, and cynicism, God came that we might know love.
I wonder what darkness you might be experiencing this Christmas.
I wonder where you are in this journey of faith to Bethlehem.
I wonder where you see, feel, or hear God is in the darkness.
The birth of Jesus turns our perceptions of darkness on its head. No longer does darkness shroud us in fear and doubt. No longer do we have to walk in shame and anger. No longer do we have to be afraid and fight against the darkness but now we can sit with it - learn from it - come to understand its purpose in our lives - and ultimately recognize the flame of hope that flickers in our midst.
May all people everywhere come to know on this silent and holy night:
That there is not enough darkness in all the world -
The world of cancer
The world of abuse
The world of grief
There is not enough darkness in the world of racial violence, brokenness, addiction, hate, pain, or prejudice against anyone to extinguish the light of hope found in Jesus. Not then, Not now. Not ever. People of God, may the light of hope born long ago, continue to bring life, comfort, joy, and peace to you and to the world.
Pastor Jenothy Irvine