Isaiah 9: 2-6 As If It Were Dawn- A Christmas Eve Sermon
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined. You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder. For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire. For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Powerful names for such a small child. However they aren't the only ones we use for Jesus. Some others given to this tiny baby through the ages- "King of Kings," "Lord of Lords," "The Redeemer," "Lord of Hosts," "The Great Physician," "Strong Tower," "Emmanuel," "The Vine," "Bread of Life," and many more. But my favorite is "The Way." The Way is a name that Jesus called himself. in fact the earliest followers of Christ were not called CHristians; they were known as Followers of the Way. It is as if Jesus were not just the destination, but the journey. The Way- Jesus… is the Journey. The word Bethlehem itself means ‘House of Bread,’ and what more fitting name for the birth place of the ‘Bread of Life’? Mary and Joseph's trip could not have been easy. Mary was ready to deliver a child; Joseph (hopefully) trying to make her a bit more comfortable… both of them walking in the hope of a promise… a vision… a dream.
When they arrive in Bethlehem the city is crowded- too many people, and not enough room for everyone to find adequate shelter. And although Mary and Joseph go from place to place searching for somewhere to stay, there is, as the text tells us, "no room in the inn." Yet Jesus will be born this night, and in the end, his birthplace would be a stable. A stable…
We tend to look at this scene and think, 'how tragic- that the Son of man was not welcomed at the Inn or some other more suitable place- that no one could make room for him; surely someone could have taken pity on poor Mary… or seen the desperation in Joseph’s eyes.' Yet… In the end… freshly cut straw and hay and oats and wood and mud and would be the backdrop. Sheep and goats and cows and donkeys and barn sparrows would serve as witnesses. Stars and moons would add lighting to the scene. In the end… the very elements of God’s creation would be God’s choice setting for Christ’s birth. What a beautiful testament to the goodness and the sacredness of creation. And in the words of William Shakespeare, (paraphrased) that night, the rooster crowed all night long, as if it were dawn! Angels sang! The earth rejoiced!
Throughout Advent we prepare for Christ’s birth. Our homes are made ready- lights and trees and candles and cookies--- We’ve shopped and cleaned and de-cluttered; we want to make room for the Christ child in our homes and in our lives. And in this one way we show the world we are getting ready; or at least our neighborhood. And while there is certainly nothing wrong with celebrating in this way (I’m always up for a party), whether we have lights up of not, Christ will still come. Whether we have a tree up of not, Christ will come. Whether we have shopped or cleaned or baked even one cookie, Christ will come. Whether we are ‘ready’ for Christmas or not, Christ will still come. That's kind of refreshing, isn’t it? That in the end, the calendar continues, amidst a backdrop of God’s own creation … in the end, the Creation, in all its goodness and sacredness, will usher in the birth of Christ. And ready or not, the rooster will crow all night long… the angels will sing… the earth will rejoice!
In our spiritual lives, Advent may not be so cut and dry. We often go through our own stages of preparation for the birth of Jesus… and we think of the birth of Jesus as the destination, instead of as the beginning of the Journey… we forget that Jesus is “the Way.” So we try to somehow prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ… what will it mean for us, and are our hearts truly ready to receive him? There are any number of books written on the subject. You can turn on any Christian TV program this time of year and someone will surely tell you exactly what you have to "do" to prepare your heart for the Christ Child. And I'm not faulting anyone for trying... Christ is the ultimate gift we can recieve.... so its only natural for us to try to get it right... to get our hearts right, our minds right, our hearts right... so we prepare. We vow to stop certain behaviors; we try to be nicer to each other. We try to read the Bible more during Advent, or go to church more, or pray more, or …at least try to think of God once in a while. "Maybe then," we think, "my heart will be closer to being 'acceptable' for Jesus... maybe I'll be ready to receive Him.... maybe..."
And sometimes we feel good that we are getting ourselves ready, and we say “I found the spirit of Christmas this year” and we whistle 'O Holy Night' as we go about our day, but many of us work at it year after year and still feel like we are missing someting. ANd when we continue this way, it becomes easy to think of ourselves as a failure. "I can't even stop (fill in the blank) behavior." "I can't even think one nice thought about so-and-so." "I'm just too messed up! I'll never get it right! I'll never be good enough for Christ to enter my heart!"
But here’s what I want to share with you this Christmas. There is nothing that you have to do in order to prepare your heart to receive Christ; there is nothing that you have to do, or try to be, or try to work at, or live up to in order for Christ to enter your heart. And do you know why? Because in the end, YOU are God’s creation. YOU are the righteousness of God In the end, YOU are the goodness and sacredness of God’s creation is God’s choice- YOU are the perfect backdrop for Christ to be born in you.
Christ will come, and whether you feel ready or not, or think your heart is right enough, or you are good enough or strong enough, or humble enough, you are God’s choice to receive the new life Christ can offer you this Christmas, and every day!
And the rooster will crow all night long… the angels will sing… the earth will rejoice!