“Feel the joy”
I don’t know about you Methodists <G>, but we Episcopalians have heard today’s gospel lesson before.
All right, that was a very bad joke. But I wonder, who here (raise your hands, please) who here has heard the story of Jesus’ birth before?
So you ALL know about the census, the trip to Bethlehem, the birth in a manger, the shepherds, angels, and singing… But do you feel the JOY of Jesus’ birth?
Luke gives us a very clear picture of the heavens rejoicing at Jesus’ birth. He says,
And suddenly there was … a multitude of heavenly host,
praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!’”
Before the end of the story, even the shepherds were feeling the joy. They were “glorifying and praising God” about all that had taken place.
We know this in our heads. But does your heart REJOICE today that Jesus is born? Perhaps, if the answer is “no” or “not yet,” you might say, “Jo, these events we hear about—that we BELIEVE in—happened long ago. OUR WORLD is broken, greatly damaged. Just turn on the news, you’ll hear of economic disaster, greed, racism, political divisiveness, and a host of other major ills. How can the – figurative – birth of even a Holy Child, for roughly the 2,000th time, be something to rejoice about?
I’ve given this question a lot of thought recently. In fact, the “so what” question was my Advent meditation. And here’s a piece of the only answer that makes sense to me: the Good News of Jesus’ re-birth is that Jesus came into this world, and God came “for me.” That’s what the angels said. “This is Good News of great joy for ALL the people.” For me and for each of you. To you and you and you and me is born THIS DAY a Savior, the Messiah, the Lord.
This isn’t just a historical event. The birth of God into our world is ongoing, and deeply personal. God is here for me, just as God is here for you.
God came, the first time and every time since, God comes today, and will come again, for each of us. Every year, every day, every time, and at the end of time. Christmas reminds us that we must continually and joyfully receive Christ into our lives. And because of God’s coming, we also show up for each other.
The answer to the “so what” question lies with and in each of us. What are we going to make of this birth? Will Christmas kindle our hope and joy anew? Will we accept the Christ Child into our lives, again?
I know that many of us are grandparents, if not also great-grandparents. We’re done, we think, with babies in our lives. Oh, we might enjoy babies for a bit, but we love to give the child back to its parents as soon as things bet demanding or, well, messy.
I hear this sort of thing in church all the time. “I did my part,” people tell me as they give the metaphorical “baby” back. “I did this when I was younger. Let someone else do whatever God-work needs to be done. Don’t you know my body doesn’t work well anymore?” Well, guess what. There’s no time limit to the Christ Child. We either accept him anew or we write him off. And when we accept Christ anew, we get new joy, new life—sometimes even when this earthly life is nearly over.
There’s a story from Resurrection’s first days, 50 years ago this year, about three women who lived here at The Hermitage. These women (Ethel Springer, Lucy Lee, and Edna Mooney) were not Episcopalian and they certainly were not young, yet somehow they reached out to our brand new church community. They shared their faith and vision with us in such a way that their vision became our vision. These were White women, in the 1960’s days of the Civil Rights movement, who knew this story of Jesus’ birth, who shared with our rather—military—early members, all White, that baby Jesus is for ALL people. They shared their joy in Christ with us, where this joy lives even today FOR ALL PEOPLE.
So here we are, to share our joy with you, and you with us, and our joy is this:
For unto us a child is born,
unto us a son is given, and
the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace.