Christmas Eve 5:00 pm
We are often surrounded by darkness God of both night and day. For it is darkness that shows what light can be. When we search for you even as Joseph searched for a birthing room, let us welcome the darkness of the cave that light may shine when we least expect it. Amen.
Many of us here this night know about depression know about being in the dark both physically and spiritually. The promise of God through the prophet Isaiah is a promise of movement from darkness to light. For it is a promise from death to life, a promise of deliverance from oppression to perpetual peace. A promise given in the past that still lives into the future which is where we are.
Mary experienced a promise that is being fulfilled even as we listen. A child will be born to you and you shall name him Emmanuel meaning God with us. The birth of Jesus is set intentionally by our gospel writer within the context of the world of the hated Roman empire. Darkness moving to light. A birth situated in the depth of oppression. And this birth, as well as the one intimated in Isaiah, is reason for both celebration and joy.
The problem is we hear this Scripture every year and we don’t really listen. Instead we have our minds on singing the beloved carols correctly, or saying the right words of the liturgy, or well beyond the confines of this church to home, family, cooking, gifts.
But listen!!! Both Isaiah and Luke invite us to see a promise of justice and righteousness. Looking from the past into what can be for the future; Mary and Joseph’s as well as our own. Promises set centuries ago that still may hold true in this century. We are about to move from the 2010’s into the 2020’s. How is our spiritual eyesight moving as well? Can we not see this birth is given for us? Those shepherds,
the filthy, viewed as liars and thieves receive the announcement first. Not King Herod hidden away in his royalty, not even the innkeeper trying to keep up with all his guests.
Certainly not the Roman officers receiving pittance from the Israelites come to pay taxes. No, shepherds in the field. In the nighttime of their day they are astounded by the light of angels. They who keep watch, they who are more awake at night than in day. These are the ones who move, are moved, from darkness to light and beyond.
The angels say to them that this child is the savior ‘even Christ the Lord’. Savior, one who seeks out the lost. Those shepherds know about seeking out the lost, the lambs wandering away in the dark who can only be found in the light. Are we not like those little lambs? We wander away from God into the darkness of our own being only to find there is a light shining somewhere into the future to which we must turn. God will come to us more in darkness than in light for in light we see distractedly. God needs the darkness for us to be able to focus and to move from our own past into what can possibly be a future filled with justice, righteousness, peace. For in the birth of a babe
in a stinking and dark stable, from the socially unacceptable shepherds comes the promise of salvation. Not just for you and I but for centuries, generations of people
past, present and future. That’s why we’re all here tonight. It’s both memories and hope. Remembering Christmas past to be able to celebrate Christmas present
and hope for next year’s celebration. But like Mary and Joseph we cannot stay in the dark. We must move into light which also means moving into action. We are the workers for peace and justice now; we are the ones to shoulder God’s promise of
righteousness to us and the generations who follow. The world is a messy place
and we want to hide from it most of the time. But this night, this Christmas Eve and Day God chooses to break in and grant us light so we might be the messengers of such good news. Good news into the havoc of life, that is found in emergency rooms
homeless shelters, broken hearts, struggles for justice. God’s love causes chaos to pause just for a moment so we can move into the light of that love and both keep it in and give it out. We need darkness to see light; may this night be that movement for you and for me. Amen.