For all the pomp and circumstance of Christmas Eve, I have to think that maybe these quiet Christmas morning services are really what it’s all about. Like Linus, standing alone in the spotlight, reciting the Christmas story, this morning’s service eschews all the glitz and glamor that has come to be associated with Christmas simply to focus on what is important – what is real.
“For unto us is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Amidst the twinkling lights, the torn paper, and the Carpenter’s Christmas album on repeat, this morning we pause to give thanks for a rather inauspicious birth that forever changed the world. Mary and Joseph were nobody folk from a nowhere town. They were forced to travel, against their will and despite Mary’s being great with child, in order to be counted in a census that was meant only to add to their tax burden. They were late to arrive, and left to spend that most important night in a feel stall. Lo and behold, it was time for the baby to be born. As Jan Funk so wisely suggested in her Advent Devotion from a week or so ago, last night was anything but quiet. Birth suites, no matter how finely appointed or carefully named by marketing experts, are still places filled with struggle, pain, noise, and of course, blood, sweat, and tears.
Now, we find ourselves in the morning after. Mom and Dad, worn out from the long day that is past, are likely doing as little as possible. Sleep when the baby sleeps, is as good advice now as it would have been back then. As they try to rest and take stock of what is next for this little bundle of joy that came without an instruction manual, I’m guessing there were long periods of silence, interrupted only by Jesus’ need to eat or the cattle’s desire to move about. In the silence of this morning’s service, perhaps we can find ourselves in that feed stall, alongside the holy family, in awe of what God is up to in this tiny, fragile, child who, in eight days, will be named Jesus, Hebrew for God saves.
Last night, as the Shepherds watched over their flocks, God entered the world. In the darkness, on the margins, in the midst of turmoil, God showed up to save the world. Today, and every day that follows, we are invited to live into that salvation. We are invited to sit in the quietness of the morning after and to listen for the still small voice of God. We are welcome to sit beside Mary as she ponders all of what has transpired over the last nine months in her heart.
As we sit with Mary, it seems to me that our reading from Isaiah comes into focus. As we look upon the newborn child who will grow up to show us the way of justice and righteousness, it would behoove us not to get too lost in the fragility of this baby boy. Rather, we who know the fullness of the story of Jesus who will be called the Christ, should use this moment of quiet reflection as an opportunity to remember our call as his disciples to be about the work of the Prince of Peace. In this time of refreshment and renewal, we should be steeling ourselves for another year of working toward the dream of God. The zeal of the Lord brought our Savior into this world on Christmas night, and that same zeal calls us ever forward, striving ever toward the Kingdom of Heaven, where every human being is treated with dignity and respect, where love never fails, and where joy is freely given to all. The zeal of the Lord bring with it good news of great joy, my friends, for unto us is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.