Tonight is the last night==tonight we light the 4 advent candles and the center white Christ Candle.
"In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered.
Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
[Light the Christ candle.]
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for see -- I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, 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."
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors."
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us." So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. (Luke 2:1-20, NRSV.)
All: Come, Lord Jesus. Amen.
So many times I've heard these stories told--are they correct? are they pieced together? are they just stories? decidedly so, but does this diminish the need to hear the story, to live it, to learn it, to love it, to tell it? No.
Can you say, without a genuine smile, "for unto you this child is born." I sure can't. Maybe it's because my sister is having a baby soon, or the entire world I know is also having a baby soon, but the miracle of life is so captured here. The child is not brought into a perfect world, but a world of love, and devotion. There are the bare amount of gifts, the parents are scared, and God sends someone to them and says "Be not afraid." No, I'm not implying that every child born is the Messiah, but that this story expemplifies some of the struggles and hardships that we all face. Every birth, every child, every one of us is part of the creation, part of this Divine story. God looks at each of you and announces, "Glory to God in the highest! Peace on earth among all."
"Do not be afraid" this Christmas--stand before your (occasionally annoying family) and love and cherish them. Know that because of each of them you are able to be you. Take time this holiday season to search for that spark among your families--even after you've been hanging out for 2 days staright and you want to kill someone. (this is not the peace the big G is after.) Look at their faces and think about the miracle of their birth--every face. Not just those who profess Christianity, but every face contains that spark. Sometimes it gets clouded, sometimes it's hard to see, but it's there. (It's like in Hook when Peter goes back to Never Neverland and is grown up and fat and the kids don't recognize him for a bit.) That's reverant, right?
I wish you all many holiday blessings, many joys, many ups and many downs--and in all of this to remember the miracle and the glory of the season.