Here we are. We are finished waiting. It is high time to get on with it and celebrate Christmas, all twelve days of it. The culture is already weary of Christmas or Excessmass as some are calling it before it has even arrived. The Christmas trees are already brown and will be by the curb by the weekend. The culture is already looking to the next festival of Hallmarketing. We, however, will give it our best effort to keep the celebrating going. Don’t forget the Feast of Saint John will be on the 28th at 6:00 in the evening followed by another, you guessed it, party!
Materialism is always the shadow side of the Feast of the Incarnation – of God becoming a material human being. We can become inordinately attached to our stuff. I heard recently of a very successful professional who parked his brand new Lexus in front of the office, ready to show it off to his colleagues. As he got out, a truck came along, too close to the curb, and completely tore off the driver’s door of the Lexus. The man immediately grabbed his cell phone, dialed 911, and it wasn’t more than 5 minutes before a policeman pulled up. Before the cop had a chance to ask any questions, the man started screaming hysterically.
His Lexus, which he had just picked up the day before, was now completely ruined and would never be the same, no matter how the body shop tried to make it new again. After the man finally wound down from his rant, the cop shook his head in disgust and disbelief. “I can’t believe how materialistic you are,” he said. “You are so focused on your possessions that you neglect the most important things in life.” “How can you say such a thing?” asked the man. The cop replied, “My God, don’t you even realize that your left arm is missing? It got ripped off when the truck hit you. “My God!” screamed the man, “WHERE’S MY ROLEX?”
I for one will not be telling you tonight that all the “stuff” that surrounds Christmass is evil. I am a Christian who reads the creation story, which ends with the words, “It was good, very, very good!” As Robert Farrar Capon says, “God made stuff, he has more of it than anybody and he likes it even more than we do.”
Materialism is a dead-end WHEN we begin to think that stuff is all there is AND that we are loved and valued in proportion to the amount of stuff we have. Tonight we celebrate the deep mystery of the Good News of God in Christ, namely, that God has become flesh, born of the Virgin Mary and entered history like any other human being.
The ordinariness of it all is troubling and the extraordinariness of it all is troubling. It just doesn’t make sense. It seems that it be either/or but never both/and. Nils Bohr the Physicist says that superficial truth says, either/or, but profound truth says both/and! We come to affirm that mysterious profound truth of both/and. Jesus the baby born two thousand and four years ago is fully God and fully human at the same time!
In Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures Through the Looking Glass, The White Queen advises Alice to practice believing six impossible things every morning before breakfast. It’s good advice. Unless we practice believing in the impossible daily and diligently, we cannot be Christians, those strange creatures who proclaim to believe that the Power that created the entire universe willingly and lovingly abdicated that power and became a human baby”
This is the season of “impossible things,” of: a Word that was with God from the beginning, and is now flesh, dwelling among us a baby who is born to be King paths being forged through the wilderness a virgin who is also a mother a coming that is past, present, and future and the opportunity to know God the Father, through the One who is and was and shall be forever.
John Polkinghorne writes, “The mystery of our redemption . . . proceeds not from the outside by illumination, but from the inside by participation. We need transformation not information.” We have enough information already. The human heart is complicated and troubled. On this night people all over this planet are in trouble, sickness and hardship. Many are divided by strife conceived of ancient hatreds. To the shame of us all, some that believe that Jesus is the Christ are divided by the very belief that should unite them and us in a common joy.
Many of us come here tonight with a slow leak in our souls. We perhaps thought that we would be different by now. We thought that we would have achieved more, done greater things and made a greater splash. We are a year older. We are beginning to realize that none escape the ravages of time, no even us!
The gift of Jesus, the Christ born in a manger is not just a mythological figure designed to express a deep longing of our hearts. Polkinghorne says, “The Logos is not a mythological theory but a crucified man.” We come tonight believing that the crucified man that rose from the dead was once a baby.
So Christmas really is not JUST for children. The wonder of a child at this event is part of it of course, but the greater part is for adults who are a little tattered by now by life. This is a time to be still and remember that the faith we hold says that in the end all things will be made well. The faith we proclaim says that since the birth of Jesus, heaven and earth are joined.
God has come and lived among us in the flesh. We are not alone, even when we feel alone. Bethlehem, which in the Hebrew tongue means, house of bread, was the place that God chose to send the bread of heaven. That same bread of heaven is ours every time we come to this table for communion with the risen Lord.
So we gather tonight to hear the good news of the saviors’ birth. Tonight we celebrate the good news that heaven and earth are joined. God has come and dwelt among us in the flesh, making the material holy. We are not alone. C. S. Lewis once wrote, “What a terrible place the world would be, if it were always winter and never Christmas.” Well for once it is winter in Memphis and it is also Christmas in Memphis and we are not alone. O come let us adore him!
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit! Amen.