Christmas Eve Meditation
The PBS news magazine, Religion and Ethics News Weekly, recently reported on a significant crime problem: the theft of the baby Jesus from untold outdoor nativity displays. As she reported the problem, the anchor also promised a “potential solution.”
Being a good, solid religious news show, well-versed in all matters of religion, I thought I knew what solution they would propose— don’t put the baby Jesus out until Christmas Eve! I’m still convinced that all those Jesus thieves are secret members of the liturgical police. They are saving the world from liturgical incorrectness! Put the baby Jesus out when he’s supposed to come, there would be no need for the messianic thievery.
Thinking the religious world finally was getting on board with a practical solution to the mass kidnapping of baby Jesuses, I was disappointed to hear the actual solution. “Brickhouse Security has developed a small GPS tracking device that can be attached to the baby Jesus figurine. If someone steals it, the device alerts the owner with a text or email and the authorities can track where it went. Brickhouse is distributing the device for free to churches and other qualifying non-profits. The program is called “GPS Jesus.” It can be used for Santa and Rudolph or other holiday figures as well. But the baby Jesus seems to be the most popular among holiday thieves.”
I find this whole obsession with knowing the precise location of the baby Jesus, Emmanuel, God-with-us, fascinating. It’s like this is the one time of year when we can have a little control over where God-with-us is…God-with-us is right there, in the manger, in the stable, right there between Mary and Joseph, right where he’s supposed to be. When the baby Jesus isn’t where he’s supposed to be, something feels incomplete, unfinished, unwhole.
Let me say that again. When the baby Jesus—God-with-us—isn’t with us, something feels incomplete, unfinished, unwhole. When God-with-us goes missing, it leaves a gaping hole in our lives.
But I bring you good tidings of great joy! We don’t need a GPS to find Jesus! No APBs will be necessary this Christmas Eve night because God-with-us is not missing! God-with-us is here, has been all evening—in the Scriptures read, in the songs and carols sung, in our togetherness, in the silence, in the candlelight… In fact, God-with-us shows up every time we open our eyes and our hearts to the divine presence in our lives.
So, yes. Go ahead..it’s okay to look—the baby Jesus is there, right where he’s supposed to be—in the manger, in the stable, right between Joseph and Mary. But I also invite you to look around you…because God-with-us isn’t only in that tiny piece of pottery. God-with-us is everywhere. All we have to do is look.
Thanks be to God!
Loving God, we thank you for this night and for the best story of our whole Christian faith: the one that reminds us that you loved us so much you wanted to become one of us and to come live with us in our real lives every day.
Remind us again, God, that if your story is to continue—just like tonight—every single one of us has a role to play. If the sad and lonely are to feel better—we have to do our part. If the poor and homeless are to get what they need– we have to do our part. If people are to learn about how much you love them–we have to do our part.
Help us always to do our part in the ongoing story of your love for all people, God…but most of all, God, we thank you for doing your part. Now we join together in praying the Lord’s Prayer…
Prayer of Confession (It’s not a traditional confession, but it felt important…)
The day is here! Christmas! We’ve heard the Christmas story—several times. We’ve been to lots of parties. We’ve sung lots of songs. The question remains, though, whether we have truly received the gifts God offers: The gift of presence. The gift of light. The gift of love.
In this moment of silence, the invitation is to receive—down into the depths of your being—these true gifts of Christmas.
Assurance of Grace (We receive God’s grace.)
One fact remains that does not change: God has loved you, loves you now, and will always love you. This is the good news that brings us new life. Thanks be to God.
Christmas Day Meditation
We Protestants like our words, don’t we? As one theologian has said, “we are a word-afflicted species.” (Marjorie Suchocki) We like to keep things in our heads…creeds, Scriptures, faith. We like to understand things, read books about them, proclaim words about them…
But let me ask this: How many of you on the day after your child was born pulled out a book to read? How many of you on the first full morning of your child’s new life sat down to write an analysis of the effects of childbirth on you or your spouse? How many of you set out to do a comparison and contrast between your child’s birth experience and the births of other children?
No, today is not the time to analyze or dissect or make sense of or understand. Today is a time to bask in the wonder, the miracle of what has happened. This morning—in our sleep-deprived state—is the time to give thanks, to celebrate, to sing our joy, to hold the baby close and sing her lullabies.
So, as the Scriptures are read—don’t try to figure them out, just receive them. As we sing the songs, don’t debate the words’ meanings, just receive them. As we pray and sit in silence, allow the wonder and mystery of this new life to overwhelm you. Allow yourself to receive God’s good gifts to us today—the gift of presence, the gift of light, the gift of love.
Prayers of the People
Holy One, we thank you for this best story of our whole faith—the one that reminds us of how much you love us. You loved us so much, you wanted to be with us…and the best way to be with us was to become one of us. So that’s what you did.
Help us to receive the gift of your love, God. Help us to believe in the reality of your love for us. Help us to let ourselves feel just how delighted in us you are. We ask these things, God, because it seems like receiving the gift of you-with-us is about the best way ever to experience true Christmas.
Even as we receive the gift of your presence with us, we ask, too, God that you would help us to give the gift of presence to others—to those who are sad, to those who are lonely, to those who are suffering, to those who are hungry…and especially, God, for those who don’t know how very precious they are.
God, we thank you again—always—for the gift of your presence with us. Help us again—always—to appreciate that gift down to the depths of who we are.
And now we share together in praying the prayer taught us by our grown-up brother Jesus…