Will it still be Christmas? If all the things we’ve ever believed about Christmas turn out not actually to have happened? Are we having Christmas here tonight? Or are we simply going through the motions?
The answer is…yes. Yes, we are having Christmas tonight. We are creating Christmas by going through the motions. We create Christmas every time we retell the Christmas story.
The grown-up Jesus told stories all the time. In fact, a third of Jesus’ recorded teachings were stories. He was Jesus, right? He could have taught in whatever way he wanted…but he chose to teach in parables and stories. Why?
Let’s do an experiment. I’ll say something and you take note of how you respond to what I say. First statement: There are five points I want to share with you about the incarnation. Point number 1… Second statement: Once upon a time, an unmarried pregnant woman and her fiance traveled to Bethlehem. “While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her 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.”
Which statement grabbed your attention? Which statement put you to sleep? Exactly. Jesus told stories because stories draw us in; they invite us to think and to feel. Cherie Harder, president of the Trinity Forum, said this: “Arguments may form our opinions, but stories form our loves.” She added, “Stories ask us to enter another world — which usually has the result of broadening or disrupting our own.”
In non-pandemic times, people pack churches on Christmas Eve. As one person has said of so-called Chreasters, people come to church on Christmas and Easter because those are the only parts of the story they know. And that’s terrific. It’s so good to see all of you here! And for those who are joining us online, WELCOME!
It’s nice to come to church–or to tune in online–to hear the Christmas story, but here’s the good news: we don’t have to leave the story here! In fact, if the Christmas story is to broaden or disrupt our worlds, we must take the story with us when we leave tonight. Tonight isn’t simply a sweet drama or performance. Tonight is an invitation to take the story with us, to continue acting out the story of how God’s love was born into the world.
A reminder of what we heard in the drama earlier:
Perhaps there were only one or two shepherds there when Jesus was born. Perhaps there weren’t any. But it does not change this: Jesus still comes to welcome the poor, to include the marginalized into his circle of love.
Every time we tell the story, Christmas happens. It is Christmas when we tell the world that God has come to earth. God is born among us when we tell the story in faith.
God is born as a vulnerable little baby, to parents, poor in wealth, but rich in love. God is born to show us what we can become as human beings. This very night, God comes again, still, to share with us the wonder and joy of life, and to open the door between heaven and earth.
Are we having Christmas tonight? Oh, yes! Yes, we are. But perhaps the more important question is this, When we leave here tonight, will we continue creating Christmas? Will we continue telling the story about God’s radical and inclusive love? Will we continue to give birth to God’s love in the world?
Tonight, the play ends…but the story goes on. How will you share it?
In the name of our God, who creates us, redeems us, sustains us, and hopes for our wholeness. Amen.