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John 1:1-5, 14, 16
Christmas Eve was fast approaching, and we had a fabulous pageant in the works, complete with accomplished actor-directors, an original script, and a cast of, well, tens. What we did not have was . . . a baby. That was too bad, really, since a baby is kind of central to the Christmas story.
But we are nothing if not creative. And we are progressive in our theology. While we believe absolutely in the meaning of the Christmas story, while we are comforted by its symbols and inspired by its truths, we’re not overly concerned about the literal details. After all, even the writers of Matthew and Luke disagree about the details.
So: no baby, no problem. We would go outside the box. We would go big on symbolism. We would major in metaphor and imagery. We would be true to scripture.
And, so, when it came time for the birth, when, under normal Christmas Eve pageant circumstances, Mary would cradle a baby (or at least a doll), our big reveal showed Jesus to be . . . a light. You know: the Light in the darkness, the Light of the world and all that. Weren’t we clever?
Um, not so much.
Truth be told, I can’t remember what kind of light—whether it was a lantern, a flashlight, or something else. Truth is, I think my mind has probably blocked out the details.
Because Christmas is not about symbolism; it is about love. A love so all-encompassing that it dissolves the boundaries between heaven and earth, human and divine. A love so powerful that it is willing to become powerless and vulnerable. A love so relentless in its pursuit of the beloved that it becomes the beloved. A love so extravagant and shiny that it draws angels and stars, smelly riff-raff and wealthy wise ones. A love so gracious that it favors us in all our brokenness. A love so bold that it asks to move in with us. A love so meek that it waits for our consent, our “let it be.” A love so transformative that it will make the last first, the weak strong, the broken whole, and the dead alive again.
That is the miracle, the mystery, and the scandal of Christmas: That it comes in a fragile human body, of a female human body, to reveal our true divine nature, to reveal to us that we are children of God.
And the greatest wonder of all is that the miracle and the mystery come again and again and again.
Then: in a baby born in a barn to a young woman and her obedient husband, all of them about to become political refugees. Now: in a young child crossing the ocean in a flimsy raft. Now in a Muslim family walking thousands of miles in search of a new home. Now in African American mothers who fear for their children’s lives. Now in a traumatized veteran. Now in the homeless guy on the corner. Now in the adult child who makes one bad choice after another. Now in an addict. Now on the wrong side of the Separation Wall in Bethlehem. Now in a prisoner at Guantanamo. Now in a transgender woman. Now in that person you can’t bear to forgive. Now in that person who really doesn’t like you. Now in every conceivable “other.” Now in every baby about to be born.
And now in you. And you. And you, favored one.
So come, let us behold him. O come, let us adore her. O come, let us welcome them, saying, “Here am I, make your home here, in me. Yes, of course, I have room. Here is my best room. Here I am, rejoicing in the One whose Love has done great things for me. Here I am, waiting and believing that God’s justice will roll down like waters, bringing down the powerful and lifting up the lowly. Here I am, counting on God’s mercy, watching for God’s coming, making room for the impossible, receiving grace upon grace. Here I am, blessed among God’s children, for my Lord has come to me, inviting me to risk incarnation, empowering me to become fully human. O come, O Come, Emmanuel. Here I am.”
The Light of Christ has come into the world. The light of all people is his human-divine life, and still it shines in the deep darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it.
Greetings, favored ones! The Lord is with you!