Click on the play button above to hear audio of this Sermon.
John 1:1-5, 14, 16
As they made the long journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, a hard journey mandated by the Roman emperor, a humiliating journey that with every step reminded them of their powerlessness, Mary and Joseph would have had every reason to be both angry and afraid.
Angry at the injustice and poverty that circumscribed their daily lives. Angry at the emperor in Rome and his minions in Israel, who ordered them here and there like pieces on a game board. Angry that the corrupt prospered while good people suffered.
And as for fear—well, how could they not be afraid? They lived under military occupation, and the signs of oppression were everywhere, from the soldiers and their checkpoints to the hanging crosses that lined the main road passing through Jerusalem. And childbirth was always a dangerous business. Would their baby survive? Would Mary?
“Do not be afraid,” the angels had told them. But what do angels know of politics and power? How could they understand the lives of Mary and Joseph, who, even more than us, lived in times that told them with every breath, “Be afraid. Be very afraid”?
Do not be afraid—because we’re going to have a baby? Seriously?
It would be as if we were undocumented immigrants living in renewed fear of deportation, and the angels said, “Here. Here is a number you can text when la migra is closing in. Be not afraid.”
It would be as if we gave our money and time and resources to the struggle for justice, and the angels said, “Here. Here is a homeless man wearing a hoodie against the bitter cold. Be not afraid.”
It is as if we worked night and day to eradicate racism, as if we dug deep every day for the courage to live out our true identity, and the angels said, “Here. Here is an African American trans woman. Be not afraid.”
It is as if we wept daily in our work for the restoration of the earth, and the angels said, “Here. Here is a dirt-poor Native American camped out on the frozen tundra of North Dakota. Be not afraid.”
It is as if we had given our lives to the struggle for peace, and the angels said, “Here. Here is an orphaned child in Aleppo, bloody, dazed, and traumatized. Be not afraid.”
It is as if we were lonely and lost, heartbroken and looking for love and community, and the angel said, “Here. Here are some vegetables and a chef’s knife. Make some soup for the hungry, and be not afraid.”
It is as if we, too, were angry and afraid. As if we, too, were despairing, walking in darkness, searching desperately for the light, looking and working for a way out of a frightening political reality, a way through and beyond all the oppression, injustice, and messiness of this life, and the angels said, “Here. Here is bread broken like so much flesh and bone. Here is wine poured out like lifeblood. Here is a cross. Be not afraid.”
This makes no sense, we think.
Christmas makes. no. sense.
It is not the way of the world, the way of material success and political power. It is not the way of what can be seen or what we think we can control. It is not about what we can earn or what we should do.
Christmas is, instead, about something God does, in God’s own way: in and through the vulnerable and the marginalized, in and through us.
The love of Christmas, the miracle of Christmas, is something that is given to us.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ, the Lord.
Behold, God is with you—even here, in the most unlikely places, even now, in the darkest of times. Behold, the Word that is Love has taken on flesh and moved into your sketchy neighborhood. Behold, God’s Love made Flesh is hanging out in all the wrong places, just hoping for a glimpse of you.
This Love is our greatest hope and our deepest joy.
Behold, wake up, open your hearts, stay woke, for see—God is bringing good news of great joy and justice for all the people. Can you hear it? Do you see it?
It will show up in the most surprising places and unexpected forms. It will wake you up in the middle of the night and demand to be fed. It will disturb you to no end. It will require all you have, and more still. It will violate all the rules and cause no end of trouble. It will break your heart and turn your life inside-out and right-side-up. It will, if you let it, be born in your heart.
Do not be afraid.