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Isaiah 9:2, 6-7; 11:1-6
John 1:1-14, 16
God gave birth to the world, and then, much later, Godself was born into the world God so loves—which is to say, into our world—as one of us.
God with skin on, Love with arms and legs and all the human realities of hunger and pain, love and ecstasy, wonder and woe, disease and death, compassion and cruelty came into our world as vulnerable as a newborn babe—tiny and helpless, shocked and squealing at having been delivered from the glory of heaven and the safe darkness of the womb into the messy, smelly, and amazing corporeality of life on this beloved earth.
These are the fundamental truths of the Christmas story, the essential elements of a faith that asks us to trust in a Love so compelling and unconditional, so selfless and self-giving, that it would become one of us so that we might know the fullness of life for which we were created. So that, in the fullness of our humanity, we might be more like God, which is to say, like Love itself.
It’s hard to understand, I know.
Which is why, for the past few weeks, we have been talking about how this kind of Love came to be, and what is has to do with us. Why we need this Love and why it feels so scary to give ourselves over to it.
Which is why we have these wonderful stories. Which is why we speak in what starts out as metaphor—darkness and light, shoots and branches, wolves and lambs, angels and shepherds and stars, Word and flesh—and then becomes, through the stories and our own lives, so real as to make our hearts ache for the want of it.
This is the gift of Love made flesh, the gift of Love With Us. A gift so astoundingly perfect that we want to wrap it in pretty paper and put a bow on it. But the gift of Love With Us will not fit in any box; nor is it something we can admire from a distance.
No, the Gift of Love, the Love that is ever with us, comes to change us —to heal us and make us whole, to bring down the powerful and lift up the lowly, to make enough good trouble that all creation will know justice and peace, to create a community of all Love’s beloveds that will make earth at least a little more like heaven.
It’s a lot to wrap our heads around. Then again, Love has always been more about the heart than the head. True love, even when fully aware of the costs, will give itself anyway. True love, knowing all too well the inevitability of death, still opens itself to loss and grief. And Love With Us, knowing full well the darkness of the human heart and the injustice of human systems, shines Light into every wounded corner of our hearts. Love With Us pitches its tent in every loveless valley and each hopeless patch of dirt on earth.
That darkness—which is, of course, our darkness—does not overcome the Light that Love With Us shines, but it does persist in our systems and within ourselves. At least it has up until now.
And so we keep telling the stories and singing the songs. We keep lighting the candles and following the star—to open ourselves to Light’s wonder, to let ourselves be changed by the miracle of Love With Us, to slow down long enough and open up fully enough to see and hear how God’s Love is with us.
Not only in the spectacular moments but also in the everyday. Not just when everything is going right, but also when it seems things couldn’t get worse. Not only when the arc is bending toward justice, but also when all the world has lost its way. Not only in the bright-shiny people and places, but especially in the least, the lost, and the left-out.
Always, and everywhere, Love is with us. Even now. Even here. Even when we don’t feel it. Even when we can’t see it. Even when we turn away from it and run the other way.
So gracious is this Love that it favors us in all our brokenness. So bold is this Love that it asks to move in with us. So meek is this Love that it awaits our consent. So transformative is this Love that, if we let it, it will make the last first, the weak strong, the broken whole, and the dead alive again.
This Love is God’s greatest gift to us and to the world. And it is also the gift that we share, the Love that makes us one, and a gift that we can give away in the form of lives given over to Love.
Do not be afraid, beloveds. This is the good news of great joy for all people: To us, this day, is born a savior, who is Christ the Lord, who is Love. Who is with us. Now and always.