I remember the days that both of my children came home from the hospital… both times I remember being overwhelmed with all sorts of emotions; with my first child, it was the ABSOLUTE, COMPLETE AND TOTAL panic of being a new parent who had absolutely no idea what I had gotten myself into; with my second it was the ABSOLUTE, COMPLETE AND TOTAL panic of being thrust into the world of special needs parenting and once again, having no idea what I had gotten myself into…
Babies do indeed change who we are…they change everything about how we act, what we do, our motivations… everything changes in an instant… and we never really quite know what we have gotten ourselves into…
Another thing that I have realized about babies and children, is how vulnerable they are, and we are… I remember looking at both of those babies and thinking… why, how am I being trusted with all of this? Who in their right mind thinks this is a good idea…
They were so vulnerable… and you know what else? So was I… and I still am… we all are… human beings are vulnerable… we are fragile… everything about us is able to be broken in some way… when spiritual or emotional violence is done to us, we hurt… sometimes we hurt so much we feel as though we will never heal. Those are the injuries that often hurt us most, and they are especially difficult when they are committed by the people we care about most in the world… I remember wishing that I could shield those precious babies from those kinds of hurts… as they both have grown, I know those kinds of hurts have just begun, and as a mother I am powerless against it… and they are vulnerable, as I am, as I live this life that is both wonderful and hurtful, beautiful and terrifying…
There is an antidote. There is something that gets us through the vulnerability, something that helps us to face the world and all that it throws at us… and tonight, we celebrate that amazing, and wonderful thing…. tonight we celebrate love…
The words from the prophet Isaiah ring in the air, “The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness–
on them light has shined.
You have multiplied the nation,
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as people exult when dividing plunder.
For the yoke of their burden,
and the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For all the boots of the tramping warriors
and all the garments rolled in blood
shall be burned as fuel for the fire.
For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Tonight beloved, we celebrate love… tonight for us, a child, has been born, a son has been given to us… God has come, not in the glorious splendor of a mighty king, but born as a child… helpless, vulnerable, needing protection and love; in the life of this child, God has placed himself into our hands, so that we might know the greatest love of all… the love of one who trusts us enough to let us love him….
Hard to imagine, isn’t it… somewhere deep in our hearts we whisper, no… go back… it’s not safe here. Wars… poverty… sickness… Go back… there’s too much to be afraid of….
But love is not afraid… love trusts… love allows us to be who we are… love knows the joy of community and of being together… love knows no limits… love simply loves… and so, a son is born, amidst the wars and bloodshed… a hungry baby comes into the dark night, needing food, needing shelter, needing to be held, needing to be loved… whose bright idea was this, anyway? Who thought we could be trusted to care for such a gift?
It was God’s bright idea… to come and live… to be vulnerable so that we wouldn’t have to do it alone…. to show us just how much we are trusted and loved by giving us God’s self to love in each other… we don’t always do it well… and there are times when it seems completely overwhelming… but for tonight, the earth breathes a deep sigh of love… the star is bright… our hearts are quiet, and we hold him close… tonight we know what love looks like… tonight, we rest in that love… we hold the child close, and he holds us too… there is much time for worry, some other time, but for tonight, we love… and maybe we learn to love ourselves a little too…the birth of this baby has changed us, has changed everything. Maybe in the gift of HIS vulnerability, we will be more comfortable with ours… perhaps peace on earth will be more than just a thing we put on christmas cards… perhaps, as we gaze at this baby, our hearts will be filled with his peace… may we be changed by his birth this holy night… may we know the gift of love that he is… I would like to close with a poem by Ann Weems…
WHAT DO I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS? — Ann Weems
What do I want for Christmas?
I want to kneel in Bethlehem, the air thick with Alleluias,
the angels singing that God is born among us,
In the light of the Star, I want to see them come,
the wise ones, and the humble.
I want to see them come bearing whatever they treasure
to lay at the feet of him who gives life.
What do I want for Christmas?
To see in that stable the whole world kneeling in thanks
for a promise kept; new life….
For in his nativity… we find ours.