Sermon by The Reverend Christian Baron, Christmas Eve, Year A, Luke 2:1-14(15-20)
“While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child.”
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen…
I have a friend who lives in Holland. He’s a fishing friend. He’s a much better fisherman than I am, but I’m much more handsome.
One thing I’ve learned over the years is that when you have a friend that you fish with, you learn a lot about each other. I mean…A lot.
That’s why he will never be invited to visit here… he knows too much about me.
But one early morning, as we sat and waited for fish to bite, I got to hear about a fascinating event in his life.
You see, he and his wife had been married for several years.They were hard-working folks; he worked a manufacturing job and she worked a daytime office job.
She had been having some medical problems and they were both pretty concerned. The doctors had a hard time figuring out what was going on. Maybe you’ve been there.
There is a problem… something isn’t right… but nobody can figure out what is wrong and can, therefore, not figure out what course of action to take.
So, my friend had to miss work one day to take his wife to the ER because of her intensely sharp, piercing abdominal pain.
They monitored her but then sent her home a few hours later.
For a young couple, you can imagine how scary that is.
A few weeks later, she was experiencing the same kind of pains and they prepared themselves for another night in the ER. When they got to the hospital, they ran more tests.
They waited for the results, and finally, the doctor came into the room.
He closed the curtain asked them a few questions and then said,
“Congratulations… you, folks, are having a baby.”
This was great news. They had been told that they were, most likely, unable to have a baby.
My friend said, “Great! When do you think the baby will arrive?”
“No, no…” the doctor said, “You are having this baby tonight… right now.”
Believe it or not, I have heard of this happening before. I’ll bet you have too.
Each time I wondered, how could that be possible?
And I won’t go into the signs and symptoms associated with many pregnancies, let’s just say, none of the “usual” markers were present for this case.
And isn’t that kind of like God, in all her glory, to surprise us, in the most unexpected, liberating and yet terrifying of ways?
You see, my friend didn’t go to work that night… or the next night. In fact, he canceled a lot of his summer plans.
He had planned to fish two weeks in the summer. He had planned to take a trip with his wife to an exotic beach…
But everything changed on that snowy December night.
No, he called his boss from the hospital to make them aware of the fact that he wouldn’t be in today or tomorrow. Maybe not for a couple of weeks.
Big changes were in the works. In fact, for them, everything had changed.
You see, sometimes you can’t prepare yourself for the intrusion of a baby. You can try, but anybody who has had a baby or who knows somebody who has had a baby understands that no matter how much you plan… no matter how much time you spend picking out nursery paints… no matter how diligent you are in choosing the best diaper service or watching parenting videos or how dialed in you are to the recent edition of the book, “So you’re having a baby.”
You just can really be ready for this new reality…
I recall sitting in the hospital after we had our first baby. At the hospital, they made us watch videos. We practiced changing a couple of diapers. They charted things and then all of the sudden, they said, “Well, you guys can go home now.”
I remember thinking, “You’re crazy! You… are… crazy! You can’t let me take this tiny human being home. There is no way you can trust me with this kind of responsibility.”
Because a baby is unpredictable. They are unreasonable. They are com-plete-ly dependent…
The are in need of everything.
They need to be nourished.
They need to be held.
They need to be fed.
They need to be changed…
They need healthcare.
They need adults to interpret their needs and desires…
They need. They need… they need… Babies need.
And just like when you were a baby… just like when I was… just like our children and our friend’s children… Babies need to be cared for so that they can flourish. That is how things are set up for human beings. It takes a looooong time for human babies to become self-sufficient… a loooong time… That system of dependence and flourishing and need is ingrained in our DNA… ingrained in who we are…
And God, brilliantly, chose to use that… to use that ingrained archetypal way of being, to relate with all that He created.
So, as Christians… and especially as Episcopalians, we celebrate the Incarnation of God on Christmas. We celebrate how we have come to understand the birth narrative and what it means.
We celebrate the historical event when Mary, gave birth to Jesus. That was an actual historical event. It wasn’t the author’s interpretive perspective… it happened…
And, Since that night, the Church has formed opinions and theologies and doctrines to try to make sense of it all.
We have formed councils and made denominations…all in an attempt to quantify what that birth means and what it doesn’t mean.
We have circled the wagons over the virgin birth and ironically, have killed those who disagree with us. We have gone “all in” on certain ways of understanding that birth and how God has chosen to interact with humanity. We have fought about this baby.
Don’t get me wrong… the doctrine of the virgin birth is important… the conversation is important because it attempts to answer some deep theological questions…
And I think it does answer some questions… but what I think is even more important than that… is our understanding of
God reaching out to humanity in an attempt to understand us by putting on flesh. In an attempt for us to understand God and what it means to embody goodness… to embody the divine.
The real beauty of the incarnation is that it is mimicked in our everyday life if we pay attention.
In your life and mine.
The very nature of the Incarnation is that you and that I can, and will, give birth to the Divine. Give birth to goodness itself…
Sometimes the incarnation happens by surprise and sometimes it is planned. Sometimes the nursery is painted and ready and sometimes the birth of God is a complete surprise and result of an emergency. God is coming… in fact, God is here in your cradled arms… and nothing will ever be the same again.
Merry Christmas St. Philip’s.
Merry Christmas and Congratulations.
Whether you planned for it or not, tonight you will walk home with a baby.
It will be a bundle of hope and joy.
It will start small… but it will grow.
It will need to be fed and it will make a mess.
It will comfort you at times and make you want to pull your hair out at other times.
But take comfort… you are a co-creator with the divine.
You are being sent out into the world with a great responsibility.
And may this tiny baby grow up to bring peace and goodwill to all. God knows the world needs it.
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” AMEN.