December 24, 2011

"Join the Journey"
Jason Crosby, preaching

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            Indeed, this night is a Holy Night.  It is not your typical Saturday evening along Frankfort Avenue.  It is a sacred Saturday evening.  With the aid of familiar songs, rituals, and readings we pause to recall the birth of Christ.  We stop to picture in our minds’ eye once again shepherds keeping watch on a peaceful night under a bed of brightly burning stars who get an unexpected visit from an angel.  We halt in order to imagine the holy family huddling together around a manger.  As we allow ourselves to get lost in the story of Christ’s birth, as our ears are filled with the lyrics, melodies, and harmonies of that accompany this evening, as we witness traditional Christmas Eve acts of worship, we may be overcome with sensations of peace and hope, joy and love.  We gather to participate in a close encounter with the divine and, hopefully, to be reminded of God’s good gifts that became more fully revealed when the Word became flesh. 

However, God’s up to something else tonight.  Just because tonight is fraught with familiarity, does not mean that God is content with complacency.  This night, ultimately, is about God inviting us to join the journey of radical, revolutionary, God-inspired, loving transformation.  Yes, this may be a quiet, holy night, but it is certainly not an uneventful night.

            God was on the move well before the birth of Jesus.  God has been intertwined in the course of history since the time before time.  This God-led expedition you are invited to join has included the likes of Adam and Eve, Noah, Moses, Abraham, Ruth, Debra, David, Isaiah, and Daniel.  In the days immediately before Jesus’ birth, God asked Jesus’ parents, Mary and Joseph, to join the journey.  The young, unwed, frightened, unassuming couple willingly agreed to play big roles for God’s sake, paving the way for Jesus’ birth. 

            The origins of this journey reach back well beyond the time of Jesus’ birth, but the birth marks a new phase in this journey.  The birth of Christ provided new insights on who God is and where God is taking those that journey with God.  The birth reveals . . .  that God . . .  invites all people to join the journey.  When God took on human form, God stated God’s desire to be accessible for all.  Our God is not a God who rules from on high.  Our God is a God who entered this world in the lowliest of places, so that all humanity, the mighty and the meek, may know and be in relationship with God.    

             This time of year is full of pressure.  We want everything to be just right.  We hope our children will have a magical Christmas morning.  Some of us hope that when the family gets together that peace prevails, not tension.  Believe me when I say, that I hope, that Christmas Eve and Christmas Day worship services run smoothly.  There’s a lot of pressure to make things perfect this time of year.  The first chapter of Matthew lists Jesus’ family tree in great detail before getting into that gospel’s birth narrative.  Rahab, a prostitute, and King David, an adulterer and murdered, are among those listed there.  This is the lineage from which our God elected to enter our world.  If Jesus were to gather around a table tomorrow for Christmas lunch with his family and friends, I envision Jesus breaking bread with crooked Wall Street tycoons, single mothers struggling to get by, homeless people, gay and lesbian folks who have been discriminated against, and addicts.  While there are good reasons to wish and pray that the festivities surrounding this time of year proceed in an orderly fashion, may that not preclude us from grasping the fact that our God dove head first into the messiness that is our lives to show us that God yearns for all of us to join God as God does God’s work in our world.         

            The birth also show that this journey is one governed by radical, revolutionary, transformative love.  Yes, for many this may be a silent night, a holy night, where all is calm, but in the midst of that tranquility and comfort, God is working to turn all we know on its head in the name of love.  As Isaiah prophesized, a light dawned with the birth of Christ.  That light renewed hope that one day the yoke of oppression that enslaves any person would be shattered That dawning light instilled a hope that every boot and garment soiled with the blood of battle would be burned once and for all. 

            God could have burst onto the scene roughly 2000 years ago, or at any time for that matter, and imposed God’s will.  Why, then, did God come to us in the form of a helpless baby born in a run-of-the-mill town?  God could have walked into the courts of Caesar Augustus and set things right that night.  Why, then, did God deliver the first birth announcement of Jesus to common shepherds?  God could have eliminated all darkness in one fell swoop.  Why, then, did God bring us light that is best represented in the form of a candle?  Jesus could have gotten off the cross.  Why, then, did he not do so?  I choose to believe that God refrained from flexing God’s muscles and making all things right in one powerful movement to show us the way to genuine, authentic peace, hope, joy, and love.  Gifts like these cannot be thrust upon a person.  Gifts like these, like love, only take root when one voluntarily accepts them in their heart of hearts.  God is bringing upheaval to our world, even tonight.  The baby Jesus reminds us that this revolution, however, will not come on the heels of the exertion of might or power.  This revolution is fueled with the loving transformation hearts by God’s tender, meek, graceful love.  The day when peace prevails, justice reigns, and love rules is coming, and it will arrive when we know and willingly accept God’s love in the depths of our souls. 

            Tonight our time of waiting during Advent comes to a close.  Soon, trees will come down and ornaments will be packed away.  It won’t be long before the Christmas season comes to a close.  For those walking in the way of Jesus, however, the journey is just now beginning again.  There is no better time to join God’s journey than on that day when we celebrate a birth, the birth of the one  who lived and died and rose again so that we may learn how to love.  You are invited to join the journey, as is everyone.  Along the way, your life and your world will be turned upside down by God’s transformative love, if you allow it.  Yes, indeed, this is a silent night, a holy night, a calm night.  But, those are perfect conditions for God to unleash God’s love and make big change in our hearts.  In remembering the birth of Christ, God extends to us an invitation for rebirth.  Will you join the journey?