December 25, 2016
Christmas Day, First Sunday of Christmas
Rev. Dinah Haag, preaching
In Iceland, in a tradition that translates to “Christmas Book Flood,” books are exchanged on Christmas Eve, and people spend the rest of the reading. Some take their books to bed along with some chocolate, and I’m sure others curl up by fires and what, they say in Danish, hygelig - which means cozy.
Since I’m guessing that not so many of us stayed up reading all evening, I figured that we would sort of tap into that practice, First Congregational style.
God in a cow shed! In our eyes, God is always doing the unexpected thing; not because it is God who is hooked on novelty, but because God’s kind of love is extremely rare in our love-deprived, world community. We would not have anticipated Christmas. We wouldn’t have expected that God’s most special thing in the whole of history of life on this planet would take place in a cowshed at Bethlehem. But it was so.
Nor would we have expected that God’s special thing would take place in the vulnerability of yet another tiny human baby. But it was so.
Babies are plentiful in our world, thousands upon thousands born every day, but God’s pure wisdom planned another; one more human infant in whom God’s true-love could be born among us full of unimaginable truth and grace. Thank God, it was so.
Tonight we celebrate the hallowing of our human flesh. Tonight our potential strengths are uncovered and our weakness overcome. Tonight our self-respect is recreated by that common yet unique baby. Tonight our faith is renewed as the unexpected God does his unexpected thing by which the whole world is in profound sense reborn through one more human baby.
With that birth, the world is never the same again; never the same valley of broken hopes, never the same stony field of loneliness. Never the same barren hilltops where despairing souls build altars to an unknown God.
Tonight we once more celebrate that True-love has broken loose on planet earth. The very soul of God wears our flesh and shares our laughter, bears our smell and shares our toil, dares our dreams and shares our frustration.
With the resilience of Divine grace, with the light which cannot be put out, with the joy which no one can take from us, God comes among us gasping a first human breath and making a little crying protest at the apparent coldness of existence.
It is all so wonder-fully odd, yet so wonder-fully right for this kind of world. That is why we come at the midnight hour in anticipation; that the unexpected God may meet us again in the stable-like stuff of our common experience. O come, o come, Immanuel!