“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. . . . 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.” Isaiah 9:2, 7
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. God created the land and the sea. God created every living thing–every plant, every tree, every flower, every fruit. God created every form of life that walks on the land, flies in the air, and swims in the sea. And God created us, humankind. God molded us like clay from the dust from the ground and breathed life into us. God created us, male and female in the likeness of God that God’s image might be present in the world.
In the beginning God walked on earth with humankind, but because humankind didn’t recognize that while they looked like God, they weren’t God, humankind had to leave that early paradise, the first earthly garden. But God didn’t leave humankind, even if humankind left God.
God continued to speak to humankind. God blessed humankind. But humankind didn’t always respond in kind. Humans killed one another and did all sorts of horrible things. So God flooded the earth so things could begin again, and then God promised to never do that again. God sought out a people who could show all of creation God’s desire for humankind. God gave to Abraham and Sarah and their descendents a promised land and showed them how to live. God promised to be God and claimed Abraham and Sarah as His own people.
When God’s people were suffering under enslavement in Egypt, God liberated them. When God’s people were without a home, God gave them a land of milk and honey. When their homeland was devastated, God helped them rebuild.
When humankind strayed again and again from God’s path, the path of life and peace, God sent humankind patriarchs and matriarchs, judges and sages, prophets and kings. Over and over and over again, God has inserted Himself into this world, into history. Over and over again, God has made His story our story and our story His.
Our Creator, the God we know from Scripture, is a God who acts, who is present, who cares. Our God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Mary, Joseph, Peter, James, Paul and every one of us here today is a God who is intimately a part of our lives. Yet, this is not always readily apparent to us.
Sure, we say that God is all around us and within us, but our awareness of God’s presence seems to come and go. Sometimes we can easily sense God and many other times it feels as though God is very far away, or perhaps even that God is not even there at all.
I think on this side of Eden, ever since humankind walked away from God, it can be very difficult to tell that God is even there. That is until Bethlehem. . .
A little over two thousand years ago, God gave us absolute proof that God is with us. God became one of us. Many religions tell stories of the Deity coming to earth. In these stories sometimes God comes in power like the wind or thunder and lightening. Sometimes God disguises Himself and pretends to be a human or an animal. This isn’t what God did over 2000 years ago. In a dirty, smelly cold barn in the middle of a backwater province of the Roman Empire, God actually became a living, breathing human being–no pretending about it. God didn’t even skip over the messiness and riskiness of being born of a woman. God didn’t skip over the trials and tribulations of infancy, toddlerhood, childhood and adolescence. God became just like you and me in every way. And, not only did God become one of us, but he didn’t come into the world in the palace of the Emperor or Herod or even simply the home of a wealthy family. God was born to a peasant family who possessed no power or wealth whatsoever.
God understands on the deepest level our sorrows, our pains, our struggles, because God has lived our life, God became one of us. Grief, physical pain, financial hardship, anger, frustration, even death itself–God understands, God suffers with us. And, God, in Jesus, gives us hope–loss, death, pain, struggle, sadness, hardship don’t have the last word–God has the last word–Resurrection, rebirth, new life–these are the final words.
This is what we are here to celebrate today. It is good that we are gathered together to remember what Christmas is really all about–offering worship and praise to our God who loves us so much that He was even willing to become a messy, suffering, struggling human being that we might better understand God’s love for us. We are here this morning to remember again, that God is with us all the time. We may walk away from God, but God does not walk away from us. We are here today to give thanks for the greatest gift of all, the love of a gracious God, who, rather than leave us to our own devices, rather than allowing us to walk away, gave us a baby.
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.” Isaiah 9:7