READ: Isaiah 9.2-7, Luke 2.1-20
The love letter had been long in the making.
Its author wanted to make it just right.
The words had to be perfect.
The words had to put at ease the restless heart of its recipient with a new promise.
A greater promise.
To remind the receiver of all the promises the beloved had made.
And all the promises the beloved had kept.
And never, ever faltered.
Waiting for that letter — that word to come — was anticipated more than anything else that could ever be expected.
And the timing of it couldn’t have been any more perfect.
Times were hard.
Life was uncertain.
In fact, everything pointed to an increasing darkness.
So when it came, and it was opened, that word proved even greater than anything that could ever have been imagined.
And despite any and all attempts to thwart this wonderful news from being received, well, it could never be stopped.
Isaiah & Luke
Everything in the Nativity story that we know and cherish so deeply and hold so dearly exceeds all expectations and all imagination.
This letter — this Word — that came into the world to do nothing short of saving the world —
— that is us —
It came not in the daytime for all to see, but at night to just a select few;
It didn’t come to a royal palace or the halls of scholars, scribes and religious leaders, but to a stable with lowest caste of people;
Not even to the city of Jerusalem where the Temple in which God was believed to have dwelled, but to an outlying town that collected the dregs of society.
No royal messengers, just lowly shepherds — unskilled and uneducated day-laborers, who few would ever listen to, let alone associate with.
But it came nevertheless.
It was received.
And its word — just as foretold by the prophet — saved us all.
And nothing and nobody would ever be able to stop it.
Isaiah tells us:
“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.“
And Luke recounts:
“‘I am bringing you good news of great joy for ALL the people:
“to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.’”
The Messiah, meaning “the anointed one.”
And only kings are anointed.
The Lord, which up until that moment meant God.
And it still did when referring to this baby.
Because this baby was God in human skin.
Fully human, yet lowly, and still yet born to save the world.
A new light
At 6 o’clock this very evening, the four weeks of Advent ended.
Advent, which means “to come” came.
In the Hebrew world, the Sabbath begins at sundown the day before.
That would Friday evening, as the Sabbath continued til sundown on Saturday.
Christ was born on this very night that we call Christmas Eve.
With the setting of Advent, the birth of the Christ child comes now.
And Christmas has begun.
And just like the sun that will always rise, God’s sovereign will was born in human flesh on this very night.
“While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child” (Verse 6).
Despite the confusion and turn of events, redemption would come into this world:
from the least expected — an impoverished child;
by the least expected — a poor, unwed and pregnant mom; and
to the least expected — you and me.
This was God’s sovereign will —
not to adorn the kings of this world with more power, as they are used to,
and as we, for some reason love to lavish them with,
but to the lowly, marginalized and impoverished.
God’s will has always been for those who would cry out for salvation.
God’s will has always been for those who need a savior.
The Word has arrived.
In Luke’s day, it arrived just in time.
We know the names of those who ruled:
Caesar. Pilate. Herod. Quirinius.
All bad guys.
All men who would go to any and all lengths to ensure all power remained with them and none would be given to the people.
Israel was being taken again from God’s chosen.
And the people cried out for a savior.
And God heard their cries and responded.
The meeting place for the human and the divine is not the Temple, but the slums.
This is where the angels gather.
This is where Christ is born.
The Good News would be delivered to all people of the whole world from this place.
And through these lowly, most unexpected people.
It’s a lot to ponder.
The shepherds went out and started telling people that the Messiah had come.
Who did the shepherds tell this news to?
Other shepherds? Nobles? Who?
Well, the people who had been crying out for a savior.
For everyone the shepherds told were amazed and praised God when they received the news of the Messiah lying in that manger.
Mary knew something, but she still had much to work out, didn’t she?
The news came to her when the Spirit came upon her and the messenger told her what was coming.
The Good News comes for all the people, not just those who we may deem worthy;
and it is delivered by angel and shepherd alike.
The highest and the lowest.
And it is praised by angel and shepherd alike.
In Isaiah’s day, it was a time of war, division, and captivity.
In Luke’s day, it was in so many ways, the same.
What about today, in our days?
Is there war in the world?
Is there hate and division?
Is there oppression and marginalization of God’s children?
Are there still those who cry out for a savior?
Do we, too, cry out for a savior?
The child was born.
Christ — the Messiah — came to bring the Light.
Not just some day in the future, but now.
The Word was delivered.
The News was Good.
The savior born to save us all now:
We see evidence of this saving whenever a new hospital or orphanage or school is built in a place where people have been marginalized;
— Light in the darkness.
We see the Savior’s presence when we — God’s children — work against injustice and corruption and discrimination and greed;
— Light in the darkness.
We see the Light shining throughout the once-dark places whenever we reach out our hands to those who need a hand.
— Light in the darkness.
The Savior has come to give us hope and courage that, yes, a better time is coming when the kingdom comes;
but a better time can be here in the kingdom now.
On earth as it is in heaven.
Like the candles we will all hold while we together stand and sing this beautiful lullaby about the baby —
“all is calm, all is bright” —
— the light has come into the world.
The light is given to each of us who choses to carry it.
The light transforms the darkest places when we share it.
The light softens the hardest of hearts when we act in it.
And the light honors God’s promise whenever we keep it.
This letter falls this evening, under this magnificent moon, on this Christmas Eve, gently into our hands.
So gently that we might not even notice its weight.
So quietly and unexpectedly, we might not even notice its impact.
But it’s still here among us.
And it will always be.
Ready to be told again and again and again
by both angels and shepherds and everyone else in between.
For unto YOU
For unto ME
For unto ALL OF US, and all the world, a child is born and the Light is given.