St. Paul’s Church in Bergen, Jersey City NJ
December 24, 2013
Christmas Day: 4:00PM Service
It’s Christmas Eve! The day we’ve been waiting for and preparing for during Advent has finally arrived.
Christ is born.
The great transformation and renewal of the world has begun.
And, no matter how many times we hear it, the story of Jesus’ birth as told by Luke never loses any of its power, does it?
Luke tells the story of Mary, a young girl maybe only 12 years old, pregnant with her first child. She and her fiancée Joseph, a good man, make their way from their hometown of Nazareth to Bethlehem. And once they get to Bethlehem, they can’t find a decent place to stay, let alone a decent place to give birth to a child.
We can imagine their exhaustion and their fear.
We’re told that after giving birth Mary placed her newborn son in a manger. Which, I guess, doesn’t sound so bad – and we make it look kind of nice in the nativity scene below me – but a manger is a feeding trough used by animals.
A manger is where animals eat.
That’s how Jesus the Son of God was born.
That’s how Jesus the Son of God spent his first hours on earth.
Now…not that anyone has asked for my opinion, but if I were God I would have done things very differently.
With God’s way, only a few people know that the Son of God has been born. Only Mary and Joseph and a few low class shepherds know that Jesus has been born.
But, if I were in charge, I would have made sure that absolutely everybody knew that the Son of God has arrived in the world.
If I were in charge, there would have been flashing lightning and crashes of thunder.
There would have been the biggest parade ever.
And there would be lots of beautiful music, performed by the best musicians and singers.
If I were in charge, the Son of God wouldn’t arrive in an out of the way place like Bethlehem but right in the center of the action, in a really important city – like maybe New York, or Washington, DC or Rome or Jerusalem.
And, actually, if I were in charge, the Son of God definitely wouldn’t arrive as a helpless baby who needs the care of parents. No, if I were in charge the Son of God would suddenly appear as a fully grown, walking and talking adult – ready to teach us all the things that we need to know – a fully grown, walking and talking adult ready to help us and to save us.
But, obviously – and fortunately - I’m not in charge.
And God chose a very different – a very unexpected - way to enter the world.
And when we stop and think about the story of Jesus’ birth to a couple of nobodies in an out of the way place in very primitive conditions, isn’t it amazing that this is the way God chose to enter the world?
God created the whole world, the whole universe, so that means that God could enter the world any way that God wanted to.
Yet, God chose to enter the world poor and helpless.
The newborn Jesus really, really needs the help of Mary and Joseph. And, since we know what babies are like, Jesus is going to continue to need Mary and Joseph and other helpers for a long time.
And they do it. They help Jesus grow up – feeding him, clothing him, and teaching him.
Mary and Joseph and lots of other people whose names we don’t know were God’s Helpers.
Isn’t it amazing that God needs helpers?
But, you know, that’s God’s way.
God always reaches out – reaches out to us - for help.
God wants us – in a way, God even needs us – to be God’s helpers.
When we were Christmas caroling last week somebody gave me this hat. It says, “Santa’s Helper.” No, I’m not going to put it on. But, maybe we can all imagine ourselves wearing an invisible hat that says “God’s Helper.”
We know what it meant for Mary and Joseph to be God’s Helpers. But, what about us? What would it look like for us to be God’s helpers?
Well, one way we could be God’s helpers is by telling people about Jesus and telling people about how much God loves us. Today a lot of people have forgotten about God and God’s love. And there are a lot of people who have never even heard about God and God’s love.
People – people right here on Duncan Avenue, right here in Jersey City – have forgotten or don’t know about God’s love – the love that we see so clearly today in the helpless newborn Savior.
But, much better than telling people about God’s love is actually sharing God’s love with people – with our family and friends and our neighbors and, sometimes, even people we don’t know and will never even meet.
We are God’s helpers when we don’t judge other people.
We are God’s helpers when don’t pick on people who are weak or different – even when, especially when, everybody else is doing it.
We’re God’s helpers when we choose to sit next to the unpopular person, when we’re kind to someone we really don’t want to be nice to – when we’re kind to somebody we don’t even like.
And we’re God’s helpers when we help the many people all around us who are like Mary and Joseph – people who don’t have much of anything – people who don’t have much food or clothing – people who don’t have homes and need shelter – people who are hungry – people who are alone and lonely.
We are God’s helpers when we share what we have with those who have less.
We are God’s helpers when we help prepare the world for the great transformation that began in the most unlikely and humblest place in Bethlehem two thousand years ago – the great renewal of the world that continues right here and now.
It’s Christmas Eve.
The day we’ve been preparing for during Advent has finally arrived.
Christ is born.
Christ is born - not the way you or I would’ve done it, which, actually, would probably look more like the kind of beautiful celebration we’re having today.
Instead, Christ is born to a couple of nobodies in an out of the way place in very primitive conditions.
Christ is born helpless.
Christ is born needing helpers.
And, today, God still wants us – still, in a way, needs us - to be God’s helpers.
So, let’s all put on our invisible hats - and be God’s helpers.