RCL Christmas Day 2
Isaiah 62:6-12, Psalm 97, Titus 3:4-7, Saint Luke 2:1-20

These late services on cold nights are for hearty, thick-blooded people. And, whoever you are, and whatever you’ve done, we welcome you. We give you, we try to give you, the welcome Christ himself would give you.

You have to have a yearning in you, you have to have a burning in your heart to come out on a night like this. And knowing this to be true, I remember Jesus’ questions to crowds, questions about John the Baptist. You remember how Jesus asks: “What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see?”[1]

I want to ask the same question of you, all of you, who braved the cold, who came out in it, whose hearts are aflame, and who have run the risk of letting me and the world know that you want to be here. Some of you left families to be here. Some of you left your work early to get ready and to be here. Some of you pushed yourselves away from Christmas celebrations, eating and drinking, to be here.

What did you come out in the cold to see? A baby wrapped in bands of cloth, as the Gospel says? What did you come out to see?

Did you come out to hear the old, old, story, some say the greatest story ever told? About the tax, and the inn with no room, the family about to give birth? The shepherds and the angels? Did you come out to get in touch with the past, to remember what Christmas was like when you were a child or when you were just a young adult and could stay out without getting into trouble? Is that what brought you out tonight?

I’ll be frank with you. I don’t think the old, old story, the family and the inn without room, the shepherds and the angels, would match the yearning, the burning, in your hearts. It’s going to take more than that to satisfy you. It’s going to take more than a baby wrapped in bands of cloth to bring you and to bring me out on a winter’s night.

If you didn’t come out to see the past, the old, old, story, maybe you came out to see the future. We all know that a few days away, a new year awaits to be born. It’s just around the corner. But I’m not talking about it only. I’m talking about you. Maybe you came out tonight to see your future, who you are, who you really are, when God’s love shines on you. Maybe you came out tonight to see who you can become when you let God enter your life. Maybe you came out to see who you are in God’s eyes whether you are important to him. Maybe you came out to see what God bought you for Christmas. None of you has come out in vain, because all of that is here.

The old, old story is here. The baby is here. We wouldn’t think of reading and telling anything else. But that old, old story really is about you. That baby is Emanuel, God with you. That baby is about you because that baby is your flesh and your blood. That baby is about what you will become when God’s love shines on you and melts away the world, melts away everything that hinders you from being what God created you to be. And so, tonight, you see the future. Not the next year, or the next decade, or the next century, or even the next millennium. You see yourself born again, born of the Spirit of God, born with nothing to hold you back, born again with God’s infinite love to sustain you, with God’s very arms to carry you. That is God’s Christmas present to you, wrapped beautifully and sitting under Good Shepherd’s Tree. It’s in the package of the Sacrament, disguised as Bread and Wine.

What I speak to you about is more than a second chance. I speak about you remade, you born again, you restored to fullness of life as you were intended to be. That is what you are yearning to know and to be. That is why we are here, because God became one of us, so we might become one with him.

I discover that people will endure a lot and give up a lot for that to be true in their lives. But I also discover that God knows how much we will do to find meaning and purpose for our lives. God knows before we know what we need. We may not even know the words to say. We may only have a vague yearning in our hearts that drives us out on a winter’s night. But God knows, and God gives us what we need. God gives us his very self.

[1] Saint Luke 7:24 and 25a.