Year B Christmas Day Luke 2 2011
What Was Seen at Bethlehem
Luke 2:1-14 (15-20)
I wonder what I would have heard had I been there that night. It is a question that annually haunts me. Would I have heard the choirs of angels singing or simply the sounds of barnyard animals shifting around? Would I have seen the star in the sky that night or simply two poor and very frightened kids? Would I have understood the hushed silence of the divine presence, or simply the chill of a cold east wind. Would I have understood the message of Emmanuel, God with us, or would the cosmic implications of that evening have passed me by?
I am convinced that had two people been there that night in Bethlehem it is quite possible that they could have heard and seen two entirely different scenes. I believe this because all of life is this way. God never presents himself in revelation in a manner in which we are forced to believe. We are always left with an option, for that is God's way. Thus, one person can say "It is a miracle, while another says "It is coincidence."
Certainly very few people in Palestine saw and heard and understood what took place that night. The choirs of angels singing were drowned out by the haggling and trading going on in the Jerusalem bazaar. There was a bright star in the sky but the only ones apparently to pay any attention to it were pagan astrologers from the East. If anyone did see Mary and Joseph on that most fateful night, they were too preoccupied with their own problems to offer any assistance.
In one of the All in the Family episodes that aired some years ago Edith and Archie are attending Edith's high school class reunion. Edith encounters an old classmate by the name of Buck who, unlike his earlier days. had now become excessively obese. Edith and Buck have a delightful conversation about old times and the things that they did together, but remarkably Edith doesn't seem to notice how extremely heavy Buck has become. Later, when Edith and Archie and talking, she says in her whiny voices "Archie, ain't Buck a beautiful person." Archie looks at her with a disgusted expression and says: "Your a pip, Edith. You know that. You and I look at the same guy and you see a beautiful person and I see a blimp. Edith gets a puzzled expression on her face and says something unknowingly profound, "Yeah, ain't it too bad."
You see, what we see and what we hear in life depends not upon the events but rather....
No Time for a Sermon
No, it is not that there is no time for a sermon because the choir sang so many beautiful Christmas songs. It is not because there is no time for a sermon because it took so long to seat the "Christmas crowd." It is not because the critters in the "live" nativity scene got loose and ate all the Christmas cookies for coffee hour.
The reason that on this Sunday, on Christmas Day, there is "no time for a sermon" is because on Christmas Day there is only time for each of us to discover "a silence in which another voice may speak" (Mary Oliver, "Praying"). Today is the time for us to FEEL the gift of Christmas from the top of our heads to the tip of our toes, not "hear" about it with our ears.
The gift of Christmas is something that sneaks up on us at unexpected moments. It may come in the wee hours of the morning after having spent a long night wrapping presents. It may come while we are waiting for a bus and are listening to "canned" Christmas music and watching our fellow commuters who are wearing way too much red and green. It may come when our child, or grandchild, or neighborhood kid, suddenly offers a small gift and a spontaneous snuggle, instead of a hurried "hi" and scuttling away.
Until we experience our "Christmas moment" the holiday is all about "to-do" lists, stress tests, credit limits, and on-line access. Until that "Christmas moment," we have been concerned with unemployment, skyrocketing grocery prices, troops coming home, and if the weather will turn freakish and spoil all our plans. Until we experience a true "Christmas moment," Christmas is crazy and chaotic.
But then that "Christmas moment" happens. And "the hopes and fears of all the years are met" in that moment in a person...