After explaining childbirth, the biology teacher asked her 3rd graders to write an essay on “childbirth” in their families. Susan went home and asked her mother how she was born. Her mother, who was busy at the time, said, “A big white swan brought you darling, and left you on our doorstep.” Continuing her research she asked grandma how she got her mother as a child. Being in the middle of something, her grandma similarly deflected the question by saying, “A fairy brought your mom as a little baby, and I found her in our garden in an open box”. Then the girl went and asked her great-grandmother how she got her grandma as a baby. “I picked her from a box I found in the gooseberry bush,” said the surprised great-grandma. With this information the girl wrote her essay. When the teacher asked her later to read it in front of the class, she stood up and began, “I am very sad to find out that there was not even a single natural birth in our family for three generations… All our children were extraterrestrials.” Dear friends! Today the words of Isaiah tell us of another non-normal birth. It’s a non-normal birth, never before, nor after, seen or experienced, because it is the birth of God as man – Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Man, as our Savior.
Everybody loves Christmas. But the deepest joy of Christmas is reserved to those who believe. Everyone loves Christmas, and what’s not to love? Above all other seasons, it is at this time that we try to be our best selves. In this time, we try to appreciate family and friends. In this time we try to give generously to the poor. In this season, we try to be better people. In this season we dare to dream that our relationships can be healed, that our brokenness can be repaired. All of these beautiful truths about relationships, about memory, about life are a genuine part of Christmas.
But there is a deeper joy in Christmas, a deeper truth that only the eyes of faith can see. The truth is this: Christmas is not so much about our love for one another, but God’s love for us. Christmas is not only about our dreams for the future, but what God has promised to do for us as our lives unfold. That’s the Good news! Christmas is not really about the gift that we give to God, but the gift that God has given to us. This is the deeper joy of Christmas.
But to see that joy requires faith. There is a big difference between those who have faith and those who do not. Those who are gifted with faith can go deeper into Christmas. Now I certainly hope that all of us gathered here this evening will be able to see the beauty and the innocence in our children and in our grandchildren throughout this holiday season. I hope we will be warmed by their love in our lives. But those who have faith can go deeper. For they can see in that innocence and beauty the sign of a God who loves them so much as to give them the people in their lives.
There may be some here today who during the past year have escaped a harmful situation, an addiction, a serious illness, a broken relationship. I hope that anyone who has escaped such harmful situations will be thankful that their lives have gone in that direction. I trust they will look forward to a positive new year. But those who have faith can go deeper. They can see in their escape from harmful situations a Savior, a God who has come into their life to lead them from death to a new beginning.
There may be some here tonight have recently experienced a loss, a loss from death or divorce or rejection. I hope that they will find the strength to see what is still positive in their lives, to claim the people who still love and support them. But those who have faith can go deeper. For they will know that they are not alone, that there is a God who loves them enough to be with them, to heal the hurts they cannot heal themselves, to walk with them in their pain.
Everybody loves Christmas. What’s not to love? But the eyes of faith can see more. For the truth is that Christmas is really not about us, but about God. It is not about what we do, but what God has done and promises to do in our lives. So if you have come here tonight with a faith which allows you to see God’s presence in your life, make sure you go deeper in this holy season. Push beyond the joys and beauties that surround you and see beneath them a God who loves you and who will never stop loving you.
If you have come here today without faith, or with a faith that is weak, if you have come this evening because someone in your family or a friend has brought you, or because of tradition, or because of a faith you once had, then please know that you are welcome here. If this liturgy can increase or deepen your celebration, take it with all of our love. But know as well that my prayer and the prayer of this community is that you might come to know a deeper joy of Christmas, a joy which is available to you. If you feel any stirring in your heart, any desire for that deeper joy, then do not worry about whatever doubts or whatever questions you may have. Just keep your heart open. The good news that we celebrate this night is that God is real and that God loves you. And since God is real and God loves you, you do not need to find the way to God—because God will find the way to you.