Christmas Day Sermon - Born! (based on Luke 2: 1-20)
And so the reason for all the fuss has arrived. A bouncing baby boy has been born. And what a commotion he makes, crying and screaming when his needs are not met. And what a lot of work he creates. Barely a moments rest for the doting parents for when his lungs are not being exercised, those cloths in which he is wrapped are being soiled and discoloured with interminable regularity. It's not that his parents are sorry to see him arrive but boy is he hard work!
And yet this baby boy so like millions of others that are born each year, has been causing quite a fuss ever since. Not that this was always so. There was certainly no reception party of the great and good for his arrival. The guest room, for it was that rather than an inn, was not even made available for his birth. Instead he was visited by well shall we say not quite the sort of people you might expect!
In the first case, it was shepherds, men with quite a reputation. And not a good one! Unclean in the eyes of the religious establishment, they couldn't be good religious men even if they wanted to be. And trust me, they probably had no desire to be such. Dishonesty was the quality that most people associated with them resulting in their testimony being no better than useless. Doubtless today, they would be well and truly loaded with letters after their names - only ASBOs rather than degrees. Quite possibly their reputations were unfair but prejudice has little in common with fairness. Have no doubts that the Palestinian Sun would be branding these men as scum and the reaction of most people to a visit by these people, would be to count the cuttlery on their departure.
Some time later, there would be other visitors. They would be of greater status than the shepherds. Only trouble was that these men were foreigners. Why had they come, people would wonder. Probably the Palestinian Daily Express would have suspected them of coming to take advantage of the Palestinian health service or at least of having a less than honourable intention. But come what may, these men were most probably of both a different ethnicity and religious background to the boy whom they visited.
It's not a promising start is it? And yet, that start tells us so much as to what this boy would be for the world. For from his very beginning, he is far from a greasy ladder. Much more at home is he with those who are the outsiders and never do wells!
And the stories of his infancy suggest that with this boy there will be no such things as No Go areas. Instead, his place is very much with those who local wisdom counts as but nought! Indeed the angels were on to something when they spoke of his coming as "good news" for this was a term used to relate the the doings of Caesar Augustus. Only Caesar Augustus' good news and his pax Romana were about the use of force to maintain an order that was unjust and rooted in the exploitation of the poor and needy. Compare that to the good news of Jesus and the peace that he brings which liberates those enslaved by empire and affirms the outsiders and the rejected.
And in these stories we see glimpses of what will follow. Soon a King will seek his death. Later that King's son would mockingly abuse him whilst a bloodstained Roman official would have him crucified to the great pleasure of the religious establishment. But in the meantime, the boy will have become a man and demonstrated a new way of living and being in which each person was valued. The boy become a man will have pointed to God's kingdom as infinitely superior to the empires that have dominated throughout history. The boy become a man will have challenged all that poisons the wells of life and offered a vision of what being truly human is about and invited all into an abundance of life. The boy become a man will have irrevocably changed the world in a way that has no parrallel.
But this boy is more than just another good man. They, after all, come ten a penny. Fully human he is, but he is also fully divine. In him we encounter the living God. In him we see what God is like for in the words of that pithy creed offered by Bishop David Jenkins;
"God is. He is as he is in Jesus. Therefore there is hope."
So today we celebrate God coming into our world. He comes with an invasion not of the shock and awe type but an invasion of love. For this boy is Immanuel - God with us! Far from being left alone or given remote instructions, we have the presence and the help of God given to us through the freely given Christmas gift.
And because he has come to be with unexpected people whose lives and religion are in a state of confusion, we see him being for all of us. We don't have to have neat lives before we receive him. Far from it! He comes for us at those very moments when our lives are in tatters and we are most battered. In love he lifts us up and helps us to discover what it is to live life to the max. He offers us new perspectives of what can be and of our place within his ocean of boundless possibilities.
But today we celebrate his birth. Today is a day to devour the turkey and pudding! Today is a day to enjoy the wine! Today is a day to pull the crackers!Today is a day to party with those whom we especially love!
But it doesn't end there. For this boy like dogs is for life and not just for Christmas. Follow, learn from and be transformed by his story. Listen to his teaching and be filled with wonder at his deeds. Follow him even to the time where he hangs naked and dying on a wooden cross and see that it is ultimately his love for all people that put him there. And then see the wonder of his resurrection and marvel that he who was executed as a common criminal is now glorified! That he is the ultimate authority whose kingdom will one day come in great power.
A baby boy helpless and limited like any other but a baby boy who even at his infancy points us to the news that he will bring quite some change to our lives and our world.