December 24, 2022 Reflection and Worship Link

Reflecting the Sacred

“Christmas Eve”

Scripture Reading: Matthew 1: 18-25  

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In a few moments, we are going to hear one of my favourite Christmas carols “In the Bleak Midwinter.”  It’s slow and hauntingly beautiful melody is one of the tunes that always helps ground me in the hub bub of this season.

Because I love it so much I was curious about its’ origin, so of course I googled it. I discovered that the lyrics to this piece were written all the way back in 1872 by the English poet Christina Rosetti. So then I became curious about what was going on in 1872 in Britain that would cause someone to pen words about the Christ child being born in such stark circumstances surrounded by frosty winds, frozen water, earth as hard as iron and snow on snow on snow on snow.

What I found was that the year 1872 still holds the record for the highest precipitation ever over England and Wales.

Christina Rosetti penned her now famous poem at a time when she and her fellow citizens were at the mercy of an uncontrollable climate.

Just in case the last two Christmas seasons were not enough to teach us that despite our best efforts to control them, there are things in life beyond our control, Christmas 2022 has now delivered the message to us once again in full force.

How appropriate it is then, that tonight we gather around a story in which nothing goes according to plan.

The story of the birth of Jesus begins with an unwanted pregnancy and a fiancé who threatens to abandon his betrothed because of it. In our day and age we barely blink an eye at a pregnancy out of wedlock. In fact I’m guessing that at least half if not more of the children born in North America these days are born out of wedlock, but you can bet that none of them are born without a highly sophisticated and well thought out birth plan.

You can be sure that no mother’s birth plan in 2022 includes leaving her house during the 9th month of her pregnancy, travelling approximately 145 kilometers on foot and possibly donkey, to get to her partner’s hometown so he can be counted in a government census.  And no one’s birth plan in our day and age includes delivering their baby in a barn, no matter how sweet smelling the hay might be.

If you think getting stuck on the tarmac at YVR with a crying baby for hours on end is challenging, try getting your baby to sleep in a stable surrounded by animals, while swaddled in a feeding trough.

And all those hallmark cards with the shepherds faces lit up by the glow of a heavenly host of angels singing sweetly o’er the plains?  They never saw it coming, completely unexpected, shocked to their core. Why else would the first words the angel said to them be “Fear Not” because they were afraid? Because we almost always afraid of the unknown.

So what about the magi? At least they appear to have it together. Nope. Not a clue where they were going, every map in their glove compartment useless, no reception on the GPS.  They end up lost in a city they’ve never been to seeking directions from a tyrant king and barely getting out of the country with their lives intact.

Nothing in this story goes according to plan, at least not according to our human laid plans. Everyone is, is at the mercy of what cannot be controlled.

The irony is that most of us have spent the last several weeks DOING everything in our power to ensure that everything IS under our control, that it ALL goes according to OUR plan this year, so we can have the Christmas we haven’t been able to have for the last two years.

So the joke is on us isn’t it? 

We DO everything we can to make this season perfect and then the snow falls, the unwanted diagnosis arrives, the beloved family member dies, the accident happens, the furnace won’t start, the oven is broken, the power is out, the flight is cancelled.

Suddenly we find ourselves in the midst of a bleak midwinter all over again.

How would we ever relate to the Christmas story if everything had gone according to OUR plan?

Over the course of the last four weeks, as we in this community of faith have been preparing for this night, not the preparations that go into rehearsing the script but the preparations that go into rehearsing our hearts. We have been drawing on the wisdom of Fr. Richard Rohr to deepen our understanding of what it means for God to be born in human flesh, for the sacred to become incarnate. We’ve been pondering the way that God loves us by becoming us and therefore everything is sacred.

Each Advent we have a practice in this community of faith. We ask ourselves who are we in the nativity story this year?

Are you a shepherd looking for a great light?

An angel delivering a message of peace and good will or are you a magi bearing precious gifts?

Perhaps you are the innkeeper offering hospitality to those on the margins?

 Or maybe you are Mary or Joseph bringing to birth a vision of a world where there is equality, justice and hope. 

Whenever that question is asked, there is always the option to choose Jesus, the Christ child as the one in the story that we embody. But people rarely make that choice, probably because it might suggest that we think we are perfect, just like Jesus. 

But the truth is the Christ child is exactly who we all are in this story.

We are all Sacred Beings, manifestations of the holy, carriers of the Divine spark that created us.

That’s what the story of the incarnation is all about.

Because of that Christmas is never situational – it is never dependent on what WE Do or don’t Do to make it happen.  We are the mystery of Christmas.

We bear the light of Christ within us whether we are stuck on a plane or in a hospital bed or in a snowbank. 

Into even the bleakest of midwinters, the Christ child comes, in you and in me.

Thanks be to God who makes it so.