Let’s go back about 2000 years ago where we find our God sitting up in heaven, feeling frustrated. He is looking down at us, shaking his head. “Ay, ay, ay,” God says. “What am I to do with my beloved children? I love them so much but it drives me crazy to see how they act.
“Look at them, so worried about all the wrong things. See them fighting and hurting each other? They have forgotten to love one another. They have made up hundreds of laws which are supposed to bring them closer to me. They have all these laws about eating and making sacrifices, laws about who to love and who to hate, laws about what to wear and who is clean and not clean! I just want them to love and be loved. Instead, they focus so much on the laws that they are in danger of losing focus on me.”
“Throughout the ages I have tried to show them how to behave, I have tried to show them the right path but they just don’t seem to get it. I’ve shown them signs: burning bushes, floods, plagues, pillars of salt. Did my message get through to them? Not really.”
“How many times have I spoken through prophets? Abraham, Daniel, David, Deborah, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jacob, Jeremiah, Jonah, Joshua, Miriam, Moses, Noah, Obadiah, Samuel, and Zechariah and that is just a few of them! Time and time again, I sent words through prophets, hoping that they could lead my children to rightness. For my dear Moses, I even inscribed the instructions on a stone tablet: ‘Don’t kill, don’t lie or steal, honor your mom and dad, honor me’ ... simple, easy to follow. Well, that didn’t seem to work either.”
“So what can I do? How do I get through to them for? Maybe I just need to go down there myself! Hey - maybe I will go down there myself. I won’t just tell them how to act, I can show them how to act. I can be one of them, not a king or queen but a common person. I can be born to a human woman, live a human life and even die a human death. I like this idea. I love my children so much that I will send myself down to help them! Hey Gabriel, fly over here a minute, I need your help!”
And so it goes. Gabriel talks to Mary, Mary turns God into flesh and blood in her womb and gives birth on a starry night in a humble manger. That God baby is named Jesus.
Jesus looks up from his simple cradle into the adoring eyes of his family. He feels overwhelming love. Jesus looks up from his simple cradle into the wide open, astonished faces of the shepherds and coos with delight. He is so pleased that those crazy angels chose first to share this great news with the poorest shepherds out in the fields. God, the baby Jesus, is pleased with the start of this great adventure.
What we celebrate tonight is God’s incarnation. The word made flesh. In Spanish, the word is encarnacion. Do you know the word for meat in Spanish? Carne - as in Carne Asada. Can you hear it? En-Carna-cion. Encarnation. God is putting flesh, meat, carne, on his spirit. When I was a very skinny little girl, I heard this all the time; “Corby, you’ve got to put some meat on those bones.” Well, I have accomplished that! So did God. God became flesh and bones and blood and human, fully human.
Think of what this means. God: all powerful, all knowing, squeezed his greatness into a human body, humbled himself to become one of us, to live among us, to show us with his words and actions the right path to follow. God showed us a path of forgiveness and mercy and kindness and most of all, a path lit by love. Jesus walked down that path, embracing the poor, the needy, the children, the outcast, the lepers. God came to show us the way.
Long ago, God came into a dark time and brought the bright light of his love to us. His love lights the path we are to follow. Even today, into the darkness of our times today, God comes, bringing light.
Imagine this: We think that the ministry of Jesus only lasted about three years. In three short years, his teaching, his life was so powerful, so mind blowing that millions of people for thousands of years have walked down the better path he showed us.
Look back through time, look back 2000 years to this night in Bethlehem and you can see the beginning of it all in a humble manger with Mary and Joseph, shepherds and farm animals crowding around a tiny baby. Stretching from that night long ago to tonight, I can see the path of goodness and rightness shown to us by Jesus. When I think of this I get quite poetic and envision a trail through a beautiful forest, lit by shafts of sunlight coming through the trees, stretching on and on, as far as the eye can see.
Can you see the path that God lights for us? It’s easy. Look around you right now to your neighbors and let your heart sing with love for them. There, you are on the right path. Love your neighbor, love yourself, love your God. There, that is the path.
God, it worked. Your plan worked. You came down here and for once and for all, showed us the right way to be. It worked. We all stray from that path but we are trying Lord, we are doing our best. Thank you, Lord for coming down to be here with us!