Let’s go back about 2000 years ago where we find our God sitting up in heaven, feeling frustrated. He is looking down at everyone in the world, 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 how to love one another. They claim that they want to be closer to me but look how they act!”
“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, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Jonah, Miriam, Moses and Noah, and that is just a few of them! Time and time again, I sent words through the 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, don’t steal, honor your mom and dad, honor me’ ... simple, easy to follow. But that didn’t seem to work either.”
“So what can I do? How do I get through to them? 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. The angel Gabriel visits 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 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. God became flesh and bones 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 on that path, embracing the poor, the needy, the children, the outcast, the lepers. God, as Jesus, came to show us the way to live.
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 helpless baby. God chose to be born to a simple, unwed, teenage girl. She and Joseph were homeless in Bethlehem. The first people to see Jesus were shepherds, some of the least important people in their culture. God didn’t choose to live among the rich and powerful but with the lowliest, most humble people he could find. Think about this: if God can work through such ordinary people, surely God can work through ordinary people like you and me.
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 now, into the darkness of our times today, God comes, bringing light.
Can you see the path that God lights for us? It’s easy. Look around you right now to your neighbors and feel all of the love you have 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, God, for coming down to be here with us!
Now, let us pray:
Son of God, Child of Mary,
born in the stable at Bethlehem,
be born again in us this day
that through us the world may know
the wonder of your love.
We pray this in Jesus’ name.