Old Testament Isaiah 62:6-12
Epistle Titus 3:4-7
Gospel Luke 2:1-20
“The heavens declare his righteousness, and all the peoples see his glory.”
In the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
“Just wait until your father gets home.” This is the phrase heard in some households when a child has been naughty. Perhaps mom is the more strict disciplinarian. Adjust accordingly, though I’m not sure how effective this phrase is in changing bad behavior. Perhaps it gives the guilty party a little time to think about their misdeeds. Perhaps it allows the offender time to plan better, so next time we won’t get caught. Mostly, it just creates fear and trepidation for the punishment to come.
Tonight, a better phrase for manipulating good behavior might be, “He knows when you are sleeping, he knows when you’re awake ... You better be good, for goodness sake.” Rather than fear and punishment, this encouragement to be good little boys and girls is based on reward. If our name is on the ‘nice’ list, if we manage to avoid the ‘naughty’ list, we will get all the good things we ask for.
God does not operate under these human constructs. For thousands of years, God offered humanity good things. God gave us creation to be lived in, loved, and cared for. Throughout history, God guided patriarchs, matriarchs, judges, prophets, and sages to lead us in God’s ways and will. Present and acting in the world, God gave gifts of grace, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, and love. Despite all this, humanity continued to turn away from God and turn to ourselves ... self-concerned, self-indulged, self-righteous.
Then, in God’s time, God did something radical. At a specific time, in a specific place, God intimately joined humanity in the form of a helpless child, requiring care and nurture from humanity. We ask why our existence is so fragile, why there is suffering, why bad things happen to good people. We continue to wrestle with these questions and more, but in the Incarnation we know one thing. God abides with us through it all. God chose to join humanity in the ditches, with all our suffering and fragility, with all our mistakes and misdeeds and misguided wandering. God chose to love us sacrificially and completely. Lovingly, longingly, God knelt down to a broken humanity and took on human flesh in order to walk with us. Not a threat ... ‘wait until your father gets home’. Not a bribe ... make the nice list and you will get presents. The Incarnation of Jesus Christ is a free gift and an invitation, from our God who longs for us to long for God.
God’s divinity is infinitely more than humanity, but humanity is contained in God’s divinity. In the Incarnation, the image of the invisible God is revealed for the world to see. Jesus joined the human condition to teach us how to live. Jesus died and rose again to win for us eternal life. Jesus ascended to heaven to prepare a place for us, so that where he is, we may also be. Jesus blazed a trail and bid us follow, so that we might be fully reconciled with God. We regularly celebrate God’s saving activity in the Eucharistic sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.
Tonight, we celebrate the birth of a baby. An unwed couple, a scandalous pregnancy, oppressed by the Roman Empire into a census, traveling a great distance to a town that seemed too busy for mercy, too full to have room for compassion, too preoccupied to recognize God among us. God certainly dove right into the human condition. Through Jesus Christ, God offers humanity sacrificial compassion, mercy, forgiveness, and love. What shall be our response?
Christmas reminds us that the foundation of our worship, and the whole of our relationship with God, is adoration. Of course a cooing baby in a manger is adorable, but our adoration is greater than this moment. Adoration for who God is. Adoration for what God has done, what God is doing, and what God will do. Adoration for promises kept and promises being fulfilled.
We ought not come to worship out of guilt or compulsion. We ought not worship for entertainment value, or self-gratification, or public piety. Our worship is not a collection of emotions or good feelings. Our worship is an experience of true reality, an experience of the living God, among us and in us. We worship joyfully, longing to participate in God’s joy.
Worship of adoration leads to a life of adoration, where God is the subject of all our sentences, God is the focus of all our actions, and God is the reason for every season. The birth of Jesus is proof that God adores us and yearns for us. How can we not adore God in response?
Worship filled with adoration leads to a life of responsive action. When we encounter the poor, the outcast, the suffering, and the oppressed, we see the image of God in them, and adoration ensues. Look at the people around you and let the adoration commence. Adore the image of God!
When we live a life of adoration, adoration bursts forth in our lives. How can we contain ourselves? By God’s joy, we are compelled to ‘Go, tell it on a mountain, that Jesus Christ is born’! If we were somehow struck silent, the rocks and stones themselves would start to sing.
So, go. Tell the world in words and actions, that God is palpably present among us, and worthy of praise and adoration. God has shaken the cosmos ... stars shine, angels sing, and shepherds and wise men come together to follow. God has radically offered God’s self to humanity in the birth of Jesus ... the blind shall see, the deaf shall hear, the lame will rise up and walk, good news will be preached to the poor and the oppressed, and we shall be subject to death no longer. Through Jesus, God has become one with humanity so that we might be one with God and each other. Brothers and sisters, this is the Good News of the Incarnation ... God loves us. God longs for us. God adores us. O Come, let us adore him, Christ our Lord! Amen.