The Other Christmas-A Christmas Eve Message

There are two Christmases.  There is the Christmas driven by frantic spending and frenzied days.  This is the part of the season that makes Christmas shopping feel like we have fallen into a pool of piranhas that are picking our pockets.  This is also the time of year that can make preparing for Christmas meals feel like we are readying for military maneuvers.  I have something for those who soul and body is still caught up in the rush because you’re in charge of making everyone happy with their favorite foods and perfect gifts in the right sizes and with batteries.  We have a quiet room with soft lights, music, candles, and a therapist to help with your post-traumatic stress syndrome.  I will meet you there after the service.

Frankly, I have something better to offer.  The first Christmas is over, and it is the time for the other Christmas to begin.  I invite you to take these few holy moments we have together in the beauty of this sanctuary and let go of the other Christmas.  Take a breath; relax your neck and shoulders, everything is O.K.  Let your mind switch gears, or take it out of gear altogether.  These are sacred moments, and the Spirit of Christmas would like to charm the beast of the other Christmas that still lingers within us.  

Let me tell the story again.  “In those days, a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that a census be taken; that everyone should register in his hometown.”  A political agenda is afoot, for when an emperor orders a census, taxes are going up.  Caesar could not have known he was setting the course for something cosmic when his order dispatched a peasant couple to Bethlehem.  There they would give birth to their first-born son, wrap him in swaddling clothes and lay him in a feedbox.  We know the story and it appears nothing is afoot at all in this event.  Some mysterious princely Persian astrologers adorned with frankincense along with ragtag goat herders from the hills who had a certain air about their togas would kneel at this manger.  There is no hint God was up to something that would reverberate for the next two thousand years.

This child would continue to draw together every kind of person from every stage and station of life.  Look at us tonight.  Some of us drove here in luxury cars while others of us simply hope our “hoopdie” would make it home.  Some of us are decked out in designer wear bought off the rack, while others of us are wearing worn out ensembles from the back of the closet.  Some of us left homes brightly decorated and others came from modest homes decorated only with a small tree.  Some have a small child in the nursery; others have grandchildren older than parents who have children in the nursery.  Some will return home to a large family gathering, while others will return home to people trying to figure out how to be family.

We are all drawn here tonight for different reasons.  Some came to extend homage, others offer gifts, and some of us just felt we ought to at least pay attention to this newborn king.  We, hyperactive consumers who seek our security by insulating our lives with constant noise and floating bank accounts are no different than those who first gathered in Bethlehem.  We are all drawn to this manger for the same reason-We want to be loved.  We have heard this child offers us a real and lasting love that comes from the God who creates, redeems and sustains us in all our life.

The need to be loved is the most basic human need, which many are starved.  Even on this sacred occasion, every person present is aware of places in their lives where they feel unloved and are unable to offer love.  We want to be loved and learn to love again.  Thus, we are attracted to one who is billed to love without condition.  We are drawn to this child who offers himself so God’s love may be born in us.  We want to go beyond visiting the manger, to experiencing Christmas by allowing this this child to be born in that part of our life that needs loved.   

Perhaps you’re a parent or a child who can’t stand to be in the same room.  You’re starving for love.  Perhaps you’re a spouse whose marriage is hanging by a thread.  You’re starving for love.  Perhaps you’re carrying prejudice that isolates you in a self-made prison.  You’re starving for love.  Perhaps you’re unable to forgive a hurt so deep you’re not sure you can trust again.  You’re starving for love.  Perhaps your need to control prevents you from appreciating those who love you.  You’re starving for love.  Perhaps you’re a pastor who you became obsessed over being ready this weekend you ignored family and friend.  We are all starving for love.

This year I want to go beyond a nice visit to the manger.  It is right to enjoy the beauty and sentiment of the service, sing carols, say a prayer, and think nice thoughts as you receive communion and light a candle.  It is a good to give generous gifts to those we love and exert effort to lighten the load of the underserved.  The truth is, that will never be enough if the next day is business as usual.  Christmas is more than a nostalgic visit to a manger, where Joseph and Mary once laid their newborn.

Christmas is God entering human flesh to accomplish a divine objective of conveying the love of God to you and me.  The story has always been a bit messy and dangerous.  We should expect nothing less if this child to be born in us.  Imagine Christ born in you anew and you’re the parent of the newborn child of God. We are going to have to make some adjustments in our lives to make room for this new born to live among us in new ways.

We do so, by taking a leap of faith to hear this child speak words of love, so we leave here more forgiving, loving, understanding, and protective of the fragile gift of life, that is ours and for those with whom we share it.  We do so, by opening our eyes of faith and let this child shine the light of God’s love on our path, so we might have clearer vision about the struggles of the poor and the suffering of the innocent; committed to do what we can to make this place better fit for God’s presence.  The god news of Christmas isn’t God came to earth, but God is here; ready to be born in us so we might know real love for real people in real ways.

This babe of Bethlehem says I love you?  God leaned over the messed up playpen of our world to speak to us through an infant child in the simplest terms.  It is a message of God’s infinite and unconditional love spoken in baby talk.  “Cootchie, cootchie, coo” can’t be ignored or misunderstood.

Embrace the child, feel the love the child has for you.  Let your defenses fall and those barriers come down as you hold in your arms the love God has for you.  Thank God for the “other” of should I say THE CHRISTMAS.

Merry Christmas!

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