Home Alone Together Christmas Eve Sermon
This Christmas Eve sermon on Luke 2:1-20 explores what it means to be home alone together on Christmas Eve.
2020 Is Similar to When Christ was Born
As disruptive as 2020 has been, it is helpful to remember the Christmas story begins by telling us Jesus was born in dark and unsettling times, “when Quirinius was governor of Syria.” The Bible says, “In those days a decree went out…” This decree mandated people disrupt their lives, return to the place of their ancestral homes so that they could be assessed a huge tax increase, which was over and above the already crippling taxes that left most people on the brink of ruin.
Their lives were governed by the whims of corrupt tyrants who overtaxed people in every respect. So, folks made do with less–much less. The most vulnerable–especially widows, orphans, and sick people begged passersby in the streets for enough crumbs to survive.
Luke reminds us that Christ was born into the darkest of times, a world where anxiety, upheaval, evil, and sorrow abounded. The Christmas story does not begin on a holiday in a lighted church
with blasting trumpets. But in a dark alley with smelly animals and displaced and scandalized family. Most people wouldn’t have bought Mary’s account of her pregnancy.
The Christmas Vaccine
When Quirinius was governor of Syria and things were horrible and humanity suffered from a sin-sick soul, God saved the day by providing the vaccine everybody needed–Christmas. The Christmas message of peace and goodwill toward all is the world’s vaccine against pernicious hatred and malice. Christmas inoculates us from hardness of heart and callousness toward our neighbor. This vaccine promotes generosity and prevents self-centeredness and greed from destroying us from within. It purges the toxins of cynicism and despair, as well as unforgiveness and nursing grudges–that stuff is poison to our systems. Christmas gives us a booster shot inspires us to work for liberation and fair treatment of all people. So that one day everyone can sleep in heavenly peace.
You may think that this vaccine, Christmas, only works in sub-zero temperatures, (with snow), but we’ve got the California kind that works best on a night such as this. Christmas needs your consent to work its magic in your life. You’ve got to roll up your sleeve and let the shot sink into your thinking, your speaking, your actions. That’s how we turn around this pandemic of suffering and inhumanity.
Clinically tested for more than 2,000 years, the Christmas vaccine gets you in touch with your spiritual nature. You will see that you are the beloved of God: forgiven, loved, and blessed. Ultimately it triggers your auto-immune system so that hope, peace, joy, and love thrive.
Warning: do not take this vaccine you are allergic to kindness or sharing. Bouts of spontaneous prayer and unspeakable joy have happened. People who want to stay small or miserable should not take this vaccine. But for the rest of us, it comes at the right moment.
God is present in our darkest hours
On Christmas, God’s vaccine is called the light came into the darkness when people felt most afraid and vulnerable. The angels declared that Jesus would be called Emmanuel, which means, “God with us.” This is the central message of Christmas: God with us–in the thick of our lives, in the darkness that surrounds us and wells up within us. With us–is a savior, who showed us a way of approaching life that causes the better angels of our nature to rise and take flight.
Tonight we celebrate the truth that Hope descends precisely at the darkest moments of our greatest need. As the carol says, “The hopes and fears of all our years are met in Thee tonight.”
Christmas isn’t about slapping a happy face on everything, denying the dreadfulness of our situations. It’s about trusting that this is when God comes to us. Jesus Christ came to be with us in the midst of how it is in our problems, right now as a gift to help you get through whatever it is you may be going through.
How is God with Us?
You may be asking, “How is God with us?” God comes to you right now in this online service to give a sense of quiet peace in your spirit. God comes in the opportunity to serve and make the world a better place. God comes in the kindness of family, and strangers. This year, I’ve seen firsthand so many people from our church put themselves out there to make a difference: our essential services workers, people making calls on our elderly, others delivering meals, and contributing to help feed those in need. God’s favorite and most common way of showing up is when people take the time to look out for others.
Remember, at Christmas, God came not with overwhelming might and a Ramboesque take-no-prisoners machismo, but in the form of a vulnerable baby born of impoverished parents who would immediately become refugees seeking asylum to escape Herod’s schemes.
This baby grew up and taught us to look out for people who are hurting. He showed us how to be vulnerable enough to love, to form deep relationships, to risk believing God’s light is within us. In Christ we discover we can summon the courage to be vulnerable enough to be kind even when we don’t feel like it, to forgive instead of punching back.
And the great thing is that Christmas and God’s grace really is a gift. You don’t earn it. It just comes because you are a child of God. Tonight is God’s time to say to you, “I see you and I understand. I forgive you. I am here with you to get through and make life better. ”
Home Alone Together
I’ve been thinking a lot about that Christmas movie classic, Home Alone. One blogger called it the perfect 2020 movie. COVID restrictions force us to have Christmas Eve services in our homes, physically isolated from each other and those we’d normally be with tonight. For most of us, we are home alone–maybe with a few family members at best. Yet we are also bonded together by this shared experience online. And we are in the company of God’s steadfast love that endures forever.
In the Home Alone movie, the eight-year-old Kevin’s wish to be left alone from his family was inadvertently fulfilled when the family accidentally left on a trip without him. For a while he had a grand ol’ time, doing whatever he wanted. Kind of like how in the first couple of weeks of COVID some of us welcomed the respite time and indulged in new things. In the movie, Kevin gets bored with no one to share life with and wishes for his family to come back, which (spoiler alert) they finally do. In the separation, he learns to value and appreciate his family more fully–even his annoying brother, Buzz. May it all be for us this year, giving us a deeper appreciation for our loved ones and their roles in our lives–even the annoying ones. Somewhere one sibling just looked at another.
The fun of the movie is watching Kevin spoil the schemes of two hapless robbers seeking to fleece his home. He comically sabotages their designs, using the simple things around the house as boobytraps.
I’ve been thinking that we all have our own “emotional houses” to protect, if you will. This year any number of assailants came knocking at our doors seeking to do us harm. COVID, isolation, economic downturns, political and racial divisiveness, and grief. But we can defend our turf through faith and protect what really matters by living the way of love and hope and service that Jesus taught us to live. It’s the ultimate booby trap that makes evil fall on its face.
Through faith, and by following the way Jesus taught, the things that would rob us of our joy, of our sense of purpose will fall flat on their faces and we will rise with hope. Tonight, we remember that one day we will get to that place we really want to go. As the great Christmas carol says,
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn
Fall on your knees; O hear the Angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born
O night, O Holy night, O night divine!
Click here for 2019’s Christmas Eve Sermon