For most people the birth of an infant child in a manger that first Christmas night was a matter of indifference. People were still drinking and gambling in the inn, Aware only of how they were trying to forget life’s miseries for a moment, they were oblivious to anything except themselves. If there were a birth in the feed stall out back who cared? One more person born in poverty, another mouth to feed, and well, if I don’t have to feed it what is it to me?
Those falling asleep in the town of Bethlehem, of those, how many do you think bestirred themselves from the warmth and comfort of their beds to look out the window, and if they did, how many of them do you think bothered to look up at the sky, let alone notice a new star shining there?
Some of the people who walked in darkness may have seen a great light, but most certainly not all. Of those who lived in the land of deep darkness, well, maybe on all of them a great light shined, but how few actually took the time to notice it. But they had an excuse, did they not? Were they not busy with life, and all that entails? Surely there may have been some that were looking and hoping for the coming of the Messiah, but how many really cared? For most of them tomorrow was another day, and for most of them it was not one such a day that had much room in it for love, let alone theological reflection and God.
Some prefer to live in the land of deep darkness, even after the last two millennia of the proclamation that the light of God has shined. The old saying is that you can bring a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink. And you can bring people to the living water of God, but in the last analysis, you cannot make them drink of the springs of living water. You can bring them to the light, but that does not mean that they respond to the light. You can stand there and talk about hope until you are blue in the face and that does not necessarily make people hopeful. You can proclaim a message of the love of God in Jesus Christ, but that does not make people necessarily more loving; sometimes I wonder if the opposite is true that it makes them less so. Just because this is supposed to be a season of joy, does not necessarily make people joyful. For most remain today as did the people that first Christmas night: largely indifferent; just trying to make it in the dog eat dog world; living in all want of charity; expecting the grace of God for themselves that they would all too readily deny another.
For, if the birth in that manger were a gift, then it was most certainly an unlikely and perhaps unwanted gift. We want a savior! We want a solution to the problem! What we don’t need is another human being! We don’t really want a God who is like us as much as we want a God who will save us. It would have been done far better Deus ex machine as in the ancient Greek Tragedies than by the mystery of the incarnation.
Would that we would quit treating the birth of Jesus as though it were the gift that we did not want, and embarrassingly didn’t quite know what to do with it and
Would that it were so that we would find the joy that is the theme of our lessons tonight. Would that we would learn to sing to the Lord a new song of praise and thanksgiving, rather than the same tired dirge that all humanity has been singing for centuries.
Would that we would take it to heart that God truly loves the world and loves His creation. Would that we might learn the message and meaning of Christmas: that as God dwells in the earthly life of Jesus, so too, it is his desire that he dwell within you.