For years, I thought it was pointless to preach a sermon on Christmas Eve. I mean, how many Christmas Eve sermons have you actually remembered after Christmas Eve? Hmm? Yeah, me too. Not one. So I operated from the viewpoint that the gospel could speak for itself this one night of the year. The story of the incarnation is enough.
But then, I realized this is only true for people who already believe. For everyone else, it’s just a nice story. It makes us feel all fuzzy and warm, and for an hour or so, we can bask in the gentle glow of candlelight. We can pretend that the cute baby in the manger sleeps in heavenly peace, and won’t bother us too much with the reality of our human existence.
And that’s where we’d be wrong. Because the whole point of the incarnation – that idea of God becoming human in the person of Jesus – the whole point of that exercise is precisely to remind us of the reality of our human condition. And to let us know that God loves us each so much, God chose to enter into that condition and become one of us. That’s what the name “Emmanuel” means: God with us.
On Christmas Eve, we hear the opening verses of John’s gospel. I’m praying that you will get something new from these beautiful words: In the beginning was the Word … and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
Here’s the mystery:
The Word didn’t become a religious system.
The Word didn’t become a theological checklist.
The Word didn’t become a political movement.
The Word didn’t become an ecstatic experience.
The Word became flesh. Loving embodied existence.
God chose to be among us as one of us. On this holy night, we remember how this story turned out, as we celebrate Holy Communion. We celebrate that Jesus not only came into our world as a precious baby, he grew up. He challenged worldly authorities in order to establish heavenly peace. He died for that peace.
But the story does not end there. Birth and death are inevitable as part of this human condition. But Christ rose again from death to free us from the inevitable. Christ invites you to receive this gift.
This Christmas Eve, receive Jesus.
As you take the bread and receive the cup, receive Jesus.
As you tip your candle into the flame, receive Jesus.
Even if you consider yourself a believer, already a Christian,
receive Jesus anew.
If you are a skeptic, or maybe you’re only here because your family made you come, receive this miracle of God with you.