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A Baby? Who would have thought?
A sermon preached by the Rev. Dr. Gale Davis on Christmas Eve 2012

Christmas Eve 2012
Christ Church Andover, MA

Isaiah 9:2-7; Psalm 96:1-4,11-12; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-14


Merry Christmas!

The Good News we have been expecting is alive and among us--but who would have thought?

Who would have thought that the Messiah would be born in a manger?

Who would have thought that the Prince of Peace was a poor child born to an unwed mother?

Who would have thought all the Hebrew prophecies and predictions and foretelling would come to this? a baby in a manger!

I have spoken before of us not getting what we expected and I am sure that only Joseph and Mary were thrilled with what they got when Jesus was born that night so long ago--everyone else had other ideas about what Jesus should be or do and most all of them were disappointed!

I think that is because when we expect things to be a certain way, we usually expect a way we think will benefit us most.  And that baby born so unceremoniously in the night in a stable filled with animals -- and their various (mostly unpleasant) smells and noises, in a place foreign and far away from home, to two inept parents, wasn't what anyone expected.  Maybe even Joseph and Mary who probably expected that the birth of their child would be with a midwife in attendance and in a home.  But here we have it -- the Prince of Peace, the Messiah, God with us, Emmanuel, Jesus -- is a baby.... born in a manger -- the STABLE! And he is the revelation of God’s self to humanity.

As I pondered this reality, God’s revelation of God’s self in the form of a baby this week as I prepared to speak tonight, I was also distracted by the world around me, around all of us.  By the bustle of “Christmas preparations”, shopping, menu planning, parties and politics, Congressional and Facebook debates, and I might add my home in the state of the “half-doneness shambles” that anyone who has had their home remodeled understands, a new parish to serve, people and faces to learn, new and different ways of doing things to embody -- in the middle of all, that I kept thinking about the  astonishment of God revealing God’s self to us in the form of a baby.

Granted, I am a baby person.  I love new babies, older babies, babies in general.  Even babies that are 6 or 10.  But especially little ones that I can hold and coo over, smell the nape of their necks, kiss their feet, play patty cake with.  Babies are my favorite sort of human being. While babies are certainly God-given, I do not think of them as Godly or capable in any way of what I would have God be if I could choose God to be incarnate.  

Yet it was in such a form that God, the omnipotent and only wise,  did reveal God’s self.  A baby boy, wrapped in clean cloth, lying in a manger.

God did not choose a royal entry into the world -- nothing like the baby or babies that William and Kate will welcome into the royal family.  God did not choose a prestigious place to be born or a prestigious family.  He chose good bloodlines to be sure, but a family currently a bit down and out.  In fact God didn't even choose to come with superhuman powers or abilities, to appear like an alien from far, far away, knowing all things as God does. No dramatic entrance, no descending from the clouds or galloping in on a winged horse for God.

God didn’t even clean up the world before coming.  God just decided that being with us was the most important thing of all and to prove it, God became one of us.  Not a superhuman personification of a human being, but an ordinary human being like you or me or the folks down the street or across the pond.  God entered into the muck, complexity, politics, (especially the politics that were no better then than now, maybe even worse).  He entered into religious institutions, he became part of the challenges and mess of the world as we humans had and continue to, made it.  God came among us to show God’s unimaginable love for us and to reveal that love by being with us, no strings attached.  It seems to me that in so doing, God sanctified human life.  God emphatically said of us, “You are holy. And you are precious to me. I love you as you are in this mucky, messy world.” 

And to further prove that we are valuable to God, God entrusted the care of God’s self to two rather unremarkable, uneducated, unknown, inexperienced parental units.  God didn't find a fancy nurse or staff to make sure that Jesus was properly fed, clothed, housed and educated.  He trusted two human beings, one older man and his young fiancée, to provide for him.  God arrived helpless and naked into the world, as we all do, and was nurtured into adulthood by regular human beings, as we all are.  But for God, it was out of deep love for us that such a way of being with us was what he chose

I wonder if we would choose the same if we could choose?  Who would have thought?

God who created us, trusted us.  Trusted Mary and Joseph on behalf of all human beings, with the care of God’s own self.  God trusts us still, all of us. God with us, Emmanuel.  Jesus needed us human beings to survive in the world.  God is dependent on us still!  God trusted Joseph and Mary, also one of us, to provide, to sustain him.  Now God’s care is in our hands.

Think about that.  God trusted that we would provide that which God needed.  God, helpless as a babe in the manger, without super powers or even self knowledge that he would grow into the redeemer of the world or even grow into anything except a carpenter like his stepfather Joseph, needs us.  God trusts us.  God loves us.  God sanctified us.  God wants us to know all of that!  Wants us to know God as our “the beloved”, as God knows us as his beloved.  God became one of us that we might know God more intimately, and the only way it could happen was to become one of us. Who would have thought????

The incarnation of God in the form of a baby in the manger gives us far more than we could ever expect or make up for ourselves about God!  The incarnation is proof that we are loved beyond imagination or expectation.  The incarnation is God’s way of saying, “I need you”.  "I need you” just as you are -- in the muck you have made, and in the messiness of human life.  In that human life you are “HOLY".  You are sanctified and God loves you and needs you as much as you need God.  So the baby in the manger is not just the story of new life and new birth, a theme we know well in Christianity.  It is also an almost romantic love story -- a story of passion and intimacy between God and God’s own.  What a lovely thing to celebrate each year in the bleak mid-winter.  We are the beloved of God, and God trusts us with God’s very being.  What good news!  Merry Christmas!  Truly glad tidings of Great Joy!  Amen!  Who would have thought such love, such joy, such holiness was possible?  Amen!  Amen!

Last Published: January 3, 2013 4:16 PM