Peer in the manger and see the face of God

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Tonight God invites you to peer into the manger and see the face of God here in this place. God has come down to live and dwell among you and me, and especially with the least, the lost, and the forsaken.  Emmanuel means, “God with us.”  There is no greater gift God can give than himself in Jesus Christ. 


 

Christmas
Eve 2012, Year C

Isaiah 9.2-7; Luke 2.1-20

Pastor Renee Splichal Larson

 

Grace to you and peace to you from God who has become flesh
in Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

It was the day after Christmas at a
church in San Francisco. The Pastor was looking at the nativity scene on the
front lawn of the church when he noticed the baby Jesus was missing from the
figures.  Immediately, the Pastor turned
towards the church to call the police. But as he was about to do so, he saw
little Jimmy with a red wagon, and in the wagon was the figure of the little
infant, Jesus.The Pastor walked up to Jimmy and
said, "Hello, Jimmy.  Now can you
tell me where you got that little baby Jesus you’re pulling in the wagon?"

Jimmy replied, "I got him from the manger over there."
"And why did you take him?" asked the pastor.
With a sheepish smile, Jimmy said,
"Well, about a week before Christmas I prayed to little Lord Jesus. I told
him if he would bring me a red wagon for Christmas, I would give him a ride
around the block in it." 

Adapted
from: (http://www.jokebuddha.com/Wagon#ixzz1i9NQtfD1)

Obviously Jimmy got his
wagon and remained true to his word.:)

The baby Jesus…what are
we to think about him?  For Jimmy in his
childhood, Jesus is perhaps one who has the power to give gifts or be a
companion for a wagon ride.  In the
Scripture that we read throughout the year Jesus is saying and doing many
things: He is teaching, healing, rebuking, challenging, loving, eating, dying,
and rising.  Tonight he is resting silently
in a manger, a feeding trough for animals, after coming out of a comfortable
womb he’s been in for the last 9 months. 

The manger Jesus is resting in is here tonight in our worship space/hope
chapel.  We are in Bethlehem.  You all are invited to peer into the manger
and see the face of God in a human child and ponder in your heart what this
child means for you.  God has come into
this world, your world, in the same flesh, bones, and stuff you are made
of. 

This child is susceptible to death and illness as you are, can laugh and
smile as you can, feel pain and sadness as you do, and yet can love more than
any other who has ever walked this earth. 
This child called Jesus, born this night to Mary, is God in the flesh.

In no other religion apart from Christianity, does the Creator of all
that is become a human being.  In Jesus,
God embodies all of humanity, including you and me. 

Tonight we hear this good news from the gospel of Luke, perhaps for the
first time or the fiftieth time.  On this
night so long ago, shepherds were the first to hear the great joy about this
baby for all people.

The shepherds have always been a part of the manger scene and no one
seems to think it odd.  For Mary and
Joseph, these were quite unexpected visitors.

Shepherds were essentially homeless, living outside with their sheep on
the land.  Clearly, this way of life
lends itself to not smelling like roses. 
At the time of Jesus’ birth, shepherding was not necessarily an
occupation to be proud of.  They were on
the outer edges of society and more than likely were not considered to be part
of the religious folk.  These were the
least likely people anyone would think the angels would visit to announce the
birth of the savior of the world.

But they did and we get to hear about it!  An Angel comes and stands among them.  They are absolutely terrified.  So the angel says to them, “Do not be afraid;
for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is
born this day in the city of David a Savior who is the Messiah, the Lord (Luke
2.10-11).” 

My rendition of the angel’s words would be something like: “You
shepherds, who most people think are not worth a second glace.  You who are marginalized and probably haven’t
been to worship in ages: “…to you is
born this day…a Savior…”  To you, for you. 

These are really important words. 
Most people have at least heard of the name of Jesus, but have no
concept of Jesus being for them.  But
here me clearly tonight, “To you is
born this day a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.  You will find this child called Jesus born in
you.”

Christmas
is about you being with God and God being with you.  It doesn’t matter where you are or who you
are with, the message of the incarnation is the same: “to you is born this day…a Savior.” 

Once we get
this part straight we can hear the other half of the announcement: “I am
bringing you good news of great joy for all the people.”  God in the flesh is for all people, even the
people you least expect God to be for…including yourself.

So after
the angels left the shepherds, the shepherds leave their sheep and their
livelihood to find this new little one who has come into the world. They find
the baby in the manger, which is their sign for them from the angels that they
are in the right place.

They peer
into the manger to see the face of their God and savior come to live and walk
among them.  In looking at the baby
Jesus, they know and feel the deep love of God for them and for all people.  

Trying hard
not to wake the child, they bid Mary and Joseph goodbye and go on their way
glorifying and praising God for such a gift to them and the world.

Pastor Brian Stoffregen writes:

There are no good reasons why God should have invited shepherds to the
birth of Jesus. They are the last group of Jews you would want around at the
birth; but precisely because they were not expected, precisely because they
shouldn't be there, precisely because of their bad reputations; God makes his
point.  The shepherds come to Jesus
because God extended them an invitation they couldn't refuse. The shepherds
come, not because they were worthy, but because God invited them. (www.crossmarks.com)

Tonight God invites you to peer into the manger and
see the face of God here in this place. God has come down to live and dwell among you and me, and
especially with the least, the lost, and the forsaken.  Emmanuel means, “God with us.”  There is no greater gift God can give than
himself in Jesus Christ. 

So I ask you again: what are we to think of the baby in the manger, this
one called Jesus? 

With Mary, let us treasure all these things and ponder them in our hearts.  And like the shepherds, let us believe the
words of the angel and praise the Creator of all things who is here among us
this night and always.