Christmas: God Joins Us In Our Struggles

 

Christmas is our feast.
The time we remember Jesus, born homeless in a shelter in Bethlehem.
The time of hope, of the birth of hope.
The time when we try, once again, to open up our hearts
our lives and let God be born in us.
It’s interesting.
The Gospels begin with the Christmas story,
the birth of Jesus, the power of God in powerless little child,
and ends with the story of Emmaus,
Jesus walking on the road incognito as a stranger
among His disciples.
What both stories tell us
is that God has inserted Himself into this tired struggle of humanity,
among men and women struggling with the power of evil and despair,
it is among us struggling people who form a story
which God wants us to become of;
and into this struggle God inserts himself in Christ Jesus,
becoming a brother, a fellow traveler with us.
he walks with us, he joins us in our struggles, our hurts, our disappointments,
listens to our story,
and helps us realize that we are not walking in circles;
we are not suffering without meaning;
we are not alone in our journey;
that the God of love who gives us life
is now with us
is now within us
at all times,
and in all places;
so we need never feel lost;
we can always trust that God walks with us.

Jesus comes to listen to our stories, and give us hope;
but so many of us, including myself,
tend to hide part of our story, to cling to our aloneness;
and when we do that we are not allowing God
to touch us when we are lost in pain,
we are hiding from one another those places deepest inside ourselves,
whether we are most in pain,
where we are most confused, guilty, hurt.
So Christmas our time to commit ourselves to open up
to one another and to God,
and allow God, divinity, hope, new life be born in us.

It is night now,
and in many ways in America, it is night, it is darkness.
and was in the night when
the angel told Mary that the Messiah, the Savior, would be born
to her, a Virgin, an “impossible” thing;
and in the night when she gave birth in the shelter of a cave,
because there was no vacancy in any rooming house.
how do we get out of the night, out of this darkness?
I’d like to tell you a story from a Jewish Hassic tale:
“How can we determine the hour of dawn, when the night ends and the day begins”,
a young man asks.
“When from a distance you can distinguish a dog from a sheep?”, suggested another young man.
“No”, said the old rabbi.
“Is it when one can distinguish between a fig tree and a grapevine? asked another young man.
“No”.
“It is when”, said the old teacher,
It is when you can look into the face of another human being,
no matter who they are, what they are, what they’ve done or not done,
and you have enough light to recognize in him or her a brother or a sister.
Until then,
it is night, and darkness is still with you”.

So tonight is a night to reach out
and in God let love for each other be born;
to think of any person among us we have judged,
not accepted, even rejected,
and build communion as a brother or sister;
if we have said,
look, I love you abstractly
but I don’t like your ways;
To reach out with the gift of real friendship.
When Jesus looked around at his followers,
they were not very different from us:
sinners, prostitutes, poor folks sat upon and spat upon,
all of whom were turning to a new life.

Tonight, God sends his only begotten Son, the first of brothers and sisters,
because he so loved this world, he so loved us;
God’s love for us must not be forgotten;
when everything is dark,
when we are surrounded by despairing forces,
when we do not see any exist out of our trouble,
Then we can find peace and salvation in
the remembered love of Jesus Christ,
which is love made vulnerable through suffering,
who teaches us that truth springs from patience, and patience from suffering.

I want now to pray,
and then I want to answer that prayer as I think Jesus does.

Tonight, Father, we are conscious of ourselves and the world we live in,
we are poor, our work is poor.
And tonight, Father, we want to make you an offering at Christmas;
we offer ourselves, we offer you our little world,
its troubles, its joys, its pain, its hopes;
We give you what we are, the poor Christmas that we are,
sometimes the poor human beings that we are.
I give you my family.
We are not always all we could be.
But we try. And with your help and your love, we will try harder.
We offer you our work for people hungry and homeless and alone,
and the good men and women we work with, whom we have not loved enough.
Let us love each other as you love us.
Heal us, Father, and make us feel free to enjoy your world
and use it as you want us to.
We offer you our country, this giant, tortured, often brutal country;
you have given us so much wealth and good news and power,
and what a mess!
We will try to love it and serve it, in your way.
So as you can see, Lord, we have little to give you;
but we offer what we have,
our failings, our frustrations, our betrayals,
the evil we do, the good we do not do.
and we know that you are glad!

And let me tell you what the Fathers answers me,
through Jesus:
Come to me, all of you who are weary and find life so hard,
And I will refresh you, I will renew you.
Take my yoke upon your shoulders, my love, my lifestyle,
And learn from me,
For I am gentle of heart;
My way is easy, my burden light.
Remember I am with you always,
I am the very core of our being,
I am your very life.
I weep your tears with you, for your tears are my tears.
But I am also your joy!
Don’t be afraid to be happy.
That’s what I made you for.
And every day is Christmas,
A day to be born all over again with my life.
Let no one judge you, let no one condemn you:
For every day is a day I can be born all over again,
In your life.
And one day before you go into the Kingdom
You can say,
“I really live now, not I,
But Jesus Christ lives in me”.
Amen.

Father David Kirk
Emmaus Harlem
Christmas 1987

Isaiah 9:2-7
Luke 2:1-20
Final: Philippians 4:4-7

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