Last week on Thursday night, I ran out of fuel. Not in my car, just in my body. It’s Christmas Eve; I’m pregnant as Mary on a donkey; and I’ve got nothing. All of you may find this Christmas pregnancy wonderfully inspiring, but I just find it terribly tiring.
As often happens to me, I have myself all wound up with ideas of what this SHOULD feel like and how this SHOULD be the best Christmas Eve sermon I ever preach. And yet, all I feel is inadequate to task, like I have nothing left to offer. Which just might be exactly the point of Christmas.
Because what our success-oriented, image-obsessed culture can’t quite imagine is that God accepts us when we have nothing to offer. God delights in us when we have nothing to offer. The Christmas story even indicates that God shows up in a special way to those who know they have nothing to offer. Blue-collar dads and unwed teenage moms. People from the lowest rungs of society who have given up on being anyone other than who they are. God in human form comes to those people first and foremost.
You know who else has nothing to offer? Newborn babies. This child I’m carrying is not going to do anything useful for me and Sam. They’re not going to provide intelligent conversation, or help us with the housework, or contribute to our income. In fact, they are going to take quite a bit from us. And we are going to love them so much in spite of that.
This year, for me, that is the lesson of God coming to us as a baby. What God offers to us is unconditional love, and nobody demonstrates unconditional love like parents with a new baby. This Christmas I am reminded that God is the parent and I am the baby. That God loves me when I have nothing to offer. That there is nothing I have to do to impress God. God is not judging me based on my intelligence or my abilities. God loves me just because I am God’s baby. As are we all.
Do you believe that? Can you accept that? Will you allow yourself to trust that? On this holiest and most silent of nights when the ordinary miracle of new life seems most possible, can you see yourself in the manger? Will you flip the script and allow Mary and Joseph to be God and you to be the baby? On this night, will you open your heart to love?
The unconditional love of God that holds us like babies is consistently shown in the life of Jesus. Tonight we don’t just stop at Bethlehem, but journey all the way to the end to witness love that is unconditional, and sacrificial, and victorious over all evil. From the manger to the table to the empty tomb, Jesus shows us over and over again exactly how God loves us. Because unconditional love is not always easy, but it’s always worth it. And sacrificial love will always be vindicated in the end. Tonight we celebrate the Communion meal as an affirmation that God’s love for us is unconditional, sacrificial, and victorious. And that Christ’s presence among us empowers us to love others in those same ordinary and miraculous ways. Amen.