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The Incarnation - Majesty & Simplicity

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May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable to our Lord, our Saviour, this Holy night and every night.

I would like everyone tonight to do something

            First take a deep breath in… Then out…

                        Breathe in… Then out…

                                    In… Out…

                                                Breathe in… Then out…

                                                            In… Out…

You know what you are doing?

            We together as a Church, as the body of Christ, are breathing together

                        Together… with each other – all gathered here tonight… and with God

                                    God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit

We trust in the promise that God is here tonight – because Jesus has said For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20)

Breathing together – on this sacred night


Now breathing is a simple enough thing right…?

            In fact it is an automatic physical reality of all God’s creatures

And yet it too is an incredibly complex thing, if we were to examine all aspects of what makes up breathing

From the expanding and contracting of the lungs where by the oxygen first enters into the body to the pumping of the heart… to the very creation of the many parts of the body

Consider why some cells form to be liver cells and others brain cells

            …The simple and the intricately complex, all together

This is what we come to celebrate this evening

            The utter majesty of the incarnation and the wonderfully simple ordinary

                        We come together – we breathe together – to celebrate the birth of a child

I want you to consider for a moment St. John’s nativity account that we began our service tonight

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 14And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1- 4 & 14)

Tonight – more than anything else we are celebrating – worshipping together, God’s involvement in life

            Whether we look at it from the St Luke’s account so greatly associated with Christmas

                        Where we hear of the birth of a child some 2000 years ago

Or it is St. John’s version where God speaks the Word – God gives His Word to all creation… And the Word became flesh

Whichever you most resonate with – God is the giver …and God is at the deepest level involved with life – each and every life – simply and majestically

Perhaps it is the weight of tradition, aware that we listen to passages Christians have heard for centuries.

Or perhaps it is also the breathtakingly simple yet surprisingly powerful story of a young girl giving birth to her first child, attended only by shepherds and stable animals but heralded by angels above.

By all rights, of course, it's a story that should not even have been noticed, let alone told again and again across millennium.

After all, countless young girls gave birth that night and we remember none of them.

And interestingly, the "smallness" of Mary's story is contrasted by Luke's set up to the story:

"In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus... while Quirinius was governor."

Emperors and governors are apt subjects for dramatic narratives;

Unwed teenage mothers and their vulnerable babes are not.

Yet Luke locates this simple story amid the powers and principalities of the age to make a claim:

The child born to this young mother will change the course of history,

And the fates of leaders and common folk alike hang in the balance of His destiny.

I suspect that, on one level, we've forgotten just how audacious, if not downright outlandish, Luke's claim is

So accustomed to the slow and graceful reading of Luke’s account, we may miss the irony of setting newborn beside emperor as if the two could possibly have anything to do with one another

At a deeper level, however, I have a hunch that we do recognize something of the absolute, even absurd vulnerability of Mary and her child,

And that their very vulnerability may be a large part of what moves us[1]

            It is the greatest underdog story the world has ever known

                        God sets the stage with details for the remotest – most unlikely

In the farthest remote region, in a land under oppression – to a poor and unwed young woman… it is to this situation…

                                                That the saviour of all mankind – all creation

                                                On which time is measured – on which life is given

On one level, few of us, after all, have much experience with anything miraculous, be it the relatively small-scale miracle of turning water into wine or the grand event of resurrection

But on another level – each and every one of us experiences miracles all around us – each and every day, each and every moment – from the simple miracle of breathing to majestic miracle of God entering the world as one of us

God is Life – the giver of life… and God enters into life as we know it – in the same way we all came into the world – born of woman

Tonight we celebrate how incredibly simple and yet how profoundly transformative it is that Jesus the Christ was born


How far is it from Nazareth to Bethlehem? If you’re in Pennsylvania, it’s about 9 miles and takes about 10 minutes by car.

But if you’re in Nazareth of Galilee, and you’re traveling along with your pregnant wife, as Joseph was, it’s about 80 miles to Bethlehem.

That journey probably took Joseph and Mary about a week, and they didn’t stay in a nice hotel when they got there.

All Joseph could find was a stall in a stable, and that’s where Mary delivered “her firstborn Son”

But the journey for the infant Jesus was much farther than 80 miles.

He left His place in heaven at God’s right hand, came to earth, and accepted our humanity.

Eventually, He was stretched out on a cross to die, and He was buried in a borrowed tomb.

But the journey was not over.

He conquered death, left the tomb, walked again among people, and ascended to heaven. – Even that is not the journey’s end.

Someday He will return as King of kings and Lord of lords.

As you take a Christmas journey tonight, reflect on the journey Jesus made for us.

He came from heaven to earth to die for us, making salvation available through His death on the cross and His glorious resurrection.

Praise God for that first Christmas journey! [2]

Tonight and all through the Christmas season we hear songs that are comforting to many.

But some people are unable to absorb the message because their lives are in turmoil.

They’ve experienced the loss of a loved one, persistent unemployment, a serious illness, or maybe a loved family member that is not demonstrating true God’s love

            Or depression that will not go away

Their hearts loudly cry out, “All is not well—not for me!”

But for those of us who celebrate the birth of our Savior—despite the dark night of the soul we may experience—all is well because of Christ… We are not alone in our pain.

Scripture declares innumerable promises of God – here are some:

God is beside us and promises never to leave (Heb. 13:5).

He promises that His grace will be sufficient (2 Cor. 12:9).

He promises to supply all our needs (Phil. 4:19).

And He promises us the amazing gift of eternal life (John 10:27-28).

Here is the promise of Christmas in a nutshell. God deigns to dwell not with the high and mighty, but with the lowly, the unexpected, those considered "nothing" by this world.

And here, amid the weakness and vulnerability of human birth, God makes God's intentions for humanity fully known.

God is love, John writes, and here Luke and John portrays that love made manifest, as God takes human form… the infinite becomes finite,

And that which is imperishable becomes perishable.

The genius of Luke's story, of course, is that he portrays all this through the simple, sympathetic, and even everyday characters of a young mother and common shepherds.

If God can work in and through such ordinary characters, we are bond to wonder; perhaps God can also work in and through us.

Luke wants, I think, to make sure we realize that it is not just human flesh "in general" that God takes on in Christ; ….it is our flesh.

And it is not simply history "in general" that God enters via this birth, …it is our history and our very lives to which God is committed.[3]

The beauty is found in the simple – yet with eyes to see, the utterly majestic

I have seen angels appear and glory shinning around as I have watched the pain-filled eyes of those who have discovered that there really is a grace that can become our ally in a time of great fear and anxiety.

Angels shine when we encounter someone who moves towards and through death with an extraordinary grace and dignity and courage.

I challenge you to consider God’s entering into this world beyond the birth of Jesus that we commemorate tonight

The essential “good news of great joy” of the everyday miracles – come to, often busy, and more often disbelieving, people

It is something that is born in their lives and in their experience that they had no idea existed

To take this ongoing and inner meaning from the text does not lessen the truth of the original ‘glory that shone around’ those long-ago men in those distant fields to whom the original good news was given.

On that night Mary gave birth to our Christ…

So also it comes about that, day after day and night after night until the end of time, Christ struggles to be born in our human lives and our human experiences.

When we look in our various mirrors and we find we are the shepherds.

We will realize that scripture’s inexhaustible richness speaks to us on many levels.

To those long-ago shepherds it spoke of “child wrapped in swaddling clothes… lying in a manger” – in other words, a child who would look deceptively ordinary.

The words of this scripture can warn us that Christ comes to us again and again in the utterly ordinary things of our experience, and that, therefore, we need to be alert to the ongoing miracles of His coming.

“Glory to God” sang the angels, and “peace among those whom (God) favours.”

Already, in these few shepherds, a small portion of humanity was favoured on that night of nights by a glimpse of God’s glory.

It is quite certain that you and I are given such moments, if we have eyes to see

They will most likely come when we are in the fields – those places where we live our daily lives.

If we are open to such God-given moments, then they will bring us Peace

For we will know that, beyond the realm we are so fond of calling real life, there is a realm even more real![4]

So tonight, Breathe in… and breathe out… breathe in… and breathe out…

The simple miracle that God came as one of us – that Jesus was born and drew breath as we do

– and that God is here for everlasting - where two or three are gathered together in his name, Jesus is in the midst of them.

Thanks be to God – Merry Christmas - Amen



[2] Our Daily Bread – Tuesday December 20th - Dave Egner


[4] The Word Today – Year C, Volume 1 - Herbert O’Driscoll – page 44

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