The Gift of Christmas
Pastor Brian Rajcok
December 24, 2019
Can you remember the magic of Christmas when you were young? The feeling you had when you heard about the baby in a manger, about the virgin Mary, of shepherds and angels and wise men from the east. The Christmas season has a way of reminding us of who we truly are. Of calling forth the good in us and bringing out the best in humanity. We hear songs on the radio of peace and goodwill toward all. We dream of a world at peace, where all live in harmony. We imagine a better way of life and think just maybe such a world is possible. This holy time of year, perhaps more than any other season, reminds us of the gift that it is to be human and inspires us to hope for the world our hearts most long for.
The birth and life of Jesus is what we call the Incarnation: the divine becoming incarnate, meaning in the flesh. The Incarnation of the divine in Jesus Christ shows us there is immense dignity and honor in being incarnate ourselves, in being human. It is shows us creation is good and sacred and holy. Jesus was born manifesting the very life of God, uniting matter and spirit, heaven and earth, the human and the divine. His birth embodies a truth we often forget. The truth that the physical, the earthly, the incarnate is good. Being human is not some punishment or something we need to escape from. It’s something we’re called to live into as fully as possible. We have an existence that is a tremendous gift. Twentieth century monk Thomas Merton wrote, “I have the immense joy of being human, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate.” I think when we truly grasp the significance of the Incarnation, we’ll be just as awestruck and inspired to feel the same.
The birth of Jesus shows us beyond any doubt that being incarnate creatures is a good thing. We’re meant to be here. It’s a blessing and a privilege to be human—not something we should wish away or try to escape from. We are here to live this life to the fullest and to enjoy this union of flesh and spirit that we are. Life is truly a gift.
And yet sometimes living this incarnate journey is painful. Sometimes we experience evil and cruelty from others. Sometimes we feel the tremendous burden of being human with all our painful emotions and our bodies that hurt and grow old and die. Sometimes we wonder if good will really have the last word. Sometimes we question if anything spiritual even exists.
It is then, when life is a struggle, that we remember Jesus came to join us in our suffering too. Not only to experience the joy that it is to be human, but perhaps even more importantly, to experience the pain and sorrow and loss that it is to be human. To join us in our joys and accomplishments. To join us in our suffering and sin—and ultimately to free us from it.
Now remember, it’s not earthly life that we need to be freed from, but the sin that contaminates it. Christ became incarnate to reveal to us the sacredness of our own embodiment, and to free us from the sin that keeps us from living lives united with God. We know that the suffering and sin that are reality now is not life as God intends it. And because of Christ we have assurance that all creation will experience life in union with our Creator, life as God intends it.
In Jesus Christ, God united the human and the divine—and calls us to join this union too. The joy of Christmas is in knowing that God sent a Savior to be born for us and in us. This evening we celebrate the past event of Jesus’ birth as well as the present event of Christ’s birth in us. We welcome the same union of human and divine to be born in us. We pray the words of O Little Town of Bethlehem: “Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today.” The birth of Christ in us is the deepest meaning of Christmas.
So what does the birth of Christ in us look like? Well, it could look like doing what we’re doing right now. Worshipping God. Adoring the newborn Christ-child. Abiding in the mystery of this holy night. It might look like deepening your own prayer life and building a more conscious connection with the divine life in you. It might look like carrying joy out into the world, smiling at strangers or being gentle drivers on a busy highway. It might look like visiting a nursing home or being part of a Big Brother-Big Sister program. It might look like volunteering at a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter. It might look like advocating for justice and systems that don’t perpetuate poverty.
Whatever it looks like, the Holy Spirit is birthing Christ in us. As St. Augustine said, “You are the body of Christ; you are the incarnation, too.” We are called to follow Jesus in manifesting the divine in the world; to make our hearts the birthplace of Christ.
So I want to invite you to something. Every morning you wake up, ask God to help you live according to God’s will that day. Maybe you can repeat what Mary said, “Let it be done to me according to your word.” It could be a very simple new year’s resolution: every morning asking God to reveal God’s will for you that day and for you to be attentive enough to discern what it is. It may be different every day, and it may not seem like anything special. But daily turning your will over to God is a powerful spiritual practice. It will transform you, and it will empower you to bring the light of God into the world around you in your own unique way. That is our privilege and our calling as followers of Jesus, as people in whom Christ has been born.
And so this Christmas Eve let us rejoice in the blessing it is to be human and in God’s promise to be born in us. The Incarnation is the center of our faith, and the face of the Incarnation is the baby born in Bethlehem. The one of whom the angels sing, the one whom the shepherds visit, the one who unites heaven and earth, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.