I love Christmas. Specifically, I love Christmas Eve. The love and care it takes to make our places of worship look beautiful, the singing of traditional Christmas hymns and the joyful spirit all come together to make it such a wonderful occasion. Yet what I love most about Christmas Eve, is that people show up.
There is a running narrative about “those people.” Some folks even sheepishly confess to being “those people,” the ones who only come to church on Christmas Eve and Easter. But for me, I am glad that they made the decision to show up. And this is why my heart is so warmed that people choose to show up: it reinforces the belief in hope.
As I suggested in my Christmas Eve homily this year, our world feels more challenging than ever. And yet, we must remember that in the first century, the world was also a very difficult place, with war, oppressive regimes, wide-spread famine and illness. In the midst of the pain, suffering, terror and fear, God became incarnate. In doing so, God was making the strongest statement possible – I have not given up on you – do not give up on me!
What took place in that stable in Bethlehem was not just the birthing of Jesus, but the birthing of hope. Throughout the Sacred Story up until that time God had consistently made it clear that God would not abandon us. In the birth of Jesus, that promise could not have been made more tangible. God was made manifest in Jesus and issued the ultimate proclamation of God’s undeniable and unwavering love for us.
How, then, will we respond? When we show up on Christmas Eve – whoever ‘we’ are – it is our bold proclamation responding to God’s love for us in the person of Jesus. It is us saying yes to God’s yes to us, it is our saying we will not let the darkness overcome us – we will remain faithful and hopeful…all made known in our love for God and neighbor.