Christmas Eve: Coming Home to Christ

Expectation (And Fear?): Nice, Finished Stories

What a special time of year. And what a privilege for us to join together! I’m thankful to be able to take about 10 minutes tonight and share a few reflections with you. As Christians, we come to celebrate Jesus’ birth. I said earlier in December that we celebrate the triple Advent of Jesus: we celebrate his arrival in the manger; we anticipate his coming in glory; we experience his presence in our hearts. And many of us are here tonight because we feel there’s something special about the Christmas season; maybe we even believe in God! And we want to mark this special moment in some formal way. So here we are! 

Some of us here call ourselves Christians. Some attend church regularly. Some of us don’t! But I would bet that most of us, if and when we come to church, we expect to hear finished stories. And one of the main rubs—whether we believe or don’t believe, whether we come often or rarely—one of the main rubs is that the stories of the Bible seem like nice, finished stories—but our lives are hectic, frantic, and very much in-process. And so the stories of the Bible, nice as they might be, seem disconnected from ordinary life. 

If you are a Christian, perhaps you hope to hear a testimony: something like the beautiful hymn: “I once was lost, but now I’m found.” Or even better, “I was blind, but now I see!” It is certainly amazing to hear stories of God’s miraculous healing—to hear unexplained and unexplainable transformation from pain to joy; from despair to hope; from indifference to love, and from war to peace. But many of us find ourselves neither at the beginning of our stories (our lives) nor at the end. Our stories are not tied up in a little bow. Our stories cannot be told in just a few sentences. They are messy. Complicated. They are filled with unanswered questions. Most of all, our stories are yet unfinished. 

The Story of Christmas: Not a Finished Whole

If you’ve been to Christmas services before, then you know about the joy of the angels and the wonder of the shepherds! You know that Jesus was born! Healthy, maybe even happy. And if you’ve come back for Easter, then you know also that Jesus had a life and ministry on earth and that he died and on the third day rose again. “He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty” the Apostle’s Creed says, testifying to the stories in the four Gospels. 

But if you read the story of the Bible, then you see that the story of Jesus is (only) the centralchapter or movement of the whole Bible. And the Bible contains many completed stories—but all the stories leave us with more questions: Just HOW did God create the world? Where did Solomon get all those wives from? How exactly did the exile go and where did everyone end up? What ever happened to all of those churches in all of those cities who received letters in the New Testament? 

I ask all these questions in order to make two points:

  1. as a whole, the Bible leaves a lot unfinished and unanswered. 
  2. There remains a significant GAP between the stories of the New Testament and the final judgement in Revelation. 

We live in that gap! All of us inhabit the gap between the life of Jesus and the end of the world. That’s just a fact and perhaps one that doesn’t always seem important—at least, it doesn’t always seem urgent. But the incredible and surprising thing about Christmas, is that we are invited to live in that gap along with others and even along with God! It is easy to believe that a god exists, far off somewhere. Even, maybe, a god who created everything. But it is shocking to consider that this God became human—and that this God even today actually wants to be a part of your life—that God wants to be with you in the midst of everything going on—the pretty and formal events; but also the ugly, painful, and secret things.

Coming Home to Jesus in an Unfinished World

Imagine for a moment if you came home and found Jesus Christ sitting in your living room. Maybe not the baby Jesus, you would have to care for him and find a crib and stress about the right kind of baby food. Imagine if you came home and found an adult Jesus Christ sitting in front of you.  Perhaps you might feel one of the four emotions that goes with the candles we talked about tonight:

Hope  You might hope for improvement, for help, for resolution—either for you, for a loved one, or for the world.

Joy      You might feel joy! Excitement, happiness, elation at meeting Jesus and at being with him! You might feel wonder: “I can’t believe this is happening!!!” 

Love   You might go in for a hug, or kneel down/bow down on the ground in reverence and awe. You might be overcome with gratefulness, thankfulness, and love.

Peace Or maybe you would settle into a deep sense of peace. That the world is still broken—but, in this moment, everything is alright! (ref. Harrison’s sermon?)

As we close, allow me to suggest that this year, the Christmas story we need is not a finished story. We don’t need everything to be pretty or presentable or wrapped up with a perfect bow. Perhaps you need a story of Jesus sitting with you in the midst of the incompleteness, insufficiency, unpopularity, and struggle.  The story of God’s love for humanity is that story—it is stil unfolding, and you are here because God wants you to be an important part of it.

If and when you follow Jesus, God will give you hope; he will give you joy; he will deepen your love, and he will give you peace. But most of all, God will give you himself. God will walk with you at home, at work, and at school; as you travel. And God will invite you into a story that is far bigger than yourself and challenge you to a whole new life that is so much bigger and better than you can imagine! It started at the first Christmas, but it’s not over yet!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: