There’s something about Christmas that touches our hearts like nothing else does. There’s something that stirs inside us when we hear those familiar lines from Isaiah: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of darkness, on them light has shined.”
Tonight we remember how Christ came into a darkened world with a light that could not be extinguished, a light that still beckons us to “come and adore him.”
Christmas this year reminds us how very much we need the light this Child brings, and how glad we are to be able to celebrate His coming this night.
Christmas always draws our attention to the beauty and wonder of human life. It seems to be part of God’s plan, that newborns should evoke awe and gratitude in those who gaze upon them with love. Every baby is a sign that life should go on, which is why we are especially glad to hear about a baby when we are mourning a great loss. Nothing can replace the ones we grieve, but somehow, the news of a baby lifts the dark shadow of our loss and makes the world seem brighter.
How wise, that God would come into to the world in this way, as a baby!
But of course Mary’s baby is not just any baby. The baby she and Joseph hold to comfort and keep warm that night “brings healing in his wings.” He will draw people to him, and he will heal them of their infirmities and release them from their despair. He will teach them the way of love, the way of life that God intends for all people.
At the heart of that life is the realization that God loves us. God is love, and God loves us.
And that means that on a night like this, as we gaze on the infant Jesus, we are caught short if we think it is up to us to make ourselves acceptable to God. It is because of this night, and all that comes in this new life, that we are made worthy of God’s love. It is because God loved us first that we are drawn to the stable, to see this beautiful new baby and marvel at his radiance, and to ponder what it means for us.
The meaning of Christmas is deeply personal. Each of us comes to this night with yearnings only God can fill. No matter how much our families and loved ones mean to us, they cannot love us enough. Only God’s love is enough.
Even on the merriest of Christmases, we may still find ourselves looking up at the night sky and wondering about the night that Christ was born, the night that changed everything.
Even in a year like this, when so many choirs have been silenced, and Christmas all over the world has been stripped down and is being celebrated from a distance, we still listen for the angels’ singing: “Peace on earth, good will toward all.” We still join the shepherds as they go down to Bethlehem, to the stable to see this thing that God has done.
Some of us simply want to worship and adore the Christ who gazes on us with such love that we are never the same again.
Some of us may want to give him something—anything. Christina Rossetti wrote about this feeling in a poem that has been put to one of the most haunting melodies in our hymnal. “What shall I give him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I’d bring him a lamb; if I were a wise man, I would do my part; yet what can I give him? Give him my heart.”
Giving Jesus our heart means letting Jesus into our lives. We don’t have to keep our distance with Jesus. Jesus wants to be close to us. Jesus wants to be part of our lives. We can offer the Infant we worship tonight our love and our hurts. He already knows us. He already loves us. His healing and justice are not just for some people, but for all of us. And if it is hard for us give Him our whole heart, we can ask for God’s help. We can ask God to help us take whatever next steps we need to take to make Christ the center of our lives.
The light that shines in the darkness this night brings the joy of a new hope. That is the hope we take back into the night, a changed people, for we have seen God’s love come down, God’s love poured into us, so that we may become poor as Jesus was poor, and serve the world as he did, with hearts bent on justice and love.