Rev. Martha Jacobs
Christmas Eve Message – 2016
Hope, peace, joy and love. These are the four feelings that we lift up during Advent, as the Katchis family reminded us when they lit our candles this evening. On Christmas Eve, these four feelings, rolled into one, are a present given to us through the One we celebrate this evening: Jesus, the Christ child, the one who embodies hope and peace and joy and love and who has taught us to embody them, too.
In our world today, it is so difficult to envision any one person embodying these qualities. And yet, all four are within each one of us and it is up to us to decide to use them to serve those who are struggling, those who are lost, and those who are lonely. Sometimes we forget that we individually can make a difference for someone else. The smallest gesture of love, hope, joy or peace can make a difference for someone because when we do so with intention, we remind that person that God is with them, not only in Spirit but, physically, through us.
While God is beyond our comprehension, this incarnate God – Emanuel – God with us – Jesus, is not beyond our understanding because Jesus also walked this earth, felt love, hope, joy, and yes, felt anger and fear and disappointment and frustration. No wonder it is easier to walk with Jesus than with God. No wonder it is easier to talk with Jesus. We know that he understands our feelings and our fears.
The implications of this incarnational presence of God with us, are astounding. Through God’s embrace of our humanity and our lives, we not only learn about God – that God is love, that God will not give up on us, that there is no length or depth to which God will not go to reach us – we also learn something about ourselves. We learn that we have worth; we have dignity. We are priceless to God. All of us are treasured children of God. On this night, we remember that God came to dwell in ordinary human flesh and in this way hallowed it and so set the pattern for us to similarly honor each other as well.
There are many of us this evening who feel particularly blessed and are grateful for a good year, for good health, for the love of family and friends. On this night, I hope that you will hear that God not only notices but also is glad for your blessings and your promises to use them to share with those who are in need. And, there are many who are here with us this evening who have put on a joyous face to hide the pain or uncertainty or fear they are feeling. And on this night I hope that you will hear that God knows of your struggles, stands with you and for you, and will not let you go.
And, of course, there are many – perhaps most of us – who come holding both joy and sorrow, hope and fear, in our hearts. And, on this night, I hope you will experience the love of this community that supports all of us – we who are joyous and we who are going through difficult times. That is one of the amazing things about this church family. We do not shrink from the difficulties of our world. We are here in the good and the not so good times. God’s Spirit blows through this place with an awesomeness and grace beyond words.
We are all, on this night, like the shepherds to whom this good news was first given. They were in the midst of living their lives. Well, God has met us right in the middle of our lives. We too are greeted with good news. We too, are able to hear the angels singing and feel God’s presence among us. We too are present in this place to hear the good news and are sent from here to bear witness to the birth of the one who has taught us the importance of caring for people like us and people very different from us. Jesus welcomed all, and so do we.
As we leave tonight and go about our Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, let us do so knowing in our hearts that God came down on Christmas and reminds us each year that we too possess the hope, the joy, the peace and the love that Jesus brought to us then and brings to us now. And, as our country and world move forward into 2017, let us remember that it is up to each of us to bring hope, and joy and peace and love to all who are in need of being reminded that they are not alone. God will not give up on them, and neither will we.
I hope to see you tomorrow morning for our Christmas morning service. We will raise our voices with joyous Christmas Carols and continue to welcome God into our lives because, dear ones, we too are reborn on Christmas Day. I pray that God will bless each and every one of you and all those you love.