This will more than likely be my last post of the year. In large part, because I am not preaching this weekend because it is Christmas and that means that the Bishop is here. There is a double meaning this year as it is the Bishop’s last Christmas with us: he retires from full-time ministry at the end of the month. Getting ready to bid him farewell from active ministry leaves me with a range of emotions. I am happy for him – after more than 40 years he gets his freedom. I am sad in a way for us because we have had a consistent and practiced hand on the tiller for so many years and it is in a word, “scary” as we step out in faith to look for, find and consecrate a new Bishop for the Church.
It reminds me of an old story I heard retold recently. It’s about a little girl who was upset about the thunder and lightning storm that was raging outside her house. Her father came in and offered to pray with her, and they prayed together. When they were finished, her father asked the little girl, “Now doesn’t that feel better?” To this, the little girl replied, “No! I need a God with some skin on!”
When I then consider what happen in the stable that night in Bethlehem, in the quiet and the dark, in the cold... remembering the pain and the blood, the joy and wonder of the birth in time of the timeless Son of God, it is a whole lot more that a small wonder.
It had been a rough road watching all the way along the length of the Promised Land, from Nazareth in the North to Bethlehem in the South. It was hard and dangerous. Road conditions, weather, thieves, and bandits for days on end, including a grouch pilgrim as well coming into Jerusalem from elsewhere for the Feast of Lights were enough to deal with on their own. Getting to Bethlehem and not having anywhere to stay until, until through the generosity of a local shepherd, Joseph finds a stable where they can stay because the time had come for the baby to be born (Luke 2.1-20).
God coming to us in our own flesh and blood is something that makes our faith, our Christianity unique amongst the world’s pantheon of religiosity. We have Emmanuel – God with us he has skin on. This is the moment when we discover that God has come to us and is going to visit us and redeem us through the life death and resurrection of His Son. The wood of the Manger will become the wood of the Cross soon enough. But in this moment, we can choose to make room for him and to welcome him into our lives so that he can make changes in us or we can choose to continue to ignore him and take our chances on being good enough and nice enough when the Judgement comes.
Choosing Christ does not remove the anxiety or the threats and hurts that can and do happen in life. Having Christ in one’s life allows us to walk through those dark things and to be healed when necessary that we might be stronger having been through it. Think about Joseph. He was a devout man, sincere in his faith and he wanted Mary to be his wife. He took his own council and decided on the best course of action and then slept on it. During the night, God spoke to Joseph in a dream – and where else would a Joseph hear from God but in a dream? – and God spoke his mind to the man. In the morning, Joseph chooses to take on Mary and the baby, not because it was the right thing, the religious thing or even a good thing, to protect both Mary and the baby. It was now a good thing and Joseph chose to make room in his life for Jesus to come in.
Will you not make room for Christ in your life this Christmas? Sure there may be lots of clutter with the presents, the paper and getting ready for a meal later in the day. And no doubt there will and excuse or two as to why you might not. You want Christmas to be real? Do you want it to mean something more? Then it is time to make room for him and let him in.