Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Are Not the Same Thing
We made it! We’ve arrived!
Every bow has been tied, every stocking has been stuffed, every cookie has been baked and every Christmas tree light has been lit.
Or if that’s not all done, well, it’s too late now, so don’t worry about it.
The storm is over and we have gathered in a quiet country barn with the family who found no room at the inn to see and experience the miracle that changed the world.
This is the most sacred hour of the year. The whole world hushes to anticipate the arrival of the incarnate God, our savior Jesus Christ being born.
The interesting thing is that along with all the holiness and awe, there is a great deal of pain.
Giving birth is not a pleasant process—it really, really hurts.
We know it hurts catastrophically for the mother, especially for someone like Mary who would have not had any kind of anesthetic or a modern medical team to help her.
It would have been painful for Joseph to see his wife go through this.
Was it painful for Jesus?
I don’t know, but I would imagine going from a warm, quiet and safe environment, being squeezed through a space way too small for you, and then out into a loud, cold, world could not have been fun.
So the miracle hurts.
And that may be the case for many of you here tonight.
Many of you have experienced grief, loss, major upheaval in your lives this year.
Many of those stories I know, I have walked through with you, and many of those stories are in the private reaches of your own hearts.
When Mary gave birth to Christ, she accepted the pain of the labor for the sake of the new thing she was bringing into the world.
As you reflect on the struggles you’ve been through this year, what new life can you see ready to come out of them?
Maybe you don’t see any new life yet. That’s okay.
Here’s an important thing to remember: there is a difference between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
On Christmas Eve, on this night, Mary was laboring.
She was in the midst of the pain.
She probably had moments where she wondered if she would survive, where she feared that her child would not survive.
But she held on and kept going, and then the moment came.
Jesus was born and let out a healthy cry.
They both breathed, their hearts were both beating, and that was the moment that Christmas Eve turned into Christmas Day.
We don’t know if Jesus was born at 9 p.m. on December 24 or 4 a.m. on December 25 or even 4 p.m. on December 25, and it doesn’t matter.
The Holy Family were the only ones who knew the precise moment, who were present at the changing from Christmas Eve into Christmas Day, who made Christmas Eve turn into Christmas Day.
And the same is true for us. It is a combination of choice and chance for when we turn the corner.
We have to ask ourselves: are we ready and willing for Christ to be born within us and in our community?
Have we mined the depths of our pain to learn everything we can from it?
Have we allowed ourselves to be changed by the journey we have been on, by the people we have loved and struggled to forgive?
Have we labored long enough?
We have to be ready to let go into that final moment of radical change, and cross over from Christmas Eve to Christmas Day.
Because that change matters for much more than just our internal landscape.
The change from Jesus as potential to Jesus as reality impacts our entire community.
Whether Jesus is only an idea with us, not born yet because we’re afraid to let it happen, or whether we accept the pain and challenge of truly letting Christ be born in us, is the difference between this church being a community that truly shines forth the gospel, or just another church that enjoys chatting over coffee hour.
That’s a pretty heavy responsibility, isn’t it?
I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure I have what it takes for that.
Well, there is more good news on this blessed and holy night.
Consider Jesus on the night of his birth.
What skills did he have at that moment?
What power did he have at that moment?
What was he able to do to save or heal humanity?
Baby Jesus was completely and utterly dependent on Mary and Joseph for all his needs.
He couldn’t heal anyone, he couldn’t save anyone, he couldn’t teach anyone.
And yet he was the Messiah.
It didn’t take thirty years for him to become the Messiah.
He didn’t become the Messiah on his thirtieth birthday when he left the carpentry shop and entered his ministry.
He was the Messiah from the moment he took his first breath, God come to save the world. What mattered was who he was, not what he did.
Or rather, who he was made possible what he did.
And the same is true for us. Right now, as you sit in this pew, you are helping fulfill the kingdom of God.
Right now, as mixed-up and unequipped as you may feel to change the world, God cherishes you for who you are.
You matter, and you are important, and there are great things in your future, just like Baby Jesus on this night.
At the moment of his birth, Jesus had no miracles or healings or sermons to his credit.
He couldn’t do anything to help anyone. He didn’t even understand that he would help people.
He didn’t even know who he was.
And yet even in that moment, he was the Messiah.
And the same is true for you.
You are exactly who God wants you to be, and at the same time you are full of untapped potential.
There are great things that are going to happen, things that will change the world for the better, that you are going to be a part of.
Rest in the knowledge that it is who you are that God loves, and it is who you are that God looks forward to helping change and grow.
Who you are is what will make possible what you will do to help build God’s kingdom in this place.
But it all comes down to one moment and one decision.
Are you ready to make the commitment to move from Christmas Eve to Christmas Day?
Are you ready to move from Jesus being just an idea, just a possibility within you, to Jesus being real in you, being alive in you, being newly born in you?
When you make that choice, when the dawn of Christmas Day breaks over the horizon and ends the hard work and pain of Christmas Eve, then you too will hear the angels rejoicing just as they did at that moment 2,000 years ago. “Glory to God in the highest, and peace on Earth, good will toward all people.”
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