Love Came Down

Sermon for December 24th, 2014 || Christmas Eve ||  Propers for Christmas Day, Selection I || Isaiah 9: 2-7; Psalm 96; Titus 2: 11-14; Luke 2: 1-14 (15-20) ||  The Rev. Margot D. Critchfield

Happy Christmas everyone — and welcome to St. Stephen’s! And an especially heartfelt welcome to those of you who are here in this Sanctuary for the very first time, or perhaps just for the first time in a very long while: I want you to know that your presence here is a blessing to us; so we pray it will be a blessing to you, too.

Some of you probably came here tonight exhausted after a day of too much last minute shopping and wrapping, too much holiday traffic and tension, or too much of the family squabbling and bickering that, sadly, often goes on around the holidays. So let’s just take a moment to exhale, take in a deep breath or two, and appreciate that being here, in this incredibly beautiful and sacred space, is a refreshing respite from the hoopla of too much everything that’s been going on out there.

So really, take a deep breath or two: It’s Christmas, you made it!

Now, I know you didn’t come here tonight for the sermon, but since I might not have another chance like this, I can’t really let the opportunity go by without at least trying to whet your appetite for more: more time with us here in church, more time with God, and more peace…more freedom, more joy, more life!

So what I thought I’d do is challenge myself to say what I want to say in as little time as I possibly can, and challenge you to listen to me say it for as much time as you possibly can. Fair enough, right?

What I want to talk to you about tonight is what Christians believe about why Christmas is so important. We all know the story of what happened on Christmas, but I’m not so sure we all know why it’s so important. The answer is this: Divinely radical love.

God chose to become one of us out of love.
In Jesus he showed us how to live a life of love.
He was willing to die for the sake of love.
And he overcame darkness & death with the power of love.
All this, so that we would be transformed by that love,
and freely choose to live his way of love.

No, there won’t be a quiz on this later, so don’t worry. But if nothing else, what I want you to take away tonight is the “love” part. Poet Christina Rossetti said it much more succinctly than I ever could when she wrote, “Love came down at Christmas, love all lovely, love divine…”

Love came down at Christmas, and this broken world of ours hasn’t been the same since. With the birth of Jesus that we celebrate tonight, the powers and principalities of darkness were put on notice that in a very real, flesh and bone way, the reign of God for which our spirit’s so yearn had broken into human history— and would continue breaking into human history until God’s Kingdom comes and God’s will is done, on earth as it is in Heaven.

Love came down at Christmas in the form of a little baby boy as dependent and as vulnerable as every baby boy ever born – perhaps even more so. Who could’ve guessed that this perfectly formed and helpless little creature would grow into the fullness of His being as the Christ, the Messiah, the very incarnation of God—and give his life to free us forever from the power of fear, death, sin, and whatever else gets in the way of our freely choosing God’s way of love.

Love came down at Christmas to bear witness to the depth of God’s love for the most vulnerable of His people: those ignored and cast aside, those judged unclean or unworthy, those marginalized by the mainstream and slighted by the system. Those we like to think are “different” from us.

And Love came down at Christmas to invite you and me —each and everyone of us— into God’s life-giving work of healing and reconciliation, of advocating for justice and freedom, of extending God’s mercy and forgiveness to all…of loving with divinely radical Love.

Because God chose to become one of us out of love.
In Jesus he showed us how to live a life of love.
He was willing to die for the sake of love.
And he overcame death with the power of love.
All this, so that we would be transformed by that love,
and freely choose to live his way of love.

So every week we listen to Love’s story in our scripture reading; we recite Love’s story in our Eucharistic prayer; we experience Love’s story in the bread and the wine; and we share Love’s story in our life together as a community.

Then, by the grace of God we embody Love’s story in the world out there— not perfectly, but gratefully — and with conviction. Because we know that ever since Love came down at Christmas, the reign of God for which our hungry spirits yearn has been breaking into human history and transforming human hearts– with love, for love, out of love. And Love will not be stopped.

Love came down at Christmas, love all lovely, love divine. And that is something well worth celebrating on this most holy eve. Amen.

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