All over the world today, desperate people will flock to church.
What will they find when they arrive?
What will find them?
They’ll light candles and sing carols; words will be spoken of a long awaited promise, finally fulfilled. The kids will squirm in their scratchy sweaters on their grandmothers laps, generations reflecting the long story through the long years. They’ll go home to bed or to dinner, the flickering candles of hope dancing behind their eyelids, snuffed out under routine and excess.
What are you hoping for this season?
What are you waiting for this season?
In these cathedrals and store front churches into which we’ll pour today, what are you hoping to find?
What do you hope finds you?
Have you lost hope that anything — or anyone — can or will find you?
One of the most beautiful parts of the Christmas story for me is the heavenly choir that shows up to the minimum wage migrant workers who are out in their fields, watching their sheep. We can imagine them huddled around a fire, perhaps drinking some home-brewed brand of fire whiskey to warm themselves, if they were lucky. What hopes did they carry in their hearts, if any? That no sheep would go missing that night? That their wives would bear them sons? That the coming census wouldn’t result in taxation and starvation?
What were those shepherds waiting for, out in those fields, on that bright night?
And then pomp and circumstance invaded the quietness of that middle eastern night, the heavenly hosts singing, shouting, declaring alleluia – Christ the Savior is born. I imagine shepherds doing spit takes and quaking with fear, the fire around which they huddled now dim and dismal in comparison to the heavenly light.
The Kingdom of God has come near, and it has come to you, God thunders to these migrant workers, these nobodies, these afterthoughts. I have come near and I have come to you. Rejoice.
Abandoning their sheep, they ran into town to find this baby, and they lingered there that night. When they finally left, overstaying their welcome and braying louder than donkeys, for certain – they told everyone they knew about this baby, this king, this new hope which had come out of nowhere to nobodies.
On Christmas eve, we celebrate the One who comes thundering into our lives when we least expect it. We act as if it’s all the preparing we do over these four weeks of Advent that coaxes him to come, but the shepherds tell a different story: He comes anyway.
He comes to the unexpected, to the unprepared, the unworthy.
He comes to those who wait.
He comes to those who have given up.
He comes to dignitaries and to dirtbags, to saints and sinners, to those who are all that and to those who are all done.
Christ the Savior is born.