An elderly man in Phoenix calls his son in New York and says, “I hate to ruin your day, but I have to tell you that your mother and I are divorcing; forty-five years of misery is enough.”
“Pop, what are you talking about?” the son screams.
“We can’t stand the sight of each other any longer,” the old man says. “We’re sick of each other, and I’m sick of talking about this, so you call your sister in Chicago and tell her,” and he hangs up.
Frantic, the son calls his sister, who explodes on the phone.
“They’re not getting divorced if I have anything to do about it,” she shouts, “I’ll take care of this.”
She calls Phoenix immediately and screams at the old man, “You are NOT getting divorced. Don’t do a single thing until I get there. I’m calling my brother back, and we’ll both be there tomorrow. Until then, don’t do a thing, DO YOU HEAR ME?” and hangs up.
The elderly man hangs up his phone, turns to his wife, and says, “Okay, they’re coming for Thanksgiving… now what do we tell them for Christmas?”
When it comes to being together, we can go to a great extent—anything from traveling long distances to manipulating the circumstances—whatever it takes. St. Paul speaks to us about being the Body of Christ, but being together is even more than that.
Maybe you remember from school Maslow’s Hierarchy. It is the pyramid that breaks down the various needs in our lives. At the top are the physiological needs: air, food, sleep, and the like. Next are the safety needs: health, security, etc. And immediately following this is our need for belonging and being loved—the need for others.
There are many, myself included, who can spend extended periods of time by themselves, but eventually, even the greatest of loners need companionship. We see this even in God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Richard of St. Victor has a beautiful explanation of why God is a Trinity of Persons—I won’t bore you with the details tonight—but it is based on love and this need, even for God, to have relationship.
The relationship between the Holy Trinity is perfect, but we know that our relationships, even the very best, are far from perfect. They tend to be messy. If that is the case, God is perfect, and we are messy, then why would he bother becoming one of us?
We read tonight that as the shepherds were tending their flocks, an angel of the Lord appeared to them and said, “Do not be afraid; for see– I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” The angel announced the birth of God into the world.
Jesus’ birth will ultimately bring about our salvation—eternal life with God in that Heavenly Kingdom, but what about in the meantime? From the day we are born to the day we die? Why would God, who is in a perfect relationship, choose to enter into our lives and become a part of our far from perfect, messy relationships? It’s not like God needed us. So, why?
OSur relationship with God was wrecked in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve took a bite of that apple, but it was fully restored with the birth of Jesus. It was restored so that we can always be with Him, whether we are alone or with others. God humbled himself to be born—not because he needed us, but because we need Him… and He knows it.
Henri Nouwen writes, “God came to us because he wanted to join us on the road, to listen to our story, and to help us realize that we are not walking in circles but moving towards the house of peace and joy. This is the great mystery of Christmas that continues to give us comfort and consolation: we are not alone on our journey. The God of love who gave us life sent his only Son to be with us at all times and in all places, so that we never have to feel lost in our struggles but always can trust that he walks with us…. Christmas is the renewed invitation not to be afraid and to let him—whose love is greater than our own hearts and minds can comprehend—be our companion.” (You Are the Beloved, p.391)
Tonight, we light the Christ candle.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
Jesus is this light… our light… shining in the darkness. He came, as Nouwen told us, “because he wanted to join us on the road” to “be our companion.” Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Jesus came to join us on the road of our lives. To be—not “a” light, but the light that guides us. He also came to give us this light of himself so that we could become “children of light.” (1 Thessalonians 5:5)
Tonight, I invite you to step out of the darkness and walk with Jesus on the road. I’ve no idea where God will lead you in this life, but I do know the final destination, which is what the journey is ultimately all about, for he will be with us now so that we can be with him then, having eternal life in Our Father’s Heavenly Kingdom.
“Do not be afraid; for see—this is good news of great joy for all people: for us was born in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord… the Light of all who call on his name.”
Let us pray: Gracious and loving Father, you make this holy night radiant with the splendor of Jesus Christ our light. We welcome him as Lord, the true light of the world. Bring us to eternal joy in the kingdom of heaven, where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.