Written for Christmas Eve Worship for the UCC in Wallace, Idaho
As we have on each of the Sundays of Advent, we stop by the creche on our way into worship. Not everyone has arrived yet, but the star of the show is finally here: baby Jesus, still red from birth, eyes yet to open, is asleep on the straw. He’s surrounded by farm hands and shepherds, lullabied by the baaing of sheep and cud chewing of cows, with harmony added by a chorus of the heavenly host, a night light provided by the star keeping vigil in the sky. Mom is adjusting in search of a comfortable position, while Step-Dad stands guard, alert to every sound, determined to keep his family safe.
I have to tell you that I spent my growing up years in and out of the barn, and while I have seen newborns asleep on the hay, never a human one. Calves, sure, their legs too weak for them to stand. Even kittens scrambling about here and there, bumping into things, head butting mom for a drink, but not a human baby lying on the straw. I have been to mom’s bedside on the day of giving birth, even got to hold my grandson that first day – and it was no small privilege that I was the only visitor welcomed into that sacred space. But this… this birthing day is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Such a strange collection of visitors and in such an unlikely place.
My friends, this is the good news of God coming among us. Not in a palace or with a show of force, and with neither pretension or protection. God comes in out of the way places and to the unnoticed and overlooked. Essential workers who live in the shadows, unseen by us until we need something cleaned or collected. The homeless who shuttle between friends’ couches and a car’s back seat. The newly unemployed who wait on hold, trying to secure benefits, and then move on to a place in line, waiting for a box of food. God comes, planting hope, breathing peace, extending welcome, sharing love, spreading light. God is born among us, and invites us to come and see, come and rejoice, come and worship.