There are some stories that simply bear repeating. Children want to hear the same old bed time story. Lovers tell the story of meeting and falling in love. Parents tell the story of their child’s birth. Tonight the Church tells the Christmas story. None of these stories are new. They have been told throughout the ages and will continue to be told.
It does not matter that we might know the story by heart. Even when we know all the characters by name, even when we can quote their conversations, even when we know what happens and how the story ends, some stories are worth hearing again. Not only that, some stories need to be heard again.
There is something within us that wants and needs to hear the great stories again and again. It’s not because we think the story has changed or might end differently. It’s because our story, our individual life story, has changed and we’re just not sure how it will end.
Sometimes our changing story is one of joy and celebration: dreams and a future full of possibilities, marriage and learning how to love, a newborn child and parenthood, time and new opportunities. Other times our changing story is one of failure, loss, or sorrow: a diagnosis, a Sandy Hook, a betrayal, the death of a loved one. Those and a thousand others are the stories we bring with us tonight.
Every one of us has shown up tonight with a particular story and it is a story of change. Whether welcome or unwelcome, that change leaves us feeling vulnerable, it brings uncertainty, and presents new challenges and difficulties. That’s what has brought us to this night. We’ve come to hear the same old story again. Nothing else will do. We want to be told what we already know. We want to be reminded of what we have forgotten. We want to hear a word of hope and good news.
We have come this night to be told, to be reminded, to hear, and to know that God is with us. So let me be clear. God was born this night in humanity, as a human baby, through a human mother. God is no where else but with us. God is not up there or out there somewhere but here, in and with humanity. God-with-us is the fundamental truth of the Christmas story. That truth answers the fundamental human question: “Where is God?”
Regardless of who you are or the story you bring tonight, God is with you. That is the angelic message. “To [us] is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”
The story and truth of God-with-us give meaning, stability, direction, and hope to all our individual stories. Our human story is now God’s story. God-with-us illumines the dark fields of our life. God-with-us strengthens fearful hearts of men and women. God-with-us fills our emptiness and losses. God-with-us enlarges and enlivens our joys and celebrations. God-with-us is the origin of our love and compassion for another. God-with-us restores our life and rewrites our story. God-with-us means that God is on our side, God has chosen humanity, and that, says the angel, is “good news of great joy.”
The above sermon is based on Luke 2:1-14. The collect and readings for Christmas Eve may be found here.