Christmas Eve – Luke 2:1-20
Look around. Look how many of us showed up tonight – family, friends, people you know, and people you’ve never seen before. It’s like this every year. Christmas is one of the two best attended days in the year.
Some of you are here because you really want to be here. Some of you are here because someone else really wants you to be here. Some of you come because that’s just what you do and have always done on Christmas. And some of you come because you’ve got to go to church before you can open presents. Some of you believe the Christmas story is absolutely true, and others aren’t so sure. For some of you this is the best day of the year. For others it is one of the most difficult. Some of you come with great anticipation and joy while others struggle to get through the season.
Some of you are regular church attenders, and it’s no surprise that you are here tonight. For others of you Christmas may be one of the few days you attend church, but it’s no surprise you are here tonight.
I say all that with amazement and wonder. I’m really not too concerned about whether, how often, or why you come to church. There’s something else that strikes me this night. Every year I continue to be amazed at the power of the Christmas story to attract and call us to this place on this night. We are all sorts of people in all sorts of circumstances.
What’s that all about? What draws us here on this night?
I think we all come here wanting to know if the story is still true. Is Christmas still happening? Is it as real for you and me today as it was for the shepherds in their day?
So let me be absolutely clear about this. Regardless of who you are, why you are here, how often you come to church, what you believe or don’t believe, what has happened or not happened in your life, or what you have done or left undone Christmas is real. You can count on it. It is still true and it is still happening in your life.
Christmas happens in what I have come to call the “thisness” of life. Thisness. That’s my new Christmas word. I know it sounds strange and probably doesn’t make much sense but I hope you’ll stick with me. I want each of us to find the thisness of our life. It’s essential to Christmas.
Thisness is all the qualities, all the characteristics, and all gifts that make you uniquely who you are. It’s what makes the person next to you uniquely who she or he is. It’s what makes your spouse, your child, your parents, your friends, your neighbor, the stranger exactly who they are and like no one else.
It’s what you love most about another and it’s what drives you crazy about them. It’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of him or her. It’s that thing that describes him or her to a T. It’s the thing you most admire about him or her and it’s the thing you like least about him or her. It’s all his or her particularities and peculiarities.
It’s her perfume. It’s a sharp tongue, a quick wit, a short fuse. It’s the way he always has a joke or tells the same story every time you see him. It’s the way she always says just the right thing. It’s the way she sings a song but never gets the words right. It’s the way he or she calls or shows up just when you need him or her. It’s his generosity and her thoughtfulness. It’s her smile or his laugh. It’s the way your parents were always there for you. It’s the way she or he believes in and encourages you. It’s his talkativeness or her silence. It’s her honesty and his loyalty. But it’s also more.
Thisness also includes all the experiences, all the circumstances, and all the situations that shape and make your life uniquely what it is. It’s marriages and divorces, friendships, births and deaths, celebrations and sorrows, joys and losses, successes and failures, guilts and regrets, dreams, interests, hopes, fears, hurts felt and hurts inflicted.
Every one of us has a thisness that is exclusively ours. No one else has our thisness. It’s unrepeatable. It’s what makes us one of a kind and of infinite value. I remember people saying about my grandfather, “They broke the mold after Big Jack was made.” They were talking about his thisness. And here’s why thisness matters.
Thisness is what cradles the Christmas story. “To you is born this day,” the angel tells the shepherds. Let’s go see “this thing that has taken place,” the shepherds say to each other. The shepherds find Mary and Joseph, and “this child.”
This day. This thing. This child. Thisness.
This day is unique and particular – the circumstances, people, places, happenings. There will be no other day like this day. This day something is being announced to you. This day something is being fulfilled in you. This day something is being born in you. This day something is being promised to you. This day something is being given to you. This day something is opening to you. This day light shines in the darkness. This day brings you the possibility of the impossible. This day something is broken and hurting in you. This day amends need to be made. This day something is lost. This day something in you is dying. This day something needs to be forgiven. This day something needs healing. This day changes every other day. This day God is with you. This day is your Christmas life.
Let’s tend and pay attention to this day and this thing that has happened, whatever it might be. This thing that has happened is so much more than just the birth of Jesus. This thing that has happened is the beginning not the end of your story. This thing that has happened is calling and asking something of you. This thing that has happened is desiring and wanting you. This thing that has happened is the coming of life and a future. This thing that has happened is insisting love, peace, hope, forgiveness, mercy, generosity, healing, gentleness, reconciliation, compassion in each of your lives. And this thing that has happened is awaiting your response. This thing that has happened is your Christmas life.
It’s no coincidence that this day and this thing that has happened bring us to this child. They did for the shepherds too. This child is not just any child, but he is every child. This child is you and me. This child is the hungry and thirsty, the sick, the imprisoned, the poor, the stranger and alien, the weak and powerless. This child is the face of holiness, integrity, and authenticity. This child is the face of all that is good, true, and beautiful. This child holds before us hope and possibility. And this child wants and needs to held by us. This child is the face of humanity and the face of God. This child is the face of your face. This child is the one who heals and forgives. This child is peace. This child makes joy complete and life abundant. This child is compassion and gentleness. This child is life and more life. This child shows us the way, the truth, and the life. In this child we see ourselves – who we are and who we are becoming. This child is your Christmas life.
This day. This thing. This child. Thisness.
What is this day like for you? What is this thing that has taken place in your life? Who is this child before you this moment?
Let me ask it another way. What is the this of your life right here, right now?
Christmas happens in the thisness of life. Find your thisness and you’ll find your Christmas life. Because we all have one. And that, the angel says, is “good news of great joy for all the people.” No one gets left out.