Today’s sermon is going to be pretty low key. I think that’s what this day calls for. This day always feels to me more like a day for reflection than proclamation. I’m taking my cue here from Mary.
It’s so quiet this morning, so calm, so empty and, yet, so overflowing. This is always one of my favorite services of the year. It’s one of those breath-deep-and-take-in-the-beauty kind of mornings. It’s just us and the baby.
The liturgy this morning is simple – no music, no pageantry, no candlelight or incense, no crowds of people filled with Christmas Eve excitement and anticipation. The angels are back in heaven and the shepherds have returned to their fields and flock. It’s just us and the baby.
There is, however, a risk with this morning. The risk of this morning is saying too much; too much about what has happened, too much about how it happened, too much about what is next. Do any of us really know? Did Mary? Did Joseph? Maybe that’s why neither Mary nor Joseph say a word in today’s gospel (Luke 2:8-20). They’re completely silent.
Let’s not dilute the marvel and wonder of this morning. This is a morning for treasuring and pondering, like Mary. It’s just us and the baby.
The shepherds went with haste to Mary and Joseph and told them what the angel had said to the shepherds about this child:
“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.”Luke 2:10-11
And “Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.”
How could she ever understand or explain that she had just given birth to her own savior? She can’t and neither can we. To say anything would risk saying too much. She can only treasure and ponder.
“To you is born this day … a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”
Those words are not meant to be understood or explained, so let’s not even try. They are words, good news of great joy, a truth, a reality, for you and me to treasure and ponder. It’s just us and the baby.
Some of you may be familiar with Rainer Maria Rilke. He was an Austrian writer who lived from 1875 to 1926. I thought about him when I read the shepherds’ words to Mary and Joseph, to you and me. Here’s what he wrote:
“Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves…. Do not now look for answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question.”Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, “The Fourth Letter,” 35.
It’s just us and the baby. So, what if this savior, born to us this day, is not the answer to our questions or the solver of our problems, but a savior who reveals the larger questions of our lives? And what if the larger the questions we ask, the larger the life we get? (James Hollis, Prisms, 190)
If that’s true then I want to ask some humongous questions, don’t you? I want us to ask bigger questions, better questions. I want us to treasure and ponder the questions that enlarge. Here are some questions I’m asking myself (Ibid., 190-199):
- Where is fear blocking my development, keeping my life small, and preventing me from risking who I really am?
- In what ways am I a fugitive from my own life? What is the unlived life that wants to live in and through me?
- What animates and drives my life? And is it making me larger or smaller?
- Where am I stuck, refusing to grow up, waiting for external solutions, expecting rescue from someone else, seeking another’s permission to live, looking for someone else to tell me what my life is about?
- What is challenging me to grow beyond my comfort zone and what question am I embodying and living ?
What about you? What are the large questions in your life today? What are you treasuring and pondering this morning? What is asking to be treasured and pondered?
This morning it’s just us and our baby. Did you catch what I just said? Our baby. Not the baby, our baby. It’s just us and our baby to treasure and ponder.
Tonight It Is Filled – A Christmas Eve Sermon On Luke 2:1-20