Waiting for the Child

12321306_10156268032385384_71960257306583309_nNo matter how hard it may be to see, there is always light. Two nights ago, we invited friends over for supper. That’s hardly newsworthy information, except for the fact that they are Muslim and we are Christian. Again, not a particularly shocking revelation; and yet, in our current cultural and political climate, it is something that is sadly unheard of.

No sooner had they arrived at our house than I got a call: the cleaning crew smelled smoke at the church and fire fighters were on their way. I apologized and left. As I mentioned earlier, fortunately, the damage was relatively minor in the scale of things, and I was able to go home and continue our planned social evening, although a bit shorter than anticipated. Our friends were relieved to hear the news, but made it clear in no uncertain terms: if there was anything they could do to help with any clean up or recovery, just say they word and they would be there to lend a hand.

No matter how hard it may be to see, there is always light.

We seem to be in a particularly divided time, one that can feel as though it is marked by hopelessness. And yet, all around us, is proof of hope, evidence of unity. We just need to be sure we are looking in the right places.

I wonder if any of this would resonate with Joseph and Mary on that ancient Christmas Day. The taxation of foreign powers forced them to relocate temporarily. They were strangers in their own land, relying on the kindness of those they did not know. And in the midst of all of this, their son, Jesus, was born. This child, for whom they had waited, was a sign of hope to the young couple in a bleak time. And yet, he was so much more: a hope for the nation, a hope for the whole world!

Jesus was not born for the sake of one tribe. That’s not how God works. Jesus was born for the sake of all. And that is the hope God makes real – not just on Christmas Day, but each and every day of the year.

What is it that you are doing to make the hope of God real? It’s lovely to come to a Christmas Eve service, to sing familiar songs and take part in familiar rituals and practices. And yet, if that is all tonight means to you, then you’re probably not looking in the right place.

As we have for many years, we will close tonight’s service by singing “Silent Night”. As we do, the lights in the sanctuary will darken, leaving only the light of candles to illuminate our worship. And out of that moment grows my prayer for you this year. I pray that this image will be seared in your memory. And I pray this not just so that you’ll come back in 365 days, but so that whenever it comes to mind, you will reminded and challenged to make this statement manifest, tangible, real: no matter how hard it may be to see, there is always light.

And that light – God’s hopeful light – is given to you so that you might carry it into the world. What does that look like for you? Maybe it takes the form of creating relationships across those supposed cultural or religious or economic or racial boundaries. Perhaps it is through a commitment to support a worthwhile organization with your time or money for the coming year. Maybe it is in the shape of new or renewed disciplines of faith: being part of a church, regular prayer, intentional silence, a promise to pay more attention to the world around you and to be a part of those things that make for hope and wholeness, not despair and division.

These walls we construct? They are not of God or God’s desires. They are ones we build ourselves. It’s time to take them down and to connect with God’s children we have relegated to the other side. May this be God’s hope made real, today and always.