Luke 2:1-20

✠ In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit ✠

People like to say when they make mistakes, “Well, I’m only human!”  But that’s not right.  The problem is not that we’re human.  The problem is that we’re less than human, that we’ve lost our humanity.  Ever since the fall into sin, we’ve become a shadow of what we were created to be–still in the image of God, but now the image is broken, like a cracked mirror.  What we actually need is to become more human, to get our full humanity back.

This Christmas 2020, we are of course still in the midst of a pandemic, which is a living metaphor of what the fall into sin has done to our humanity.  COVID cuts us off from each other.  We can’t shake hands or embrace.  Our faces are covered up so that we don’t truly see each other.  We keep our distance.  There is stress and conflict as we fear our neighbors as if they’re walking bioweapons.  Most importantly of all, many are cut off from the fellowship of the Church, from the communion of the body and blood of Christ.  Of course, the precautions we are taking may indeed be necessary as short-term measures to deal with the virus and to show love to our neighbors–we don’t deny that.  But the effects of the virus physically are a reminder of what has happened to mankind spiritually.  Even for all our efforts to “stay safe” and preserve life, we can sense that we’ve lost some important elements of our humanity along the way.  

"Emmanuel Altarpiece" by Edward Riojas

So perhaps this year more than most years, we can find deeper joy and meaning in the good news of the Christmas message.  For what we are celebrating tonight is not merely a birthday.  We are celebrating the fact that God has embraced our humanity in order to redeem it and ennoble it and raise it up.  The Son of God took up our flesh and blood, our body and soul, and was born of the Virgin Mary in order to sanctify us and make us holy and right again.  He shared fully in our humanity in order that we might share fully in His divine life.  

When it comes right down to it, Jesus is the only one who can say that He is truly human, without any sin polluting or corrupting His nature.  And the joyous message of this night is that by embracing your humanity and joining it His divinity, He has made the way for you to become truly human again.  His birth cleanses you and gives you new birth.  Through faith in Jesus, the image of God is restored to you.   Baptized into His body, you find your humanity again.

That’s what you’re looking at when you see the baby in the manger. You are seeing your life restored to God.  You are seeing peace and reconciliation between God and man.  For Jesus is both God and man in one undivided person.  The unmasked, unveiled face of this holy Child is both the face of God and the face of redeemed humanity.  The breath of this newborn baby brings healing.  For this Jesus will grow up to breathe out words that are spirit and life.  Here is God not keeping His distance from us.  Here is God with us, Emmanuel, God so close to us that He shares in our very life, our flesh and bones.

So the Christmas message is not only given to the shepherds this holy night, it is given to each and every one of you.

To you who are faint-hearted, to you who are weary, to you who feel the burden of your sins: To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who Himself will become weary, who will bear your heavy load to set you free.

To you who are broken-hearted, to you whose loved ones are far away, to you who feel depressed and downcast and taken advantage of: To you is born this day in the city of David of Savior, who is near to those who are have a broken heart and saves those who are crushed in spirit, whose heart will be pierced for you on the cross to mend you.  

To you who are fearful, to you who are burdened by the darkness of doubt, to you who are struggling with bodily pains and chronic ailments: To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who will go through the valley of the shadow of death for you to bring you through it all and into the light of the resurrection of the body.

To you who have wandered from the Lord, to you who have squandered what the Lord has given you, to you who feel useless and cut off: To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, the Shepherd who has become a little lamb in order to restore you to the flock so that you may dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  

And to you who are puffed up and proud, to you who have arrogantly trusted in your own merits and strength: To you also is born this day in the city of David a Savior, born in humility so that you might learn to humble yourselves, that the Lord might lift you up in due time.

To a world full of anger and conflict and anxiety, out of heaven comes the angelic message: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”  God is glorified in the high places by sending His Son to us in the depths.  To you is born this day the Prince of Peace, God and man brought back together in Him.

To the helpless ones is born this day the Helper.  To the sons of Adam is born this day the new Adam.  To those battered by the storms of life is born the One who stilled the storms with a word.  Are you weak? Look, Jesus becomes weak for you!  Are you sad? Look, Jesus comes to share your sadness, and to give you His joy in return!  You who are dying, see in the manger your Life!  You who are lonely, see in the manger the Friend of the outcast and the forsaken!  You who are unrighteous, see in the manger your Righteousness, freely given to you as a gift!  Behold in that feeding trough the Living Bread from heaven, born in Beth-lehem, the house of bread, in order that even beasts like us might feed on Him and become human again and live forever.

So put every dark thought out of your mind this night.  For the Lord has heard your prayers and your cries.  This Child comes to you and says, “Peace be with you! Do not be afraid. I have come for you to save you. You matter to Me.  You are My treasured people. I have come to be your life.  Do not be anxious.  Take heart!”

A blessed and merry Christmas, then, to you all.  For your humanity has been restored in Jesus.  There is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

✠ In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit ✠ 

With thanks to Christopher Esget

"Emmanuel Altarpiece" by Edward Riojas