The Rector's Christmas Message
December 23, 2020, 12:35 PM

The Rector’s Christmas Message
The Rev. Evelyn Wheeler
December 23, 2020

Why did God come to us as a baby?  The Creator of Everything chose to become human – strange enough – but even more strangely, as a human infant!  The Almighty and Awful Lord of the Universe arrived to a peasant family, who were far from their home, in a nation of people oppressed by Rome!  Why would God choose this way to arrive?

Now, Rome was not the first empire to conquer and rule Israel. Egypt, Babylon, Persia, and Macedonia, had also exercised power over Israel and Judea and Galilee and all the lands of their ancestors.  The children of Abraham had suffered exile, they had suffered famine, and they had suffered political oppression – but here’s the thing – they had survived.  Centuries of foreign rule.  Not only had the people survived, but the faith of Israel also survived.  What an accomplishment!

Even so, the faith had suffered too.  In order to maintain as much as possible of the faith of their ancestors, the religious leaders had “tightened up” on rules and rituals.  The more standardized and regulated these were, the easier it would be for a people under stress to remember and keep them.  This is one reason why the leaders were so upset by John the Baptist and Jesus: they were challenging the value of the rules that had been established for generations, the rules the leaders thought were the warp and woof holding together the fabric of Israel.  Prophets are always uncomfortable people for those in authority.

One might conclude, therefore, that if God wanted things to change, if God wanted the faith of the people to be re-energized and re-imagined, then arriving in a glory of power and majesty would be just the thing to accomplish that end!  Yet, God chose the way of no power and no majesty.  God chose to come through a young woman far from home and family, in a cave or a stable or a humble dwelling (depending on the sources).  Though Jesus’ arrival was hailed by angels, the angels appeared not to Temple leaders in Jerusalem but to shepherds in the fields around a small town some miles away.  Though his arrival was welcomed by wise men, those men were from “the East” – not even fellow Jews.  He was greeted by marginalized people and foreigners. 

God chose to come without power to those without power.  God chose to come as an infant, not a majestic messiah-king. 

Why?

What lessons might we learn from this small fact, this simple beginning, this awkward and unlikely, uninviting, uninspiring, and inauspicious entry into the world we call our lives?

Maybe because it’s easier to love a baby?  Maybe because it’s because God wants us to know that God knows what it’s like to be human?  Maybe because the story, even if unlikely, is so compelling that centuries after the events took place, we still remember it?

Maybe because we can identify with a baby, a young boy, a young man, growing and learning and studying and striving and puzzling things out as he matures, and we might do the same?

Maybe because God has humbled God’s own being to show us that being humble is to be valued?  To be poor, to be powerless, to be outside, to be different – all these things that Jesus was – are things it is not bad to be, not failure to be, and not to be dismissed or despised in those we meet. Those who are, are truly and deeply valued by God, even if not by the world’s standards and perceptions.

I invite you to ponder these things, as Mary did, in your hearts.

And as you ponder, ask yourselves, do you value the people that God values?  Do you remember the poor, the captive, the orphan, the imprisoned, the sick, the humble, the powerless, the alien, the oppressed?  Do you strive to share the blessings you have received with those around you? 

I know these are anxious times.  We have suffered losses – including the ways in which we are used to worship, and the company of friends and family.  We miss the old days when it was safe to venture forth, to enjoy dinners in restaurants, to travel and see the sites, to gather together for concerts and football games and backyard barbeques.  We don’t like masking up, we don’t like not shaking hands or not hugging.  We feel constricted and confined and, in many ways, pretty powerless to do anything about it.  We feel sad.  We feel assailed and attacked by the virus. 

But humankind has lived through hard times before.  And like the people of Israel pressed under the Roman boot-heels, people of faith have always found a way to make it through losses and grief and war and pestilence.  And those who helped one another have always managed better.  We are likewise people of faith.  We are likewise well able to help each other out.  We will get through this.  We may even come out transformed. 

Since God chose to come as powerless, yet changed the history of the world, rest assured that God can work in us, even here in Madison and the surrounding towns and country-side, God can work in us miracles of regeneration and hope.  Though perhaps hope seems small as a new infant child caught in a cruel world, we can remember God was present in that child, and God is present with us.  Emmanuel – God With Us – is calling us to hope.

May the blessings brought to the world by the infant Jesus brighten your days and your spirits.  Merry Christmas!