Is. 52.7-10; Heb. 1.1-4; John 1.1-14
The preparations have been made; they are near-complete. The buying and the wrapping and the sending. The decking of the halls, perhaps even the baking and the boiling and the peeling.
You will have been asked, so many times, I know:
Are you ready yet?
Are you ready for Christmas?
But I don’t want to ask you that question. I have another.
Are you unready?
Are you unready enough for Christmas?
Are you adequately unprepared?
Because thing we think we have been readying ourselves for, this coming… what IS it, really?
Could we perhaps have been obscuring it, disguising it, securing the wrapping in until we bind the truth in tinsel, suffocate it in glitter, list and fold and package and stamp and send it, book & pay & bill it….
What we are here to touch again tonight confounds our every preparation. It is unbuyable, unmakeable, even nearly unwishable in its vastness. Do you believe that it has something to give you? Is your heart unready enough to yearn for, to need what Christmas brings?
One cry against the darkness of the world, one thing that it would be madness not to hope for. Rescue, protection, freedom, peace: the longing of ages that long still.
And yet … it is only love. Only? What does love really mean: the source of all our glimpsed reality, the end of all our yearning. Justice done, peace found, hurts healed, all reconciled. Love come down at Christmas.
Tonight, now, is the time to stop all that you are doing, to turn your back on this warm and decorated home or where you are being hosted, the guests, the enticing smells, the tensions and arguments you feel building. It is time to be ‘unready’. Because a door is opening over which you have never had any control.
Turn towards the door. It is opening for the guest this is all for. And we can never know what company a guest will be. We can never know what needs a guest will bring. Not until we open the door and are willing to let the cold, the rain the wind in with the light of that guest’s face.
This is the story of a baby born in the middle of the world, where four continents meet. Born in darkness warmed by the breath of working animals, necessary to life. Born with murderous intent and political instability building outside.
It is the story of the humble being also the highest, of the sacred and the sanctified one with the blood and mud-stained, squirming, wailing, vulnerable life; of heaven and earth crammed one into the other until we find each in each.
This is the story which seems to speak ever truer the more silent we feel goodness and truth and love are in the world, shine brighter the darker the landscape of our fear, which is more and more important the more tempting it is to despair. And yet it isn’t just a story: it is a demand.
It is a guest that God comes to us…needs us so much. Have you ever thought? God’s deepest expression of love is to compel us with a tender light of life that needs us. He places himself in our hands. The source of all creation cradled in human arms.
And like a baby’s need, a baby’s cry, we can’t but respond to it. Are we unready enough to take up that need?
How will this night change you? How will you respond? There is so much we could do.
Our inadequacy, our unreadiness: he knows all this already. The gift is best received where the most need is.
But are we unready enough to dare to be drawn in? To admit we need more love? To begin to love more need?
As God gives himself to us in the baby Jesus, he does nothing less than invite us into the source and centre of his being, where love is endlessly given and received. Until the two things are one, as when we hold a baby, as when Mary held her child and to be needed and loved and to love and to need couldn’t be extricated.
In the birth of Jesus God reveals that, if human hands can cup the head of the creator of all things, its fontanelle still soft, then they can cradle themselves around the world. He asks us to join his existence of sustaining love and care. His ongoing work of recreation.
We are asked to do that ourselves this Christmas. To receive God’s gift of himself with us: of all that there is of love and truth in our lives –in our jobs & workplaces, our communities, schools, our homes and families, and cup our hands beneath it, nurture it, warm it, wrap it, tend it, raise it.
And so the messenger comes, the angels cry, the prophecy is fulfilled. The light shines! It irradiates the darkness! It scatters the gloom! The baby Jesus is born.
Are you unready enough to meet him? To let this night change you, to open your heart to sing lullaby to this unbelievably needed and needing child?