12/24/2010 -- Anne-Marie Jeffery -- Christmas Eve -- 11 pm service

posted Jan 4, 2011, 5:22 PM by Unknown user   [ updated Jan 4, 2011, 5:27 PM by Terry Brady ]

God’s Love is All Around

Luke 2:1-14

 

I love many things about the time leading up to Christmas especially those last several days. I like the news segments reporting on how the shopping is going - giving facts like the one I heard a few days ago saying only 15 % of people have finished their shopping and that some won’t finish until after Christmas. I like the ‘feel good’ stories of people helping each other – the volunteers that flood the soup kitchens and people adopting struggling families and buying them presents.  I love the decorations especially the lights which pop up all over the city.  There are certain traditions that are important to me - the bringing home and decorating of the tree with the smell of the pine needles that fills the house, making sure I listen to my favorite Christmas carols over and over, and then making sure I watch my ‘must see’ movies.  One of those is “It is a Wonderful Life” and I give thanks that the days of careful studying of TV guides are gone and that I can get it for a few dollars online and watch it whenever I want.  Miracle on 34th Street, the 1947 version, is a close second.  However, every now and again a new movie slips in to my Christmas movie line up.

 

My latest addition to my ‘must see’ Christmas movie list is called ‘Love Actually’. 
It didn’t get on my list the first or even second time that I saw it and it is still not the favorite
 in my household, but over time I realized there was something about it that I loved.
 It is not appropriate for all ages so don’t show it to the whole family because the priest
mentioned it in a sermon. But despite that, this movie has become one of those which
make it Christmas for me. The movie tracks several stories at once – stories that
 intertwine in various ways which take place in the weeks leading up to Christmas. 
What I especially like is that the stories are far from perfect from beginning to the end. 
Sure, some of them have a fairy tale ending, but throughout, the characters struggle with
pain, grief, loss and betrayal and all of them do not end up in a perfect state of happiness
 – some nowhere near that.  I also am really taken with the beginning and end of the movie
 both of which take place in London’s Heathrow International arrival area which set the
stage for the movie and that begins with these words:
Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at 
Heathrow airport. General opinion makes out that we live in a world of hatred and
greed but I don't see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it's not
particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it's always there. Fathers and sons, mothers
and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the
planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people
 on board were messages of hate or revenge, they were all messages of love. lf you
 look for it, I've got a sneaky feeling you'll find that love actually is .. all around.'

While these words are being read, you see all sorts of people from all over the world greeting each other. Young couples in tight embraces, children running into the arms of their parents, teenagers with backpacks greeting their parents after being away, and a toddler giving his dad a kiss. For some, it looks like they haven’t seen each other in quite awhile.  These are not movie star type people but are pretty ordinary looking people of all colors sizes and shapes representing the wonderful diversity of the human race greeting one another. Every time I see this scene, it is not hard for me to think that love really is all around.

On this Christmas Eve, I suspect that most of us want love to be all around. We look to the Christmas carols and the readings to remind us of that love that brings warmth to our hearts. We look to the baby Jesus in a warm glowing manger surrounded by Mary and Joseph, angels and animals to give hope to our lives. Some days it seems that there is nothing that can make that happen. It is a tough world. People continue to be out of work.  There always seems to be a war somewhere.  Even with technology and all our modern advances, people still suffer with disease and famine. Relationships are broken. Families fight and are estranged. Sometimes love being all around seems like a very tall order. And that is when we need to dig deeper into this story of the Christ because in that story love is all around in less than favorable circumstances. In the birth of Jesus, love wins over and over. As one writer[1] says “There is squalor, and there is splendor. There is the stinkiness of the stable, and the aurora of angels. There is the violence of the Roman imperial overlords, and the peace proclaimed to God’s people on earth. There is the exclusion of the “socially unacceptable” shepherds, and the utter and ultimate inclusivity of God’s justice. There is the way Mary and Joseph are pushed off to the sidelines of things in the stable, and the way the birth of Jesus makes that stable the very center of the world.”

 There must be a reason why this didn’t end up being just another story of one of the many families who had to travel because of the counting that the Romas demanded be done, and who happened to be expecting a child.  This birth was special because through a baby, God’s embodied love comes to us. As the writer continues to say “God’s grace doesn’t come only in moments of quiet contemplation, when everything else is all wrapped up and all settled down and all put to bed. God’s love breaks in on us precisely when everything else is going on, … in those days when it is the last time and place we would expect God’s love to be: in the emergency room, in the homeless shelter; where people’s hearts are breaking, where people are struggling for justice; in the choice between war and peace, in the decision between generosity and greed; in the moment of love when everything seems loveless, in the flash of hope when everything seems hopeless, in the sudden joy that breaks through even the deepest sorrow.”[2]

This is the gift of Christmas – that God’s love is present in the worst of times and in the best of times. These are the good tidings of great joy that the angels proclaim.  In the midst of our lives, in our joys, in our struggles in the ups and downs, Christmas is a celebration of God’s enduring presence with us.

So whether you are filled with the Christmas spirit or struggling just to smile and say Merry Christmas, remember what lies beneath the decorations, the shopping, the frenzied preparations and all those things we have piled on top of this amazing event. Remember the birth of a baby in less than favorable circumstances whose arrival continues to change the world and who brings hope in our broken world.  Look around you whether it is in an airport, walking down the street, or as you greet one another this evening.  Look around and you too can see that God’s love is actually all around us.

 



[1] Paul S. Nancarrow,  Synthesis, Christmas Eve.

[2] Paul S. Nancarrow,  Synthesis, Christmas Eve

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