I have been practicing a song all week so I could sing it for you tonight.
You better watch out. You better not shout. You better not cry I’m telling you why. Santa Claus is coming to town.
So, here we are…
Once again on the doorstep Christmas.
For, at least, the last month all of us have seen and heard far more about Santa and Rudolf than we have heard those age old words that describe the Dream of God and speak about swords into plowshares and peace on earth and that long ago birth of a child. Santa has been seen on the Village streets, in the stores where we have shopped, selling jewelry on TV and even using the new i-Phone to get directions and to check appointments. A hundred times over, if not more, Santa Claus has, indeed, come to town.
Yet, despite all his appearances and all the publicity…
Here we are…In a church, of all places;
On Christmas Eve.
Could it be there is something about the Christian witness about the meaning of Christmas; something about that age old story about a young mother and an anxious father and the birth of a child and shepherds in the field keeping watch.
Something about that dream of peace on earth and God with us…
That remains powerful enough to push its way past all of the commercials and all of the tinsel and all of Santas finding its wayinto our lives and touching something deep into our hearts and minds and souls. So much so that, for a moment at least, we need to be here and not someplace else.
I hope so.
What I want to say to you tonight…
On this Christmas Eve…
Despite all his appearances and the cultural push in his direction, Santa Claus is easy. Maybe that is why he is so popular. In a conversation I had this past week the person I was speaking with said, in all seriousness, that the nice thing about Santa was that you only had to worry about whether you have been naughty or nice. I know…there are times when all of us wish or wish we could pretend that life was that simple.
Just naughty or nice.
But, despite all our wishing or all our pretending, life is not like that, is it?
It is never that simple or neat or clean.
And maybe that is where the real meaning of Christmas begins to make sense.
And, where we might find hope enough to hang onto as we find our way in and through this wonderful and sometimes crazy world in which we live.
I believe the meaning and message of Christmas is this:
That which we know and name as God is not up there or out there or somehow distant from or removed from your life and mine, or peering over the edge of heaven to see if we have been naughty or nice. The meaning and message of Christmas is that which we know and name as God comes to be God with us…
To mix it up with life as it really is for us.
In all those places where life is anything, but simple.
God with us…
Right here and right now. Just as you are. Just as life is.
The story begins that way with real life issues.
Roman taxation. A young woman unexpectedly pregnant. A mother’s dream wrapped up in the birth of a child in an occupied land. And, it continues from then to now.
God with us…as strength and steadfastness and patience. That which you need as you do the hard work of raising children and sustaining relationships.
God with us causing us to lift our eyes and unwrap ourselves from our sometimes shrink-wrapped lives to see the other as we sort through the difference between what we want and what we need and how that gets lived out in a culture and climate that incessantly tells us more is always better.
God with us as vision and hope and possibility as we wrestle with the complexities of the issues that face us – hunger and war and poverty and unemployment and political stalemate – the complexities of all those issues and the absolute simplicity of human need.
God with us…Right in the middle of all those places where we do our best to follow our best angels and hold faith and values and a vision for tomorrow close amidst the push and pull of life as it is.
God with us…that unnerving, ever hopeful, not settling for good enough presence which continually challenges us to turn strangers into neighbors, and enemies into guests at the table, and to look not just inward at our own family, but outward towards that larger human family.
The promise of Christmas is that God is with us in all those moments…and more.
And tonight, one more time, we get to decide what Christmas is really about.
And about which story is true.
We get to decide between Santa Claus who is easy, but doesn’t hold up to life as it is.
And, the God who comes to be…
Who comes to be God with us…
In every moment of every day in life just as it is.