Christmas Eve B – 2011 — Some Assembly Required
The children are nestled all snug in their beds. Now is time to open up those boxes that say on the outside “some assembly required.” You know the kind I am talking about: the ones that provide those easy to follow instructions in six languages; that say we can do it in about 30 minutes; that we will only need a screwdriver. Well, about an hour later and after many screwdrivers we are exasperated and wondered why we didn’t pay someone to do it ahead of time.
Christmas time is a lot like life. Some days everything seems to be working just fine. Then there are those days when we just cannot connect the pieces together properly. Every day we are faced with situations that require more aptitude, more assembly, in order for things to work.
Assembly is required on the global scale — to fix the world economy, to bring peace to troubled nations, to save what is left of the natural environment. In our country, we could use further assembly of our political system, our economic crisis, our social structure.
We believe in a God who created us and promised not to leave us alone. Christmas is one of those feasts that reminds us of what we believe. The bible starts with a fantastic story about how God created everything in record time but somehow forgot to finish the job. When it came our turn to build up life on earth we just couldn’t figure out how to do it. We are still trying.
As the story goes, after many generations, the prophets said OK, that’s enough fumbling around. Someone will have to come to show us how to piece things together. This evening’s first reading, from Isaiah, speaks about people rejoicing over the birth of a child. The Israelites thought this must be the messiah we’ve waited for. However, that passage was not intended to predict the birth of Jesus. Rather it reported the enthronement of a King crowned to save God’s people.
The Christian assembly of this prophecy stresses that Jesus, however, is the one who would liberate us; save us from the stagnating situations we create for ourselves. Tonight we read from Luke’s gospel, who borrowed from the gospel of Mark, who interestingly wrote nothing about the birth of Jesus. Luke, in assembling this story about the birth of a messiah, drew on about ninety years of oral traditions and his own theological imagination. What a story he gave us. Everybody is still talking about it. We are here tonight because of it.
When God becomes human everything and everyone changes. Mary and Joseph had to re-assemble themselves according to instructions God pasted on the box. Jesus had to gradually piece together his identity. As a baby he came into the world with nothing. As a miracle-working opponent of the establishment he died trying to do something. He did manage to leave a spirited legacy that itself gave birth to a powerful institution called the church.
Today our church requires some assembly. We cannot wait for someone else, not even God, to finish the job. Each of us is called by God to be holy, to free ourselves up from whatever binds us. Yes, some further assembly is required in order for you and me to perform adequately, to minister justly, in a time and place where people long to experience the grace of God.
Christmas Eve, 2011, means something to us otherwise we wouldn’t be here. I suspect it is because you and I are looking for some way to survive the sticky situations we create. We trust that God is still in the mix with us. We look for ways to cooperate with this God. We gather in our churches to find support from each other. We use every tool possible to tighten up those loose nuts and bolts that cause us to quiver. Then, when we assemble all the parts together, we will see a marvelous gift at Christmas — as God is embodied in us we are now light and hope for one another.