Christmas Morning 2021     Let There Be Light             Rev. Betsy Hogan

It’s a funny thing, I’ve always thought, that in many ways we celebrate every Christmas, year after year after year, as though it’s the first Christmas.

We leave the manger empty like Christmas Eve is going to be a surprise. We abide in the fields with the shepherds like we’re all pretending everything’s normal – so we can fall on our knees when the angels break into song.

We pull grown-up Jesus back into being Baby Jesus, every year, just like clockwork – we set ourselves back to the beginning. To that first breaking in – to that night when the veil between this and beyond-this thinned in such an extraordinary way that holiness entered humanness –

It’s like we give ourselves a fresh start. So that this time, surely this time, it has to be this time, the gifts of Christmas – the promise of peace on earth and good will to all -- will actually stick.

I don’t think there’s any question that God really is that hopeful. I think the really tough thing is for US to be that hopeful.

Some Christmases we look ahead and hopefulness seems obvious. Others? It’s a little more difficult to find our footing in that regard. 

And this may be one of those years. Throughout Advent, I've been trying on purpose to embrace positive images of darkness, evoking its elements of safety and quiet, how it veils our differences and offers us the gift of rest.

And now that it's Christmas, what strikes me most forcefully in our gospel story is the degree to which Mary and Joseph find themselves isolated. On this special day of days, when they should have been surrounded by family, welcoming this new baby... instead they're all alone. They're not even at home. They're not even in their own town.

There's been no helpful midwife, no mother, no mother-in-law – to smooth Mary's hair back or bring her a cup of water. Joseph's had no brothers with him, no buddies with him, while he paced back and forth and wished there was something he could do to help.

Sure, briefly some shepherds. But when they wake up, on the morning after the night before, it's just another day. No neighbours knocking or friends dropping by. No grammie already started on dinner, and little cousins sneaking peeks at the baby. It's just quiet. 

Which is a little strange. Different. And probably not what Mary and Joseph had expected, that they'd be all alone and no big family festivities. When after all they've just produced a son – and in a culture in which that's pretty much hitting the jackpot.

But there it is. All the things that are "supposed" to make it a special day just aren't there. So if that's how some of us are also feeling today, Mary and Joseph were probably feeling that too.

For them, Christmas really just was one day. And if it didn't have all the expected elements of specialness – the thing is, it was also MORE than just one day. It was God breaking into that 'just one day' and saying "Why not let me stick around? Not just on this one day but every day. To guide you in peace and lead you in love and fill you with strength and uphold you in courage?"

Why not indeed? For a child has been born to us, says Isaiah. A son has been given to us. Authority rests upon his shoulders and he is called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. And he will establish and uphold a reign of endless peace with justice and with righteousness, from this time forward and forevermore. This light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot extinguish it. Amen.