God is Love! In Anticipation of Christmas Eve.

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I stood outside earlier this evening, listening to the different noises of the night, the roar of the cicadas ebbing and flowing away into the darkness. There is a bubock owl which seems to have taken up residence not far away from our back verandah and it calls regularly for our attention as it speaks to the night.  The stars are bright, and the stillness and calmness of this special night, are a wonderful gift from God.  I didn’t see a particular star, but I did see and hear God all around me.   As I stood breathing in the warm night air, I imagined I could hear the world’s heartbeat, God’s love for the world beating out a steady call and response from God’s creation: and, if we listen really carefully, we can hear it coming.   God is presently birthing a new world, a new creation and its on the Way!  Sisters and brothers, the wait is not long now.  

Luke’s Gospel writer tells us once again the beautiful and familiar story which we hear in the darkness of this night, as we sit together, letting our imaginations soar as we hear the story afresh.  Yet, sadly, many will have known and experienced themselves, similar circumstances to those surrounding the arrival of God’s Son and his parents.   

We know about Mary and Joseph and the difficulties they experienced in their engagement with the unexpected and unexplained pregnancy, and the dilemma facing Joseph who wanted to do what was right.  Then in the birth of their firstborn son, we sympathise with a young woman who found herself giving birth after travelling uncomfortably for 160 km on the back of a donkey, a journey taken while heavily pregnant because Rome was demanding a census and everyone had to show up in their home towns to be counted.  It is no wonder Mary’s baby arrived so quickly at the end of the journey.  The new baby wasn’t going to wait wherever their resting place. 

In our world today, many are struggling, so many are without homes, food, heating and lighting, or families.  War, violence, climate change, the cost of living and inadequate wages mean the story of Jesus’ birth is as real today as it was 2,000 years ago.   In the darkness of night, God creates a new story, as God’s Son becomes part of human history, and his parents, Mary and Joseph whose trust and love of God, transformed not only their lives but the whole world as they opened themselves up to work with God in God’s plans for all humanity.

Our openness to God is seen in our willingness to look beyond the truths and demands of this world, the expectations of consumption, wealth, and selfishness and instead, to see God working across the world in unexpected and joyful ways.  Luke invites us to hear God’s story once again, as God tells stories of the people we marginalise in our communities, God is putting them at the centre of the story, no longer oppressed, invisible, ignored and on the fringes.  The work of the Holy Spirit is visibly present, blowing us awake, disturbing our peace, loving us into paying attention and inviting us to be different in God’s kingdom, to be Christians.  Its not ‘business as usual’ in the world.  It is not settled and we should not be expecting everything to be in its place and ordered how we like it, but different.  God is so different and so loving I cannot imagine why we would think the world would stay as it is, established on human terms.

In Luke’s gospel there is extensive emphasis on women and the Holy Spirit.  Mary and her cousin Elizabeth who trust God enough to say an emphatic ‘yes’ to God’s request.  By contrast, Zechariah learns the hard way to trust God.  

Mary gives birth to God’s Son in humble circumstances, but Joseph is a remarkable man, supporting and helping God’s Son to arrive safely, caring for his wife.  It’s the shepherds who receive the news of God’s Son while working out in the fields with their flocks, outcasts in their communities, living with animals.  Its strangers who follow the guiding star and who understand the prophesy, not local prophets and kings.  Herod’s outrage is fierce and deadly.   The Roman Emperor Augustus was the great power over much of the known world, yet God chose a small village, the darkness of the night without any fuss, for God’s Son to be born of humble parents.   Jesus was crucified in the most painful and shameful way, yet it is Jesus who has brought God’s love into the hearts and homes of millions throughout millennia.  How different is all this!

God has never used violence, terror and authoritarian control to impose power over us.  God does not resort to coercion, terror, violence or war.  God does not increase or magnify wealth and power, entitlement and privilege.  God feeds the hungry, brings release for prisoners, God raises up the lowly and brings down all our thrones. God frees us from oppression and loves us all, without exception.

A baby boy, born in a stable, placed in a manger, is the one who changes the world.   The child born to be our Saviour and Lord is a flesh and blood, helpless, crying, hungry baby.   In Jesus’ weakness and vulnerability, in Mary and Joseph’s strong ‘yes’ to God, our own trust in God is strengthened.   

By God’s mercy and Grace we are called tonight and in the days and months ahead, to follow God, no matter how poor in body, mind or spirit we think we may be.  Jesus is the peace of God, made real through God’s love and compassion; God’s power encompassing the whole world and on God’s peace we can utterly rely and trust. 

In the darkness of this night, standing under the stars, I know the sun will rise tomorrow as we celebrate the birth of God’s Son. The light I see here tonight, will shine in our hearts, whoever and wherever we are.  This light enables us to see God’s world, God’s kingdom where we all are welcome; whether we are in a cellar sheltering from bombs, in a refugee camp fleeing war, or hated and discriminated against because of our skin colour, gender or sexuality. Please know, God’s light is shining in you and on you, as it did with Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and Magi.  This night God’s love is shining so brightly, you are truly blessed.    

The Lord be with you.

Lucy Morris
Lucy Morris
Anglican Priest, International Speaker, Published Author, Social Justice Advocate and Activist.

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