Christmas Eve 2020
I fixed a dinner of scallops with a side dish of millet and tomatoes. Pretty darn good! One of our neighbors does hand-made gourmet chocolates which we enjoyed for dessert. Later, we will take part in an on-line Christmas Eve service. Last night the Seattle clouds parted long enough to see the planetary conjunction — Christmas Star — of Jupiter and Saturn.
So Christmas Eve . . .
Whether you turn to the Gospel of Luke or Matthew (the two gospels with a nativity story), both herald Christmas as the birth of the “Savior.”
Do we need saving? Do you need saving? (My hunch is that we may answer yes to the first of those two questions more readily than to the second.)
My dear friend Fleming Rutledge in a sermon titled, “Not Ashamed of the Gospel,” (Paul’s phrase in Romans 1: 16) wrote,
“There is a particularly American type of being ashamed of the gospel. I think that for affluent, mainline, white Protestant Americans it is difficult for us to admit that we need salvation. A little help, maybe, just enough to touch us up a little, enough to improve on what we have already accomplished, but mostly we want to do it ourselves so we can congratulate ourselves for being successful people — nice, quiet, discreet congratulations, of course, but congratulations nonetheless. I think that’s why we tend to be disdainful about those who say they are “born again.” Like Nicodemus, we don’t really think we need to be born again. And if we think this, brothers and sisters, we are ashamed of the gospel.”
The Christmas proclamation of the angelic host is, “To you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” The “you” there isn’t people way back when. It is you — and me — here and now. This faith is less about our search for God than it is about God’s search for us. The name of that search is Jesus.
To get this into what are perhaps more accessible terms, needing a Savior is saying — being able to say — “I need help,” without shame. Not needing a Savior (or being “ashamed of the gospel”) is saying, “I got this. I can do it.” Or in a phrase I hear way too much, “I/ we’ve got it under control.” The gospel says, “Actually you don’t, you don’t have it ‘under control.’ But that’s okay.”
And — even better — help is available. Grace is available. Mercy is available. The one who takes upon himself the burden of our sin and our failure, our longing and our desperation, has come.
“Unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Unto you who sit in darkness — the darkness of broken relationships, of addiction, of loneliness, of failures you shudder to name, of griefs too deep to bear, of pretenses behind which you hide, of judgments by which you justify your self at other’s expense — unto you is born, this day, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. He is for you, God is for you.
Upon himself Christ Jesus takes those burdens, the sin, the failure, the fears that weigh down upon us, upon you. You are, by the powerful grace of God, freed, forgiven, liberated and raised to a new life. You are beloved. Made new as the newborn baby. Made fresh as the early rain. Made beautiful as the new dawn. Rejoice, for unto you is born a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.