The Revolution Was Born in a Barn!

humble-stable

(A sermon for Christmas Eve, based on Isaiah 9:2-7 and Luke 2:1-20)

Long ago, when God’s people

were weary of warfare,

bruised and broken,

and walking in the darkness

of an inhospitable land,

God spoke to them through the prophet Isaiah

and made an incredible promise:

God promised to break the yoke and rod

of their cruel Assyrian oppressors,

and set God’s people free….

All the muddy boots

used to trample God’s people

and all the bloody rags

in which they’d been forced

to wrap themselves

would be gathered

as fuel for a great bonfire:

a fire that would finally

bring warmth and light

to God’s people.

 

But God’s promise

came with an unexpected twist:

Evil would not be overcome

through a great military victory,

but through the birth of a child,

who was a gift from heaven,

sent to bring new life to the people of God.

 

Some time later—

about 750 years after Isaiah’s prophecy!—

when God’s people were once again

walking in the darkness

of an inhospitable land,

bruised and broken,

and staggering under the weight of Roman oppression this time (!),

God spoke to them in a whole new way

and unveiled God’s incredible promise:

Under cover of darkness,

while the king and his henchmen

lay sleeping on beds of ivory

high up in Herod’s Tower,

a teenaged girl gave birth to a baby boy

and laid him on a bed of straw

in a lowly cattle stall.

 

The newborn was named “Jesus,”

a name meaning “he will save,”

because God had poured

a mega-dose of God’s Spirit out upon him

and sent him to set God’s people free:

free from sin and death;

and free for love and abundant life.

 

In this child, Jesus the Christ,

God revealed God’s very self to the human family.

God, who is Love, revealed God’s love for us

by sending us…a baby!

The Word of God became flesh for us,

because God knows

nothing gets under our skin

and nothing cracks open the human heart

quite like…a baby!

(Am I right, or am I right?! Can I get an “Amen?!…”)

 

And yet the story of our Lord’s birth

among us as a human child

Is NOT just some sweet, sentimental story

to be reenacted once a year by adorable children

dressed up as shepherds and angels and wise men….

Far from it!

The story of our Lord’s birth

among us as a human child

is the radical, revelatory, revolutionary story

of God’s undying love

for this whole dying world….

And in this day and age,

when so many grave threats

are rearing their ugly heads

all over the world,

THAT, my friends, is some seriously Good News!…

 

God’s love revolution

was born…in a barn

and laid in a manger,

but you and I know

it didn’t stay in that manger,

because God’s love refuses to be confined

by any of the “boxes” we humans

construct to try to contain it!

Our God is always working “outside the box!…”

Before you could say “Caesar Augustus,”

Jesus was sitting at Mary’s knee,

listening to his mama sing

the protest songs of their people:

“The Almighty has done great things for me,

and holy is his name….

He has cast the mighty down from their thrones

and lifted up those who were down and out!…”

Jesus grew up well-steeped

in the songs and stories of God’s people.

He made those songs and stories his own,

and they would sustain him

through many hardships and much suffering

on his journey through the wilderness of this world….

 

My friends, in all that Jesus did and said

he embodied God’s love

for the whole human family and for all creation.

And yet, while many people

In his day were impressed

by Jesus’ healing power and by his wisdom,

most didn’t really “get” what he was all about….

They’d been hoping for a mighty warrior

who would lead them into battle

and overthrow the greedy, ruthless tyrants

who were robbing and killing them….

But instead, God gave them—and us

a most unlikely Messiah: a baby!…

And not just any baby…

But a brown-skinned baby boy,

a Palestinian Jew,

whose parents were forced

to travel to Bethlehem to register

with the Roman authorities….

(Hmm…registering…  Does that ring any bells for anyone?!…)

There, in Bethlehem, a town far from his native Nazareth,

Jesus was born in a barn,

and, not long afterward, he was forced to flee

with his family as a refugee to Egypt,

in order to escape the sword of King Herod

who had ordered that all baby boys

born in and around Bethlehem be killed….

And yet against all odds,

our God, who looks with favor on the lowly,

raised Jesus up to be

a compassionate and courageous witness

to the invincible power of love….

 

You and I, who know the rest of the story,

know that in time Jesus

and his ragtag band

of stumbling, bumbling peasants

would dare to take on

the corrupt priests and politicians of their day.

We know their revolution of love

would pose such a threat to the status quo

that the wealthy and powerful

would join ranks in condemning Jesus

and putting him to death on the cross….

Little did they know

that you can’t kill love,

and you can’t kill

God’s love revolution!…

God would later show this

by raising Jesus from the dead

and by sending the Spirit of the Risen Christ

to inspire his followers—including you and me!–

to live in light of God’s love….

 

My friends, just as the prophets and angels had proclaimed,

the Babe of Bethlehem grew up

to lead a love revolution–

a revolution that would turn the world upside down!…

(I wonder: Have you ever noticed that the word “revolution”

contains the word “love” written backwards?

I just noticed that while doing my sermon prep this week,

And I think it’s pretty cool,

because it seems a love revolution

is just what we need

to begin to turn things around in this world:

to turn us toward each other

and to turn us back toward God….)

 

Sisters and brothers,

the love revolution

that was born in a barn

some two thousand years ago

lives on today by the power of the Holy Spirit

working through ordinary people like you and me….

It lives on when we kneel at the manger

in awe of all that God has done for us.

It lives on when we sit at Jesus’ knee,

listening to his teachings

and making them our own.

God’s love revolution lives on

in and through you, dear friends:

when you feed the hungry

at Clackamas Service Center;

when you visit a friend or neighbor

who is sick or suffering;

when you welcome immigrants and strangers

into your home and into your heart,

embracing them in their rich rainbow diversity

as fellow human beings

created in the image of God….

The love revolution lives on

when you and I dare to look deeply

into each others’ eyes

and see ourselves reflected there….

 

The love revolution lives on

because God’s new creation isn’t finished yet….

Today the people of God

are still walking in darkness,

in an inhospitable land,

longing to see a great light….

Our hearts are bruised and broken,

and many of us are quaking with fear

at what is to come….

Across the street and around the world–

from Ankara to Berlin,

from Aleppo to Cameroon,

from Moscow to Washington, DC,

from Flint to Standing Rock,

from St. Paul to Dallas,

from Charlotte to Orlando,

from Bethlehem to Clackamas,

the children of God

cry out for help and for hope….

 

And yet…at the very same time,

tonight the people of God

all over the world

are gathering to defy the darkness

by lighting candles, singing songs,

saying prayers, and telling the stories

of God’s promise and presence…

because tonight is Hanukkah,

as well as Christmas….

 

And so, sisters and brothers,

let us join our voices

with the voices of our sisters and brothers around the world

as we pray:

 

O God, our Creator and Redeemer,

“The hopes and fears of all the years

are met in Thee tonight….”

In our cracked and broken hearts

there is “room at the inn” for your Son.

May the gift of Christ’s love

be born in us,

and may we bear light

to all who walk in darkness

until that day when all your children

turn toward each other

and see that you are in all

and all are one in your love;

through Jesus Christ, our Savior. Amen.


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