American author Henry David Thoreau wrote that most men live lives of quiet desperation.
MacBeth, in Shakespeares famous play cries out in despearation “To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow, Creeps in this petty pace from day to day, To the last syllable of recorded time; The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! (Life is) but a walking shadow, a poor actor, That struts and frets his hour upon the stage, And then is heard no more. Life, it is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." So says MacBeth.
Perhaps none of us have such a dismal view of human existence. But let’s be honest. life takes a toll on us. We get tired, discouraged, down right tired and we are running ragged. Even the most spiritually zealous among us wonder what the point of it all is.
Sometimes maybe we even feel like MacBeth, that life itself is simply a bad play which eventually ends and the curtain comes down. And that’s that.
But tonight everyone expects something great on Christmas Eve – even the most grumpy, cynical, and non-religious among us. Everyone, no matter how cold or callous holds on to at least some degree of hope, however small that hope may be, that something wonderful can still happen. That things can be better. And dearly beloved, your hopes are not in vain.
This Christ – this Jesus is born for you. Tonight we cast away and disperse every cloud of sadness and put away every shadow of despair. We let the light of Christ shine in the darkness and warm our hearts. Life is not full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Because Life itself became incarnate. Loves comes down from heaven. The baby sleeping in Mary’s lap is the Lord not born for angels but born for you.
Tonight in our second reading we read quite simply that “God is love,” and we see this so clearly tonight on Christmas Eve. The Lord has stepped down from his throne in heaven to come down here among us.
He who made the heavens and earth He is helpless. God is having his diaper changed, nursing from his exhausted young mother after giving birth all alone in a cold, dark barn, in winter. He sleeps in a manger not because it’s cute but because her arms are too exhausted after birth to physically hold him. And so he lies in a manger – in a feed trough – because he is the living bread from heaven.
Love is born tonight in Bethlehem. This baby will grow into a man. He will plant his feet in the Jordan River to be baptized into your sins – The Father will say “this is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.” The Holy Ghost who hovered over the waters at the dawn of creation will descend upon this prince of Peace. Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He will be driven into the wilderness as the scapegoat – He will battle Satan for every time the people of Israel and you gave into temptation. He will not give an inch.
He will stand before Pilate silent as a Lamb led to the slaughter. He will let himself be condemned for sins he didn’t commit and you and Barabbas go free – Like Isaac he will carry the wood on his back up the mountain and will lay down on the altar that Isaac escaped from. The sacrifice is provided. Jesus, God’s Son - caught in a thicket – wearing a crown of thorns.
By the red sea of Christ’s blood all sins are forgiven. By the flood of water from his pierced side – sins are washed away drowned in holy baptism.
And those little baby feet nestled quietly in a wooden manger will one day be driven with nails into a wooden cross. A child given and shed for you. By this we know love. This is why the angels come to the shepherds with their flocks in the first place. Saying Glory to God in the highest and peace to his people on earth.
The Savior of this whole world has come. Life is not just a bad play – filled with sound and fury – signifying nothing. The curtain does not come down. The curtain is torn from top to bottom. And everything that separated sinful man from the God of love has been torn apart. Jesus takes center stage. He walks out of the grave accompanied by angels. He will stand up in the resurrection and so shall you. See how much God loves you. He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
Tonight be like the shepherds and run to see Him. Peer into the stable and see how tender God is to you. See how he loves you – even now. He is, after all, as gentle as a baby – softer than a lamb – whose fleece is white as snow.
Cradle him in your hands and hold him in the manger of your heart. He is Immanuel – which means “God with you.” Body and blood given and shed for you. Present under bread and wine to give you a Christmas supper to refresh your weary soul. Lo, I am with you always even unto the end of the age.
Love was born at Christmas. Jesus, who is love, gives life its marrow and its fullness. Love is itself the mighty star in the night sky which leads us back to God. Let the scales fall from your eyes and bask in the love of Christ. Your sins are forgiven. God approves of you. He is pleased with you. You belong to Him and no other. The heavens open – the angels sing – and the Father says of you “You are my beloved Son – My beloved daughter with whom I am well pleased.”
This heavenly message of God’s love on Christmas is enough to soften our hearts and give us joy. And so like Ebenezer scrooge, we too can all come around, be kinder and gentler to one another, and turn every bah humbug into an alleluia as we remember what God has done for us in sending us His beloved Son. In the name of Jesus. Amen.