Last Sunday I saw the children from our church families with Gemma, Natalie and Grace getting ready to film the pageant. There were last minute complications: where is a doll for baby Jesus? where are the costumes? can we film this in the snow? and so on. And I was aware of a great desire to make everything just right, so parishioners, family, visitors can enjoy it and re-live the Christmas story even in these difficult times  

That’s why it’s been so disappointing not to be able to gather in our church tonight:

- No carol singing by candlelight

- No packed congregation filling every seat and them some

- No choir, organ, robes, Christmas tree, creche

- No children adorably dressed up as angels, shepherds, sheep…  

How can we truly celebrate Christmas with so many handicaps and obstacles?  

But everything was far from picture perfect in Bethlehem that night, as the story goes:

- Mary was far from home. from her mother, from her friends, giving birth with just Joseph - They hadn’t been able to find shelter in the inn when the baby came

- They’d had to flee after the birth, and became refugees  

Maybe our perfect Christmas services of the past have lulled us into picturing the Bethlehem scene as perfect, quiet, holy, shiny. (All is calm, all is bright.)  It’s a Hallmark Christmas image.  

But it wasn’t like that at all, and the message of Christ’s birth in the world isn’t about a perfect divine baby with everything around him radiating golden light and joy.

- I’m sure baby Jesus cried when he was hungry, and filled his diaper, and burped after being fed

- We know when he was a man he wept, he suffered, he bled and yes, he died  

The good news of Christmas is about the divine entering deeply into the human, the broken, the fallen, the messed up, and being just a small, seemingly insignificant spark of light  

It’s about God as one of us, in this troubled world.

- God with us in the pandemic

- God with us in our struggle to turn things around from destructive consumerism and individualism to a future that is sustainable on this planet

- God with us in our griefs and frustrations and divisions  

A child has been born to us, a son given to us…

Born to us then, in the chaos and crisis of Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem. Born to us now, in the chaos and crisis of another Covid Christmas.  

Not a Hallmark Christmas, but a real coming of light, a tiny spark, in the darkness.  

So come, let us worship, even with all that’s missing. Because the true gift of God’s presence with us is here, now.   Amen.