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Summary: Christmas Eve Sermon

Merry Christmas! It’s great to be here in Milton on this night. Christmas Eve is always special. I’m not sure about you, but on Christmas Eve a wonderful calm seems to come over me and everything around me. I remember that this is the night that our Savior was born. I think of a beautiful, frightened, pregnant young woman accompanied by her brave husband journeying to his ancestral hometown to be registered in a great census. Close your eyes and see them---tired, hungry---going from door to door seeking shelter---a warm dry place to spend the night---and no one would have them. Door after door closed. Finally, reluctantly, a tired overworked Inn Keeper, with his last ounce of pity allows them to make a place in the stable among the animals. Anything will do. Anything quiet and warm. This beautiful, gentle woman needs to sit, rest, be quiet. A stable will be fine----wonderful. They settle in the stall and then she knows---the time is at hand. The child is coming. Her kind loving husband holds her hand and prays. The ox and the ass, the sheep and the fowl gather and bear witness to the birth of Him who was promised generation after generation. The birth of the Savior takes place in the presence of God’s most humble of creatures. Their breath on this cold night warms the child and mother. The new child cries. The cry is a symphony to a waiting world that isn’t listening---at least not yet. A father touches the finger of an infant and again prays, trusting in the will of the God that he has always held close to his heart. The night sky is brightened by a star. Not understanding the reason, young men and boys are drawn from the fields where they have been tending sheep. They are compelled to move, led to the stable. Entering, they gaze upon an infant---and know without question—with no hesitation that this night, this place, this child, is special. Nothing will ever be the same. Foreigners enter. Majestic. Regal. Bearing gifts. Their eyes fall on the child, they fall on their knees. They recognize him. They know that this child is the one that has been written about age to age. They present their gifts---pay homage. Each person gathered in that humble stable breathed deeply and understood that this night changes everything. Quietly sheep and ox settle in the hay. Kings and shepherds bow and withdraw. The baby cries. A new mother takes her child to her breast, a tear of joy wells up in the corner of her eye ---a father stands watch. The world is recreated. The angels rejoice and proclaim “Peace on Earth, Good Will to All”. It must have been good to be in Bethlehem that night. It’s good to be in Milton this night and to remember and celebrate in our beautiful, warm meeting house, and to think about going back to our homes to continue our celebrations of Christ’s love and our love for family and friends.

In a small hut in Soweto or on the plains of the Sudan this night an infant boy is limp in the lap of his mother. Flies crawl on his cheek looking for some remnant of food. The child breaths shallow breaths ---the mother lifts him gently to her breast---there is nothing there—no milk, no nourishment. She gently touches the baby’s cheek, gazes at his distended belly, watches his chest rise and fall, and then stop. It’s over. Death comes to her boy this night. A tear of sadness wells up in the corner of her eye. It’s sad to be in Soweto or on the plains of the Sudan this night. And in the distance a baby cries.

A young teenage Jewish girl sits alone in her bedroom in a tiny apartment in Meir Charim this night—the orthodox section of Jerusalem called in English The Hundred Gates. She thinks of the celebration of her family’s holy days. She recalls the Seder, the Passover meal. The celebration of her people passing out of slavery into freedom. She hears the words of her youngest brother asking the question, “What makes this night different than every other night?”. As she recalls the telling of the story, in her heart she knows what makes this night different. This night her brother, just turned twenty, is a soldier in the Gaza Strip. She remembers the frightened look in his eyes the day he picked up his rifle and left that small apartment. She worries that she may never see him again. This night she worries about getting on a bus in the morning to go to school. She worries that while sitting in a small café a bomb may explode. She worries about just seeing someone that looks different than she looks and speaks words that she can’t understand. She worries when she looks into her father’s eyes and sees fear. She worries when she looks into her mother’s eyes and sees sadness. She sits in her room and prays “Dear God, please make this night different…” and a tear of fear wells up in the corner of her eye. It’s frightening to be in Jerusalem this night.

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