May I speak in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
I want to tell you a story that I heard many years ago, so I have no idea how true it is. You see, someone I knew who I will call Bob was helping a friend put up a TV on the wall. As they were drilling holes for the bracket, the friend suggested he would go put the kettle on while they worked away. The problem was that as Bob drilled through the wall, it just so happened to be exactly the place where an electrical wire was behind the plaster. The drill, presumably bit into the wire and as the electricity flowed through the drill and presumably a bit through Bob as well, it caused Bob to explode backwards from the ladder, fly across the room and luckily land on the sofa opposite where the new TV was being installed, smoke curling from the remains of the drill. The friend returned to the scene to see Bob, convulsing slightly, lounged and twitching on the sofa. The friend roared, “for goodness sake, I go out of the room for five minutes and you use it as an excuse to have a lie down, you lazy person of questionable parentage” or words to that effect. Of course, the friend just hadn’t seen all that had gone on, hadn’t realised all that had happened and had jumped right to the wrong conclusion.
This happens so often in life, doesn’t it? Had the friend spent half a minute observing the sticking up hair, the smoking drill and the look on Bob’s face, he may have been kinder. People are just so unobservant. You only have to watch the suicide runs people seem to do crossing a road while attached to a mobile phone, or listening to headphones. Many people are so distracted that they don’t see anything that is going on in the world around them. Whether that is through entertainment, media, stress or obsession, people womble through life, not noticing very much at all. I am as guilty as anybody else. The tendency of the human heart is to be completely focused in on what is top of our agenda, to the exclusion of all else, all the while missing what is going on in the world around us.
Today, we are celebrating the most momentous day. The day the messiah was born, who had not only come to save Israel, but had come to save humanity. This is, in all likelihood, even if you have no faith in Jesus, one of the most significant occurrences in all of recorded history. I would argue alongside Easter, Christmas is the most momentous day in the history of the planet. But look at the context in which this amazing birth happens. This birth had been predicted in the writings of the prophets so much that the people living at the time were looking fervently for the messiah. They knew from Daniel that He was due. They knew from the prophet Micah that He was to be born in Bethlehem. They knew from Isaiah that He would be born of a virgin. The people were looking for Jesus, knew He was due, knew the signs, knew the prophesy, yet almost entirely by everyone, His birth was missed. The virgin mother wasn’t amazed at but instead couldn’t find room in the inn. The baby King wasn’t visited by dignitaries but by lowly shepherds invited by the angels of heaven. The gifts He got were not from a grateful people as a welcome gift, but wisemen, Magi, from the distant east, probably modern-day Iran, who knew better than the chosen people. The only person to hear of the birth of the messiah, and hear quite late was King Herod via the magi, whose attitude was turned to murder rather than praise.
The King of the World, the Prince of Peace, our Emmanuel was born among the cattle because there was no room in the inn. It passed, by and large, the whole nation by. In a quiet back water, with a young poor couple, in a most humble of settings, was born the King who would save us all.
This is so very God. God doesn’t pay any heed to the brash, the powerful or the important. God works His own way, often overlooked, often quiet, always surprising to work His awesome power. Throughout scripture we see this. We see how Moses is called through a burning bush in the middle of nowhere, an exiled murderer. We see this in the quiet way God chose King David, the least of his brothers who minded the sheep. God shows Elijah how his still small voice is more powerful that the raging earthquake or the howling of the wind. We see this in the miracles of Jesus, there is no great fanfare, but rather people are simply healed and helped and loved. And we see it here, in Bethlehem, as the Saviour of the world is born, and nearly no one knows, and nearly no one notices.
Sometimes people say to me that they don’t believe in God because they haven’t seen Him do anything. And they are quite right, but not because God doesn’t exist. No rather they haven’t seen God because they haven’t opened their eyes or their heart to the quiet ways of our Lord, whose work is so powerful yet hidden in plain sight. A Power that whispers throughout all creation and longs to live in the human heart.
This Christmas, I wonder if we can open our eyes. Open our eyes to see the King of Glory working in the lives of people we know, people made in the divine image. I wonder if we can open our eyes to see the wonders of nature, where God is so obvious, in the beauty of a dawn or the greenery around us. I wonder if we can open our hearts to see God in the lowliest of people, as we offer to help those who aren’t as advantaged as ourselves. I wonder if we can open our hearts to welcome in the Holy Spirit, so that God can be born in the manger of our hearts so we can carry His love to all we encounter, a small Christmas miracle in each of us.
The Christ-child was born in a forgotten back water and missed by nearly everyone. Lets open our eyes this Christmas time so that we can see Jesus and find the joy of God waiting for us, as it always has, so that we can find true life and share it with all, spreading joy and love not only at Christmas, but always. Amen