Unless you know the names Captain Kangaroo and Mister Rogers, the story I am about to tell may seem irrelevant. But imagine if SpongeBob SquarePants and Gumball where in a show together or if Dora the Explorer teamed up with Paw Patrol.
A young boy was a big fan of Captain Kangaroo and Mister Rogers. Back in the day these guys did not need an introduction. They were the best two kids’ show on television. It was one day announced that Mister Rogers would be paying a visit to the Captain Kangaroo show. The little boy was ecstatic. Both of his heroes in one show. Every morning the boy would ask his parents, “Is today the day when Mister Rogers will be on Captain Kangaroo?” Finally the day arrived, the whole family came together for this grand event. They circled in front of the television together and there they were……Mister Rogers and Captain Kangaroo together on the same television show. The little boy watched for a moment, then got up, and walked out of the room.
Puzzled, the father followed and asked, “Son, what is wrong?” “The boy replied, “It’s too much, It’s just too much!”
There is not much in our world that leaves us saying, “It’s too much…….It’s just too much!” Our senses have been numbed by familiarity. Our routines have removed the elements of surprise. Our schedules keep the explainable before us.
Take Christmas for example. Who has time to get caught up in the wonder of Christmas? We have Christmas parties to attend. Gifts to purchase. We’re too busy getting ready for Christmas to think about Jesus.
But what if tonight you just settled in the moment. What if just for tonight you give up trying and give in to the experience. Let yourself be taken by the wonder of this night. Wrap yourself in the narrative of this story and leave with your heart full. Be in awe of the Christ child. I don’t want us to be like the innkeeper and not find room in our lives for the wonder of Christmas. If you will let it, tonight you can discover awe, it will shape you, mold you, and leave you with the filling that it is too much…….it’s just too much!
I believe this baby can tell us all we need to know of God and life. The mystery of beauty and relationships are wrapped up in this child.
It is like the three-year-old little girl who was soon to be a new big sister. The day came for her mother to give birth. Mom and dad go off to the hospital. A few days later they return home with a new baby. The little girl is delighted. She just stares at her baby brother in amazement. After a few hours, the little girl tells her mom and dad that she needs some alone time with her new baby brother.
The parents had installed a baby monitor in the nursery and knew they could watch and listen from another room. So, they left baby brother alone with his sister. The parents rush off to listen and watch. The little girl leans into her two-day-old baby brother and says, “Tell me about God. I’ve almost forgotten.”
Christmas Eve is about leaning into this manger scene and saying to the baby, “Tell us about God, about my life, my purpose, my reason for existence.”
Some of you are asking out of a sense of confusion. A relationship that ended or a career that was terminated has you feeling lost.
Some of you are asking out of desperation. A medical diagnosis or a death has you living in fear.
Some of you have chosen not to lean in at all. You find yourself in a place of great doubt. If you are a person of doubt, there is place for you in the Christmas story. It is actually what makes this story so special. The announcement of Jesus was not made first in hallways of influence or corridors of power or sanctuaries of the religious, it was given to those on the outside. For those who have given up on God or feel that God has given up on them, God’s message is for you, “I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people…..” (Luke 2:10).
The Christmas story declares that even for those who could not muster up enough faith to show up tonight God is still sending angels out into the fields with Good news of great joy. Jesus is still being born among people who have given up on him.
The miracle of this night is that wonder and awe can still be captured in a dull and boring world. The miracle of this night is that a dry and dead religion can still be awakened to the surprise of faith. The miracle of this night is that a predictable life can be astonished by an adventurous God.
Seeing the infant Jesus before us and anticipating the glow of hundreds of candles on this holy night, may this Christmas story give birth in us to awe and wonder. It is a story that begins with a Jewish teenager in an obscure village on the outskirts of the Roman Empire. It is here that God sends his messenger, Gabriel, to tell this young girl that she would give birth to the Savior of the world.
The whole story hinges on a young lady who had the courage to talk back to an angel. In a year when the voices of women were attempted to be silenced, this is the part of the story we need to tell. Mary is greeted by God’s messenger, “Greetings, favored one!” and with that greeting the salvation of all humankind was set in motion. It is the moment when the will of God and the choice of Mary meet in a decision that changes the course of history. Here was the God of Mary’s heart asking her to do the impossible and Mary responding, “Let it be according to your word.” My prayer as we move into 2018 is that all the women in our lives have the courage to act on the impossible from God.
Ceasar is issuing decrees, Rome is flexible its military muscles, the religious authorities are showing off their authority and in an outskirt town God is setting in motion a revolution of love. G.K. Chesterton, the British writer, puts it this way, “God came down and slipped in the back door to surprise us all.” Wrapped in swaddling cloth, laid in a pile of straw, and surrounded by people that would never be front and center, God is about to take back the world.
For most people in the village of Bethlehem that first Christmas what they witnessed was a poor baby being born and nothing more. But I don’t you to miss it. Don’t let the motions of Christmas cause you to miss the awe and wonder of the birth. Don’t be surprised if the birth of wonder comes from unlikely places. God is fond of working in outskirt places, among people others have written off, and in ways that seem out of the norm. Don’t be surprised if there are moments surrounding the celebration of this birth that leave you saying, “It was too much…..It was just too much!” Amen.