Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church, Linglestown, Pennsylvania, USA
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known.
(John 1:14 & 18)
Despite (or maybe because of) all the excitement and exuberance of the season, our hearts can sense an unfulfilled hunger. That hunger may be dealt with when the awesome miracle of the Christmas event touches us. The challenge is that as we become familiar with any fantastic phenomenon our awe seems to fade as our familiarity grows. The Christmas miracle is no exception.
One antidote may be to consider where Jesus was born from the perspective of the universe. We all know that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. There is even a tradition that points us to the exact place in the town where he was born. But what about the place of Jesus' birth in the context of all creation? When we say that Jesus came to us from beyond space and time to be born in the galaxy called the Milky Way, on the planet Earth, in the town of Bethlehem, we are making a profound affirmation.
Consider the vastness of the creation, a creation at which we believe Jesus was present and into which he came eons later to be born. Some people speculate that our galaxy is between 150,000 to 250,000 light years across. Since a light year is 6 trillion miles, that means we are part of a galaxy that is at least 900 quadrillion miles across. There is estimated to be at least another 100 billion galaxies. It is also estimated that each of the galaxies have, as we do, 100 billion bright stars such as our sun. (That would be 10 sextillion stars.) Most of them have planets around them. These are incomprehensible numbers.
Dr. Gary Carlson, a professor of Astronomy, has said that to find the planet Earth amongst all of God's creation would be comparable to trying to locate a particular drop of water in the Atlantic Ocean - from the moon - with the naked eye. Out of at least 100 billion galaxies which he had created, Jesus found the Milky Way in our galaxy. And out of over 100 billion stars in that galaxy he found the star we call our sun. Then, for God, it was a hop, skip and a jump to our planet, earth, to a town called Bethlehem and to a stable wherein he took human form, born of Mary.
Some people say that science and education have taken away the mysteries of Christianity. I disagree. God's gift of science has enhanced the mysteries. Civilization has come a long way, from traveling by donkey to traveling in space. Our knowledge has exploded, and continues to do so daily. The majesty and mystery of God coming to earth has been multiplied rather than diminished. We are not the center of the universe as many people in Jesus' day believed. We are a speck that could be lost with little or no effect in the vast universe. Our sun is not visible 50 light years away from us; it is not even visible to most of our galaxy; it is unseen in the totality of the universe. Despite our relative obscurity in all of creation, we believe God came to us in the person of Jesus. Our familiarity with the Christmas story and the abundance of glitz and frivolity during the season dull the amazing reality of the event. Christmas becomes a rather ho hum annual ritual that leaves us hungry for meaning.
If a person will just listen to what they say they believe happened, and ponder it, even the most laid back persons amongst us should feel something resembling awe stir within them. The God who created more than can be known or even imagined came to us as he promised and in the most vulnerable manner. It is awesome that such an event as Christmas ever occurred.
Joseph Fort Newton, writing in The Atlantic Monthly in 1929 described the Christmas miracle by saying, "(God) took our tiny shape and let us hold him in our arms."
When familiarity threatens to suffocate our celebration, remember the divine love which would bring God to our little speck of creation. What defines our life is not material things or circumstances, but God's love that has created and redeemed us. We know the intensity and reality of his love because of a life that began on this planet the first Christmas.
A little boy’s father had been killed in military service before the boy had ever known him. All he had was a picture of his father, but the picture was always before him at home. One day he said to his mother: "I wish Daddy would step out of that picture so I could really know him." Christmas is the celebration of the miracle that the God of this vast universe did that. He stepped out of the picture painted of him by words in the Old Testament, and he took our shape, and he let us hold him, and touch him, and know him, so that we might love him. It was a miracle. In some new, or renewed, way, may the miracle we celebrate as Christmas fill your heart with thanksgiving and celebration this season.
Surrounded by the sights and sounds of Christmas, fill us, Jesus, with a sense of the miracle that the God of all time came so we could know God, and, know God's love for us. Amen
-- Pastor Mueller