In this year unlike any other
we need Christmas more than ever,
even as our celebrations look and feel different,
we need Christmas to bring us the truth
that God considers the world,
however broken it may be,
worthy of love and salvation,
worthy enough for God to fully enter into the experience of the world
pure infinite love
taking on a fragile finite form.
The extraordinary held within the ordinary.
This year as I once again immersed myself
in the most familiar story
of the baby born and laid in a manger,
I was struck by how closely the ordinary and the extraordinary
are tied together,
God’s entrance into the world
turning the most common events into unique occurrences.
Mary is pregnant,
an ordinary experience in the scope of humanity
but unique to Mary
her pregnancy heralded by an angel of the Lord,
brought about by the Holy Spirit
and now she is carrying the Son of God within her,
To add to that
Mary is unmarried,
which while putting her in a difficult spot
is still rather ordinary,
is that God chose to work through an unmarried girl
and that her fiancé, Joseph
has stuck with her,
continued in his promise to marry her.
When we join them this night
they are traveling,
in the midst of a once in a life-time event,
a grand census of the whole world
causing people to return to ancestral lands
to be counted by the Roman empire,
and there in the midst of this numerary chaos,
in the city of Bethlehem
is where an ordinary everyday occurrence happens,
Mary goes into labor and a baby is born,
not in a deluxe birthing suite but in borrowed space,
in the midst of everyday life.
This is how God enters the world,
in a way so ordinary as to be unnoticeable
except by those right around him
for a miraculous as each individual baby is,
they are born all the time.
But for this birth we’d expect that there at least be a little fanfare
to mark this extraordinary occasion
and our expectations are not disappointed,
but what is surprising is who this news is announced to,
some shepherds doing what they do,
watching their sheep out in the fields
away from everyone else,
to these laborers on the margins of society
They tell them of a special baby
and where to find him
and end the message with a serenade by the heavenly host.
‘Well you don’t see that everyday’
the shepherds say to themselves
and so they follow the directions
and find everything just as the angels had told them.
Understandably the people gathered around the new little family
are surprised by the shepherd’s visit,
most babies aren’t visited in the night by field hands,
and they are even more surprised
by the message they bring,
that this child is the Son of God,
the shepherds have it on the authority of angels
and everyone there,
probably Joseph’s extended family
was amazed at this pronouncement,
who treasures the message she’d already heard
confirmed by another angelic visit.
The shepherds leave praising God,
and that’s it,
that’s the story of God’s entry into the world,
extraordinary for its relative ordinariness.
At each turn in the story
the ordinary is paired with the extraordinary.
It’s a pairing that we are all too familiar with,
we too are in the midst of God willing,
a once in a life-time event,
though rather than everyone being on the move,
we’ve all been staying at home,
and so the ordinary, home
has become extraordinary,
in how focused our lives have been on our homes,
which have also becomes places of work,
schools and even sanctuaries.
And when we’ve ventured out of our homes,
the world around us has changed,
what was ordinary now is different.
This Christmas we’re celebrating the advent of the Christ child
as we do every year,
and yet we’re doing so in different ways,
we’re worshiping online with our families,
we’re driving to church parking lots and waving glow sticks,
and gathering in smaller groups.
And as different and unique and even ordinary as all these experiences may be,
Christ still comes.
Because that’s how God,
Immanuel, God with us,
comes among us,
in the midst of both the ordinary and the extraordinary.
God is with us in all the everyday places
where we might not think to look,
the daily routine, the endless dishes,
the meals at home,
and God is with us in the novel,
the new, the unexpected,
all the zoom calls,
the caring for those in quarantine,
the exhausted staff at hospitals.
As what once seemed extraordinary
begins to become ordinary
God is with us in the midst of this too
helping us to navigate the world around us,
coming to us in friends and community,
the help of a stranger,
resting with us as we struggle
to reconcile the ordinary and the extraordinary.
The miracle of Christmas
reminds us that this is precisely how God works,
taking on ordinary form,
coming among us in the midst of brokenness and upheaval
bringing healing and redemption
for the beloved creation of God.
May you on this ordinary yet extraordinary night
be filled with the love of God with us. Amen
Pastor Emily Johnson preaches weekly at Christ Lutheran. These are manuscripts of her sermons given at Christ Lutheran. Feel free to engage with them in the comments section of the blog.