Mary smuggled God, smuggled Love Incarnate, into the world in her own body. Now you can, too, until Love has brought all things into God’s heart.
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
The Eve of the Nativity of Our Lord
Texts: Luke 2:1-20; but using 1 Corinthians 13 and John 1 and Genesis 1 as the core.
Beloved in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Love is patient. love is kind.
Love is not envious . . . or boastful . . . or arrogant . . . or rude.
Love does not insist on its own way; love isn’t irritable or resentful.
Love doesn’t rejoice in wrongdoing – love rejoices in the truth.
Love bears all things, trusts all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a)
But that means:
Love is extremely vulnerable. Love gets taken advantage of.
Love will not fight fire with fire, so love will get burned.
Love will not use force against force, power against power, so love will be hurt, sometimes even killed.
So: if you are the Triune God, a being whose identity is relationship, whose breath is love within yourself, between Father, Son, and Spirit, whose life together is one and yet three, lived in a dance of love, and you long to share that love, what do you do?
You take a great risk and open a space within your life, your dance, your love, for a universe.
In creating all things, God made room within the Triune dance for a rich, diverse, ancient, and awesome beauty, room for stars and galaxies, creatures and dark matter, planets and comets, water and earth and fire and air, a universe beyond our imagining.
And God said, “this is good.” And the plan we have heard is that all along, from that first “this is good,” the Triune God hoped to draw this universe, this creation, even this tiny planet, into the life of God, into the dance.
Love, patient, kind, never-ending, would be the song the universe would sing in harmony with the Creator.
But in this, another great risk couldn’t be avoided.
For love to be what it is in God’s heart, it must be freely given and received, chosen and lived. If Love at its center will not force its own way, then this universe must be given freedom to be. To choose. To live.
Even if that universe, or even just one species on one tiny planet on the edge, decided not to love, not to join the song, not to enter the dance, this was the only way love as the Triune God lives it could be truly love for the creation, too. The dance is what it is, and must be freely chosen.
So, as witnesses of faith have spoken for millennia, have written in our holy Scripture, God continues to reach out to draw all creation, all things, into God’s heart, God’s life. To join the dance of love.
But – and this is really important for you tonight – what will God do with those who refuse the dance, who turn from the love? Who put up walls of hatred and division against their own people? Who build systems to crush some of God’s children while benefiting others? Who live lives that seem only interested in themselves, not in joining the dance of God, the dance of creation, the dance of love?
How could the Triune God, not willing to break the way of love, break through walls, and dismantle systems, and draw back into God’s heart a species that seemingly doesn’t want to be there?
Well, God does what we humans have learned to do in the same situation: God sneaks in.
Even in our broken world, life finds a way in where it seems blocked. People sneak things across borders, sneak people across. Things are hidden, brought in, and revealed. We learned this from God.
Because from the beginning of our human existence, when it was clear we were not going to love each other or God, God started sneaking in. Talking to individual people and revealing love and mercy. Abraham and Sarah, Moses, the prophets. God found ways to get the word into the world.
But tonight we rejoice at the fullness of God’s plan here. If we would not be drawn into God’s heart, God would have to enter our world in person. To show Love’s goodness by sharing our existence. To be a face, a voice, a Love we could follow back to God.
In short, as a wise theologian has said, “Mary smuggled God into the world in her own body.” 1
Mary smuggled God in. And God, as we have said, is love. Patience, kindness, joy, endurance, hopefulness, truth, without ending. Mary smuggled the Triune Love into the world in her own body. And that changed everything.
Because if you are the Triune God who made all things, you know how those things work.
You know that single drops of water can wear great canyons out of the hardest stone. That a tiny seed stuck in the crack of the greatest wall will grow a plant that will break that wall apart. That if even the life and love of God were absorbed in the power of death, that heart of life and love would break death itself apart into nothing.
So, Mary smuggled God into the world in her own body. And suddenly love’s inside the wall, a part of the system, sneaking into hearts and minds, and changing them. Being that seed growing inside the wall and eventually breaking it apart, that bug in the system that eventually brings it to its knees. Even ending death.
In this baby, God, Love Incarnate, smuggled never-ending patience, kindness, joy, truth, endurance, hope, humility, into a world to plant those seeds. So that such love would grow and eventually win over this species of God’s children, and bring this planet into the great dance of the universe in God.
So, my friends, what do you want to do with this grace?
Our brother Paul of Tarsus heard the song and sang us the shape of this Triune Love in words we can understand. And even live. Patience. Kindness. Joy. No arrogance, no boasting. Just truth, and trust, and never-ending, enduring, love.
Might you be willing to smuggle God into the world in your own body yourself?
It’s risky, of course. Love is vulnerable, can be hurt. You might get taken advantage of. But your holy and Triune God says, “join the club – that’s what happens for me, and will for you.”
But in this mystery of God, when you smuggle God in, Love becomes Incarnate, embodied, in you, and starts cracking everything open in this world that seeks to crush it. You become part of God’s underground, God’s secret, hidden, work, that keeps popping up in all sorts of inconvenient ways for the powers that seek to stop it.
Until even this planet, and this species of God’s children, join the great dance of God’s Love.
Like Mary, all God needs from you is a yes.
In the name of Jesus. Amen
1 A profound line borrowed with thanks from my dear friend, the Rev. Dr. Will Healy, whose wisdom has blessed me for years, and with thanks to God for his forty years of faithful ministry as he retires this Christmastide.