The world is unsafe for all the creation, so God enters it, risks all that is unsafe, to bring healing through the creation, as we learn to risk, to be unsafe, for the sake of all.
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
The Eve of the Nativity of Our Lord
Text: Luke 2:1-20
Beloved in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
This is not a safe world.
And you know it. We gather tonight and sing “all is calm, all is bright,” “glory to the newborn King,” knowing very little is calm, or bright, or glorious in our hearts, our society, our city, our culture, our world.
This is not a safe world, and you know it. Even worshipping here in this place tonight, something we missed so dearly last year, we can’t be one hundred percent sure we’re safe. We vaccinate, wear masks, keep distance. But even with these best protections, over two years of pandemic uncertainty have taught us any decisions to leave our homes for any reason are judgment calls with risks.
This is not a safe world, but God knows it, too. So God entered this unsafe world as one of us. The Incarnate God is already out there, in the unsafe world. That’s the wonder of this night.
And tonight that Incarnate One calls you out into the darkness and cold, into the noise and fear, into the sickness and pain. Where God-with-us truly is. Where God-with-us, Emmanuel, hopes you will be, too.
The birth of this child shows God’s willingness to risk everything, to be unsafe.
This is a story that begins at creation, a story of the eternal God who desperately loves this God-made world of beauty and life but is pained beyond belief at the destruction we, God’s own children, have made of it by our own actions, our own lives.
This is a story of the Triune God who answers that brokenness and destruction by risking everything to draw the creation back into God’s life and love. God enters an unsafe, cold, hateful, sick, broken world to transform it from within. To become completely vulnerable to it, rather than destroy it. To say to us, to all God’s children, “I’m in your hands,” hoping that from that vulnerable love we might also learn to love.
This child is meant to draw us into this story of God’s unsafe love for the world.
Babies are born without power and protection, at risk from any number of dangers. This baby, born into a world which already had no room for him, was at risk from the moment of his conception. In this birth God says, “I come to you without any power or might, so that you can hear me, know me, love me. Follow me.”
But beginning as a vulnerable, weak baby, God also is saying, “Know me, follow me . . . or kill me if you have to. Reject me. Walk away. But I will come to you in this way. It’s the only way to life for this world.”
Which means, on this holy night, you’re faced with a decision.
What will you do with this baby? You can love the story, the idea of a baby in a manger, and imagine this is all sweetness and light. But then you’ll go out into that unsafe world with little more than a lie. Because if this beauty, this quiet, this peace in here has nothing to do with reality out there, what’s the point? If God is actually doing something for this unsafe world in this birth, loving this story does nothing.
But if you can see that this vulnerability, this risk of God is the whole point, this baby becomes very important. Then you see that this baby is the beginning of God’s answer to this broken, cold, unsafe world.
Without power, without weapons, without defenses; without strategy, without plan of attack, without manipulation; this is how God enters the pain of this world. The Triune God’s wisdom is at once astounding and troubling, that the only way to make this world safe and whole is to risk being broken and unsafe, even though God has the power to make and unmake universes.
This baby is only the beginning of God’s answer to an unsafe world, though.
The cross and empty tomb continue that answer, showing how God’s life rises from sacrificial love. But this God-with-us, Emmanuel whose birth we celebrate, made it clear: you and I and God’s children are the rest of the answer. We are called to embrace God’s way of healing the world and no other.
God’s unsafe way is now offered as your way. It’s kind of easy to think you go into this world powerless and defenseless, since you’re not the eternal God of creation. You probably feel powerless often enough. But you and I still have power, still cling to our self-built protections, build barriers, try to pretend we can be safe. There’s enough risk in following God’s unsafe path that we need to hear what Christ taught us in his words, in this birth, in that death and resurrection.
That the only way to healing, to light, to warmth, to wholeness, to peace, is for you to enter the pain, the darkness, the cold, the brokenness, the struggle and be willing to put yourself wholly into it. For me to do that. For all who hear God’s voice to do that. In that risking, the world will be healed.
God’s path goes straight into the unsafe.
But it’s the only way for God. So it can be the only way for us.
So keep your eyes tonight on this baby who is the God of all creation, heaven and earth contained in such a little space, such a vulnerable place. This baby means God is already walking in this unsafe world, walking the path Christ now calls you to. So you are never alone on this path, even when it leads into danger and cold, into unsafe places.
And if you are with such a God on this path, then you are also given the courage and strength to risk as God has risked and be a part of God’s healing of all.
And that is truly tidings of comfort and joy.
In the name of Jesus. Amen