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December 25, 2002

Merry Christmas

(Luke 2:1-14)

Merry Christmas everyone! I wish you all great joy as we celebrate the birth of Jesus. I just want to reflect with you for a moment about the meaning of Christmas in terms of love, hope, and peace.

For me, the story of Christmas is so mysterious because here we are remembering the birth of a child born 2000 years ago in a cave to homeless, refugee parents on the outskirts of a brutal empire, and today we celebrate his birth. When I get passed the Christmas shopping and eggnog and Santa and presents and sales and the crass commercialism of Christmas and the hypocrisy of our government at Christmastime, I think Christmas is ultimately about love because we celebrate today God’s great love for us. God loves us so much that God wants to be with us, wants to share our life, and so God becomes one of us, to love each one of us and show us how to live in God’s love. And this is a great gift because I think the world has lost the meaning of love. We don’t know how to love anymore. We don’t know what the meaning of real love is. We think we love people by supporting them as they go off to get killed. At Christmas, we realize that God looks down on the whole world with a universal love for the whole human family, and then walks among us in the spirit of universal love and invites us to live in that universal love. So today we celebrate God’s love for us, and pledge to live in God’s universal love for the rest of our lives.

Second, Christmas is about hope because the good news today is that we have a savior. We’re not left in the lurch. We are not stuck in a ditch. We don’t have to give in to the world’s despair and darkness and meaningless and violence. As I look around the world, I think the whole world has gone into total despair. The whole world has given up hope. The world says there is nothing that can be done. There is no hope, no light, no way out. We are all stuck in sin and violence and hopelessness. But today we hear the good news that we have a savior who is literally saving us from ourselves and saving the whole human family and showing us a way out of our madness and insanity and selfishness, who is helping us all out of the ditch that we are stuck in, who has come to lend a hand and show us how to live well by walking the path of nonviolence, and lead us into God’s house of love. So there is great hope for all of us. There is a real, concrete reason to be hopeful.

Finally, Christmas is about peace, because when Jesus was born, the angels could not contain themselves and started singing to the shepherds and announcing that with the birth of Jesus, we have peace on earth. But as I look around the world, I think we have rejected the Christmas gift of peace on earth. We prefer war on earth--war with ourselves, with one another, with everyone. We have firmly turned the angels away and said, “No thank you. We like our wars.” But the good news today is that God is giving us the greatest present in Jesus, the gift of being at peace with God and ourselves and everyone everywhere. Now you can be cynical like everyone else and say that’s nice, but that’s totally unrealistic or just pie in the sky, OR you can say, “Thank you God for this great gift, and in honor of Jesus, we pledge to welcome the gift you give us and live at peace with you and one another and do our part to make peace on earth a reality, to resist war and oppose war and help abolish war forever!”

So today the angels say to us what they said to the shepherds in the fields long ago: “Do not be afraid! There is good news of great joy for all of you. A savior is born to you. Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth to all.” Merry Christmas and God bless you.

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