Sunday, December 24, 2023
Christmas Eve

Preparing room for Jesus

The Rev. Mark Wilkinson, Rector
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
Katy TX 77450

Christmas Eve 2023

In an Advent video that I showed the vestry Wednesday night the theologian and scholar Walter Bruggeman said, “the incarnation is a bodily intrusion of the divine into our existence. And he comes as a baby”.  What an amazing and shocking act of love by God. God broke into our world in a unique way over 2000 years ago in the incarnation.

Some think that this was a one-time event. In the case of this incarnation yes it was a one-time occurrence. Theologians call this the scandal of particularity. God chose a time, a place, a person to make God known to the world in an entirely different way. A time of occupation in a backwater of a place through a young unmarried girl betrothed to a workman, a techton is the Greek word. The birth is announced to shepherds the lowest of the low, social outcasts.

However for the incarnation to happen, God needed help. The help of a young girl. We need only look to Mary to understand how we too can bring Christ into the world.

Richard Rohr this week asked, “How do we also give birth as Mary did?” To start with we need to welcome God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit into our lives. This year the fourth Sunday in Advent was just a few hours ago. The gospel was the Annunciation, the scene where Gabriel speaks to Mary and tells her what God has in store for her. She welcomes this rather incredible intrusion into her life, into her body for that matter. Long before the question of whether there is room in the inn, there is the question of will Mary make room for the Spirit in her. Will she take the risk of bearing a child as a poor unwed teenage mother?

Last year I did a meditation on what the conversation between the Angel Gabriel and God might have been. I speculated that Gabriel might have been just as afraid of how Mary would react as she was to his appearing to her. Maybe he needed to say to himself, “do not be afraid for you have found favor with God,” long before he said it to Mary. We all have a choice when God calls and asks something from us, offers an opportunity to us. We can always say, “Well no thank you I had rather not.”

What prompted this is line of thought was a meme I saw on Facebook about two weeks ago.. This one caught my attention and I have been thinking about it a lot.

It is a simple but profound statement. “Each of us is the innkeeper who decides if there is room for Jesus.[1]” Now think about that for a moment. We are each the innkeeper, and we decide if there is room for Jesus in the inn that is our hearts and in our lives.

Some people are afraid of babies. They don’t know how to hold them, afraid to drop them or just uncomfortable with these helpless, but demanding creatures. I think some of us feel the same way about Jesus.

I raise this because time and again I find people who want to make room, to offer Jesus a way into their lives, but they are afraid. They fear God not in the sense of awe and reverence, but of fear. Some are afraid of what will happen to them if they truly make room for God in their hearts. Sometimes the fear is that they are not worthy to offer Christ a home in their inn.

Time and again I hear people say, I’ll come to church when I have my act together. I’ll come back to church once I have my life straightened out. That is the wrong sequence. Come to the manger tonight, right now; approach Christ now in your brokenness and make room for him in your inn, your heart, your soul.

The Rev. Lane Davenport of Agnes and Accension in Washington D.C wrote on his blog the following:

“God relies not upon perfect, ideal people, but upon unexpected, good enough people to be extraordinary – not only Mary, but also: Peter, who abandoned and denied Jesus, to be head of the church; Mary Magdalene, a disreputable, lonely woman, to discover the resurrection; Matthew, a despised tax collector, to be an apostle; Paul, who persecuted the church, to be its chief missionary to the nations. It’s the Magnificat: God doesn’t choose the mighty and obvious, but lifts up the lowly and meek…. We experience grace not in what’s perfect, but in what’s good enough.[2]

There are so many people who do not feel worthy, and I suspect there are some in this church tonight may be thinking the same thing. There are many who focus on their sinfulness, and I am not worthy morphs into I am worthless. Hear this, nobody is worthless in God’s eyes. Jesus recruited many who on paper would seem like terrible candidates for the position of disciple.  Yet all through the story of the gospels, the book of Acts, the letters of Paul, and throughout the history of the church there are people, plain ordinary people who have been willing to make room in their inn for Christ.

God so loved the world that he sent his only son. He sent his son so that rather than being condemned we find that we are loved by God no matter what. That is the message of the incarnation. God broke into our world though Jesus to show us how much God loves us. Jesus saves us not by changing God’s mind about us, but by changing our minds, our understanding of God. He came so that we might experience the unconditional love of the Trinity.

This Christmas I want to challenge you to consider how God continually breaks into your world. To do this you need to continue with the themes of Advent. Stay awake, pay attention look for God not just in the expected “right” places, but in the unexpected places at unexpected times. In those moments when maybe you are at the end of your rope and hope seems dim. Those are exactly the times the God will break into your life if you have eyes to see and ears to hear.

You see in the incarnation, in God’s presence with us, in Christ’s presence with us and the Holy Spirits presence with us, down in the muck and the mess of this world, that is where the incarnation continues. Because it is in that mess that we become the hands and feet of Christ. It is in the muck and the mess where faith is often forged, tested, and proved. That is the promise of Christmas. As the resurrected Jesus says in the very last words of the Gospel of Matthew “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” That is the promise of the incarnation, that is the promise of Christmas. Merry Christmas and may you know Christ’s presence in you all of this the coming year.

[1] Neal A. Maxwell

[2] Rev. Lane Davenport is the rector at Ascension and St. Agnes in Washington, DC