Christmas Eve 2017
In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
A week or so ago, I read an interesting blog. The writing was so engaging that I wanted to receive a notice, by email, every time this writer posted a new blog entry.
Of course, I had to enter my first and last name and my email address, but then another box popped up on the screen. It said, “Prove you are human.” Just below that, there was an empty box where I was supposed to copy and type a string of letters and numbers posted by the security feature for the page.
This made me think . . . Is that all it takes to prove I’m human? An ability to copy a short code, type it on a keyboard, and press ? Well, I did what I was told, followed the directions, and matched the code exactly. I even gave myself a little pat on the back after pressing for passing that test. But seriously, this innocuous question stuck with me, and made me wonder, what is it that truly makes us human?
Obviously, our skin and organs, blood and brain make us human. So too, do our opposing thumbs! But being human also involves our drive and our compassion, our language and creativity, our vulnerability, and of course, our love.
This year, I witnessed and lived out the intensity of our humanness (if that’s even a word) when in May my oldest son, Ryan was hit by a car. He was a pedestrian, crossing a street, when an SUV ran into him. Believe me, the accident was horrible.
Through it, of course, I learned that to be human means that our bodies do not stand a chance against heavy machinery in motion.
I realized, too, that to be human includes fear - deep and paralyzing fear – like the fear that comes when a police officer shows up on your doorstep and tells you that your son has been taken by ambulance to the trauma center.
To be human, fully human, also includes vulnerability. Relying on others for care, for reassurance, for hope.
It includes feelings like anger, embarrassment, and frustration; and of course, being human includes joy, relief and gratitude, which I experienced as my son turned the corner and began to make his recovery – and especially as he sat here for Christmas eve worship tonight.
To be human, most of all, is our ability to connect with others, to give and receive love.
This evening’s manger scene, including Mary and Joseph, the newborn infant Jesus, and shepherds from the fields, offers us a picture of what it means to be human. Imagine Mary’s fear. Joseph’s uncertainty. The shepherds’ curiosity. Imagine the simultaneous awe and joy at the sound of angels singing. Imagine their vulnerability to cold and hunger. All of it was human, and all of it was born in Jesus, a radically daring God of the universe, made flesh and blood, with two thumbs, fueled by purpose and compassion, imbued with creativity, vulnerable to weakness, and the embodiment of perfect love.
This is what we celebrate tonight on Christmas Eve. I know it’s tempting and probably way too easy to move through this holiday on a surface level – to be distracted from our humanness, to try and clean it up, make it “perfect” somehow, using lights, jingling bells, gifts or egg nog.
But don’t fall into that trap – because to be in touch with our humanness is to be in touch with God.
I met that God, God-in-our-midst, Emmanuel, during those early hours and days of our son’s hospitalization. His critical condition meant that minute to minute (to use a double negative) there was not one thing that was not a struggle. I was desperate in a way I’ve never known before – and frankly, hope I never have to experience again. And there came a point when I just had to leave the room and collapse into a heap on the hallway floor and sob. Really sob. It was a true test of my humanness, and indeed, I passed.
But into my raw and unprotected humanity, walked a nurse, and then an aide. Complete strangers, busy with so many other things, and yet still, they stopped and sat down on the floor next to me. They looked straight into my eyes and put their arms around me. In between my sobs of desperation, they allowed me to inhale their loving presence and listen to their words of hope. They were God-with-skin, the very Jesus we celebrate tonight.
Shepherds, perhaps, offered that same gift to Mary. Angels offered reassurance and perspective to the shepherds. Even the inn keeper gave Mary and Joseph room in a stable.
When we feel that God is far off – perhaps, “Up there” – all we have to do is look to the person sitting next to us to see both the Divine and humanity. That is what we celebrate at Christmas . . . about being authentically human and knowing that God meets us, faithfully and intimately, exactly where we are.
So, tonight, and in the days and year ahead, go ahead, prove you are human. Prove it with joy. Prove it with sadness. Prove it with love. Prove it through whatever it is that touches you deeply.
Then notice that God meets you – and loves you – there. Amen.