Christmas Eve 2018
I wonder what Mary wanted to be,
Before she became the mother of our Lord.
I wonder what was Joseph dreaming, before the angel told him not to be afraid.
I wonder what the Inn Keepers were planning before they became hosts to heaven and earth.
And I wonder what the shepherds aspired to, as they watched over their flocks by night.
Don’t you think Mary knew her life was going in another direction all together?
She sings that she was among the lowest on the ladder of life.
Her parents had arranged the marriage.
She was of age; it was the tradition.
It was what had happened to her mother before her, and her mother before her.
But it was not what Mary dreamed about.
It was not what she aspired to.
Mary longed to be free.
Her life felt predetermined, everything already laid out for her,
She would become the young wife of one she hadn’t chosen, didn’t yet love, and fulfill his expectations for her.
To her father, Mary was a burden, a dowry weighted against the family.
To her espoused, Mary was status and stability, a sign that his lineage would be carried on.
Mary aspired to more.
She desired to be seen.
To be known for who she was.
To be heard.
Couldn’t she be the one to lead a movement against the empire?
Couldn’t she change the world?
And what about Joseph?
What was Joseph aspiring to when a messenger of the almighty cast a new vision for his life.
Maybe like Mary, he too found himself in the midst of a cycle of tradition and expectation.
Joseph had not had much education.
As soon as he was strong enough to point a chisel and hold a hammer, he had been in his father’s shop.
He was educated in eyeing a board to pick out the best without warp or blemish.
Joseph knew nothing of how to be a loving father, let alone spouse.
He did not know how say the words, “I love you.”
Maybe Joseph desired to deconstruct the expectations for his life.
Maybe Joseph wanted to give his family something he didn’t have – a loving home,
Wanting to provide, not just financially, but by his very presence.
Maybe Joseph dreamed of a day when he could be more than what was expected.
And I wonder about the Inn Keeper’s – what had they been hoping for?
The Inn, most likely was not a motel along the highway – like in the story of the Good Samaritan who takes the man who was beaten along the road to an Inn that he might recover – the Greek word for that kind of Inn is:
Pando – hey – own (pandocheion)
That’s the word for a Holiday Inn Express
Here, Luke uses the word “Katal – E – Ma” (Katalymati) when describing that there was no room in the Inn for Mary and Joseph and their baby to be.
“Katal – E – ma” is not a hotel room for strangers, but rather is the descriptive word for a family’s spare bedroom or guest room.
It wasn’t surprising that there was no room in the “Katal – E – Ma” – The guest room had already been filled – of course it had – with extended family from all around flooding into Bethlehem to be registered.
But the Innkeepers had made a promise to themselves.
They had hoped that they’d never have to turn anyone away.
Maybe that had grown up having less.
Maybe they had seen their parents struggle with food stamps to put a meal on the table.
Or maybe they could remember the days when they prayed the oil would not run out.
Maybe their goal – their aspiration – was that – with the blessing of their large home, they’d never have to turn anyone away; they aspired to have a home open for all;
And so instead of turning the poor young couple away,
They welcomed them into the ground floor level of the home –
Yes, among the animals, because they were the heat source, the furnace, which fueled the warmth in the home above.
Maybe that night, The Innkeepers dreamed, of always being able to have a place at the table for every one.
And I wonder about the Shepherds?
I wonder what their life-goals were.
One might presume they had no goals.
They were poor, and destined to be so.
Their parents were sheep herders before them.
They were the bottom of the totem pole; even among laborers, they were outcasts.
They were migrant workers – moving from field to field from flock to flock.
They depended on the practices of merchants and priests and soldiers who traded for and purchased their sheep.
But even shepherds have goals and aspirations.
Working in the fields day and night, perhaps there were those shepherds who dreamed of discovering something new.
Perhaps the shepherds dreamed of a life that didn’t seem so routine and lack of meaning.
There must be more to life then going to work, crashing at the end of the day, and waking up more tired then the day before.
Maybe, the shepherds simply aspired to something new – something that would bring joy.
Each of those we encounter this evening have aspirations – hopes and dreams of how life may be – of how they pray life could be.
And meanwhile, God aspired, too.
Meanwhile – God had hope as well.
God knew Mary’s heart – that she aspired to be more than her father or mother or the system, could see for her.
God knew Mary believed that her own dreams were impossible,
But God too, aspired for something more.
God knew Joseph’s fear – God had given gifts to Joseph in abundance, not only of how to build things, but the gifts needed to form a family, to hold them together,
And God knew the innkeepers, who welcomed strangers like family; God knew the depths of their hearts that they might open their home to all who enter.
And God had heard the cries of the shepherds – those expressed out loud in anger as shepherds struggled with just making it – and God heard the quiet cries – hopes at the end of the night that life might include just a little joy.
God knows the dreams and aspirations of all of God’s people.
And God knows our dreams too.
On this Holy night.
When Mary desired so deeply to be seen.
When Joseph aspired to be more than a handyman.
When the Inn Keepers hoped they had done enough.
While the shepherds were exhausted from keeping watch over their flocks by night and dreamed of a life filled with joy;
God dreamed, and God aspired
To become one of us!!
God’s Life Goal – God’s greatest aspiration – is to be like us – to be WITH us!
It’s like this…
Clara loves her little brother, Connor
Connor is a beautiful, kind and loving little boy who happened to be diagnosed with
Joubert Syndrome just a few weeks after he was born.
Joubert Syndrome is a rare genetic disorder in which the part of the brain called the cerebellar vermis is underdeveloped or missing completely, in Connor’s case, his is smaller than usual.
While the symptoms that come with Joubert are many, and severity ranges greatly between people, much like Autism, it means that Connor’s gross and fine motor skills do not respond in the same ways as others, and he can not always express himself in ways that others can.
My friend Molly writes about their family’s journey and joy.
She shares that Clara desperately desires for Connor to love the things that she loves.
At Thanksgiving the family decorated a gingerbread house.
Clara so wanted Connor to participate and join in the fun.
She’d ask him what kind of candy to use next, or where to put the decorations on the house;
But Connor just kept saying, “Go Bedroom” through his electronic talker-aid.
She had been excited to include him in her bowling birthday party;
She said her friends were excited to meet him, probably because she talks about her brother at school a lot.
He enjoyed bowling the first time they had tried it, so they had hope, he’d have fun with this bunch of tween girls.
Instead, when it was his turn, he threw a fit and screamed and cried when everyone sang “Happy Birthday.”
When they were decorating the Christmas Tree – Clara wanted to show him the special ornaments, and tell him the backstory of each one.
But when they tried to help him stand up to place a decoration on the tree, Connor resisted and went into a tantrum.
These scenes can break Molly’s heart, and she worries about the day when Clara will grow out of love for her brother, or becomes so frustrated that she’ll give up on him.
That’s not how it goes at all.
You see, even when Connor disrupts tree decorating, or crashes in the midst of a celebration;
Clara is often the first person to comfort him or redirect his action, or to try and laugh it off.
She will go to him and smoosh his face with a kiss;
Or she’ll hug him and spin around with him in a twirl;
Or she’ll start dancing and singing a funny song.
Clara’s love for Connor is endless and unconditional.
And all she wants.
All she aspires to:
Is for Connor to know her love.
Isn’t that what God aspires to on this night?
To be with us.
To be one of us.
To show us all the things that God loves.
To help us see the world the way God sees the world.
To teach us with the wisdom only the divine can impart.
And when our dreams don’t work out.
When our plans and aspirations don’t turn out the way we thought.
God comes to us.
Does a dance; sings a funny song.
And reminds us that we are not alone.
Siblings in Christ, to you, this day, in the City of Buffalo, a Savior is Born, Christ Emmanuel. God with Us.