The Perfect Gift: Luke 2:1-20
Rev. Lucy E. Turner
Kirkwood by the River
Emmanuel, God is with us. The waiting is over. God is living on earth as a human being in the midst of us, as one of us. Did you ever wonder how that came to be? I mean did you ever wonder how God decided in what form and at what time to appear? Let’s review a little of the story up to this point:
We had it so good in the garden. Everything was lush and green and fertile; it didn’t belong to us, but we had the run of the place, or at least close to that kind of freedom. However, it wasn’t enough for us to live there with God. We wanted more. We wanted everything.
Then God said, “let’s be more specific about our relationship. I will be your God and you will be my people. You will be faithful. I will be faithful.” Guess who kept his end of the bargain? Then God said, “Okay, let’s be more concrete about this. I only expect ten things from you. Keep them and you will be happy.” I guess happiness had its drawbacks, because we broke every commandment before it was all over.
Maybe God thought that this was too complicated for such simple human beings, not that he ever doubted the wisdom of his own creation. It’s just that history was not in our favor. God spoke again, “love me, love your neighbor. I will even write it on your hearts.” That’s all God wanted: love me, love those created by me. We failed, but this is not the time to be filled with remorse and regret about that. No. This is a time to celebrate God’s persistence, God’s power, God’s creativity, and most especially, God’s love.
But how did God decide what would move us, what could reform us, what might lead us back to Him? We will never know the answer to that question until we see God face-to-face. In the meantime, I will share a very good answer from an unlikely source:
“Christmas is such a unique idea that most non-Christians accept it, and I think sometimes envy it. If Christmas is the anniversary of the appearance of the Lord of the universe in the form of a helpless baby, it is quite a day. It is a startling idea, and the theologians, who sometimes love logic more than they love God, find it uncomfortable. But if God did do it, He had a tremendous insight.
“People are afraid of God and of standing in His very bright light. But everyone has seen babies and almost everyone likes them. So, if God wanted to be loved as well as feared, He moved correctly here. And, if He wanted to know people, as well as rule them, He moved correctly here, because a baby growing up learns all there is to know about people.
“If God wanted to be intimately a part of (human beings), He moved correctly. For the experience of birth and familyhood is our most intimate and precious experience. So it comes beyond logic. (It is even divine insanity to some.) It is either all falsehood or it is the truest thing in the world. It is the story of the great innocence of God the baby. God in the power of human beings. And it is such a dramatic shot toward the heart, that if it is not true, then, for Christians, nothing is true.”
These reflections on Christmas came from the late Harry Reasoner in an ABC News commentary almost 35 years ago. They are still true. They still reflect the purpose of Christmas: to show God’s love to us once again, to invite us to love God in return and to be intimately connected to a people He created long ago, and pronounced good.
Maybe this baby was just the right touch, the perfect gift. Maybe this baby could do what God had been unable to do before. Paradise didn’t work. Covenants didn’t take. Rules were broken more often than kept.
Maybe this little child could do what no one else could do—not Moses, not David, not Jeremiah, not even John the Baptist. Maybe this little child could put within our hearts a love for God which could never be snuffed out. Would it be too easy to say that all God wants is our love?
–Not when you consider that God came to us as a baby. He arrived just like every other baby—hungry and wet from the difficult journey. Maybe his head was a little out of shape and the hair was only a promise, but there were ten little toes and ten little fingers which even then, in that tiny little fist, held the salvation of the world, if not our hearts, too.
–Not when you remember that God-in-Christ grew up among us to know us, to be with us, to make holy our simple, human existence; to affirm our life and to renew our flesh and blood humanity; to pronounce again to us, since we seem to forget, that God created us in His own image, male and female God created us. And God blessed us. And we, as God’s own, were very good.
–Not when you taste the blessed, broken bread and drink from the cup of salvation. Not when you see again the arms of Christ spread on the cross to embrace the sins of the world.
“What would it take,” God must have said, “to move my people to open their arms and love me the way that I love them?” This baby was a stroke of genius, not nearly the first and certainly not the last that God will have. This baby was the perfect gift. The right touch.
The right touch from a God who knows:
Just how to comfort
Just how to care
Just how to speak
Just how to love
Just how to save
Just how to be the God this world so desperately needs.
Emmanuel, God is with us. Loving us beyond our wildest dreams for who we are, not for what we have done. Would you believe me if I told you, that even if we tried, we could never know how much or how sweetly or how tenderly our Creator loves us?
It is hard to resist the love of a baby, not to love deeply and completely that warm bundle in your arms. God knew that. God used the perfect gift to capture not our imaginations, but our hearts. This child born of Mary who enters our hearts yet again is the perfect gift for our weary world.
In the name of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Amen.