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A Child is Born

A child is born.

This is the whole reason why we’re here tonight. All of this: the tree, the candles, the decorations, the singing. All for one very simple reason.

A child is born.

A child is born, this holy night.

A child is born, and is sleeping in a manger. A child is born, and shepherds come to see. A child is born, and angels sing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on the earth, peace among those whom God favours.”

This last part is the part that I keep thinking about this Christmas. Peace on earth. We sing it in so many Christmas carols. Peace on earth, and mercy mild. Peace on the earth, goodwill to all. Sleep in heavenly peace.

Peace on earth. And yet, our world is at war.

Tonight, as we gather here, and light candles, and sing, “Peace on Earth,” there are many places in our world where there is no peace.

As we gather under peaceful skies, there are places where rockets and drones fly through the sky.

As we gather in the safety of this sanctuary, there are places where soldiers huddle in trenches.

As we gather around the warm glow of Christmas candles, millions are in the dark, without heat or power.

How can one tiny baby bring an end to all the war and violence that plagues our world?

How can one little child bring peace on earth?

There is nothing special about this little child, born to two ordinary Jewish peasants from a tiny village in a place called Galilee. This child has no superpowers, no special knowledge, nothing that would set him apart from any other baby boy. He sleeps, and suckles, and cries, and fills his diaper, just like any ordinary baby.

This child is just an ordinary, human child. And yet, this child is fully God.

And this is the way in which God has chosen to enter into our world: as a tiny, helpless baby. And by doing so, God is turning our world upside down.

Perhaps had we known that God was intending to enter our world, we might have expected something different.

Perhaps we would have expected God to show up like Zeus, riding in on a cloud, with thunder and lightning at his command.

Or perhaps we would have expected God to show up like Apollo, bright as the sun, riding on a chariot.

Or perhaps we would have expected God to show up like Thor, with giant hammer in hand, ready to smite his enemies.

But God chooses none of these forms. Instead, God comes into our world as a tiny, newborn baby.

This child has no might, no strength, no power. This child does not control wealth, or command armies. And yet, the angels proclaim, “Peace on earth.” For this child is the Prince of Peace.

How can this little child bring peace on earth? How can this little child do something so amazing?

And yet, if you have ever been in the same room as a newborn baby, perhaps you might guess. If you have ever been in the same room as a newborn baby, you know that the presence of that baby changes everything.

I have seen the strongest and toughest of men become soft and gentle in the presence of a newborn child.

I have seen people weighed down by grief, become light as a feather.

I have seen people whose lives are filled with sorrow become suddenly radiant with joy.

I have seen people torn apart by anger become suddenly kind.

I have seen people jaded by disappointment become filled with hope.

I have seen folks preparing to die, who suddenly come to life, even if for a moment.

I have felt my own heart transformed, in the presence of a newborn child.

This is how God chooses to come to us, as a newborn child. And the angels proclaim, “Peace on earth.”

Perhaps this is how the prophet Isaiah can show us a vision of a giant bonfire, where the boots of tramping soldiers and garments rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire. Can you imagine that?

Can you imagine a time when people all over the world – people in Afghanistan and Syria, people in Sudan and Ethiopia, people in Israel and Palestine, people in Russia and Ukraine – people all over the world will gather around bonfires, and will burn the boots, and the helmets, and the bulletproof vests, because they are no longer needed?

Can you imagine a time when guns and tanks and fighter jets will be melted down and turned into spades, and tractors, and combines, because the world no longer needs weapons of war?

Can you imagine this? The prophet Isaiah can. Isaiah can imagine this. For unto us a child is born, Isaiah says. Unto us a son is given. And he shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

For God has come to us as a tiny baby, to transform our hearts. To transform our anger into kindness. To transform our sorrow into joy. To transform our hatred into love. To sew in our hearts the way of peace.

God has come to us as a tiny baby, to open our eyes to see this holy child in every human being. God has come to us as a little child, so that whenever we look into the face of another human being, we might recognize that the eyes looking back at us are the eyes of Immanuel, God-with-us.

God comes to us tonight.

A child is born.

Now, out of the night Soft as the dawn, into the light This child, innocent child Soft as a fawn, this child is born

One small heart, one pair of eyes One work of art, here in my arms Here he lies, trusting and warm

Blessed this morn, a child is born.

(“A Child is Born”, music by Thaddeus Jones, lyrics by Alec Wilder).

Photo by Martinus:

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