Christmas Eve 2018
The Rev’d Gretchen Sanders Grimshaw
Episcopal Parish of St. Paul, Newton Highlands, MA
‘Twas the night before Christmas, the first one you know,
Nothing was stirring, the status was quo.
The mighty were nestled all snug in their beds
As visions of privilege danced in their heads.
The lowly of course, and as usual, instead,
Wished only for blankets and pillows and bread.
While the rich just got richer, the poor just got…..hosed,
There were the haves and then have nots, the case it was closed.
For unholy unfairness is no innovation,
‘Twas then as is now, just adjust for inflation.
This eve in our world, steeped in suffering and woe,
Is not at all far from that eve long ago,
When injustice, oppression and fear ruled the earth,
So who would have thought in the blink of one birth
Who in their right mind would ever conceive?
On that darkest of nights, on that first Christmas Eve?
That the morning would come with a light so intense
That the darkness could no longer mount an offense.
In the dead of that night came the birth of the Son,
Who was flesh and yet perfect, like all and like none;
Who straddled two worlds, that the worlds might align,
Earth’s fully human and heaven’s divine.
Who came as the gift wrapped in Mary’s embrace;
Peace with two hands; grace with a face;
Into a world that was battered and broken,
Speaking a language that’d never been spoken.
And we all know the story, we hear it each year,
Of the child in the manger with Santa’s reindeer;
And King Herod, the Grinch who stole Christmas, or tried;
And the wise ones who followed Expedia’s guide…
Or was it the shepherds, it’s tough now to know
Which parts are the truth, and which parts are the show.
It’s hard, in the midst of our every day dishes
To tell the Good News from our own wants and wishes.
And that, so it seems, is the rub of this season.
The part of our journey that borders on treason.
For somehow we’ve managed to mix up the streams,
To conflate what we wish for with God’s hopes and dreams.
We seem to forget how unlikely the way
God was born here among us that first Christmas Day.
Christmas is not about dreams that make sense.
It’s not about anything in its right tense.
It’s all about turning the world on its head;
Where Spirit is blood, and body is bread.
So a wish is just too small in scope for this eve,
For this moment in time is when hope was conceived.
For from now on all things are pre domini or post,
This moment that God has decided to host.
This moment in time that’s not here and not there,
It’s just simply present, much like a prayer.
This story of God born in flesh in a manger
Could not be more true, and yet could not be stranger.
It all started in Bethlehem, so Luke has said,
With a simple boy’s birth in a donkey’s straw bed.
And the child both alike and unlike any other;
A Savior, a prophet, divine, yet our brother.
This birth is the marker that separates history,
But not like a wall, more like a myst’ry.
A gesture from God filled with wild expectation,
An open invite to the breadth of creation.
It’s the tale of a night, years, two thousand, ago
When a young teenaged girl gave her all even though
She’d no status, no privilege, no power, no clout;
She was poor, she was homeless and almost about
To deliver the gift of all gifts without knowing
How great was the fruit of the seed she was sowing.
She wasn’t the type, neither royalty nor gentry,
And yet she was chosen to offer God’s entry.
And so here we sit two millenniums hence,
And we wait for the cry, intimate and immense;
The cry of the child in that raw, humble crèche;
The cry that God utters as God shares our flesh.
We wait with excitement, surreal but sincere,
For we know that this hope is ours now, free and clear.
Though the times may have changed. Our predicament? No.
We still think that we are the star of the show,
And we’re still filled with fear and primordial dread,
And the karma we owe is still deep in the red.
And yet again this night we wait
For love to come and seal our fate.
We wait with childlike hope and awe,
Our own hearts laid bare in the straw.
We wait for an easier way to be faithful,
A way to be great, and still to be grateful.
We wait for the courage to stand firm with love,
For the vultures of war to be trumped by the dove,
We are waiting for someone to come to the rescue
To wade through the swamp and the weeds and the fescue;
To come from the heavens and clean up this mess,
To nail down the truth and free up the press.
We wait for a sign that the end is not near;
That immigrant children have nothing to fear;
That Muslims and Christians and Hindus and Jews
Will be welcomed, respected and never refused.
That every child born, each featherless bi-ped
Whose breath is from God, and whose blood is, thereby, red…
Will be valued and cherished and treated as well
As the best-ever guest in the finest Hotel.
For here is the rub of this midnight so clear
The change we await, it is already here.
Though we wait for a sign of miraculous powers,
We’re missing the message that this mess is ours.
The Good News might not sound at first like a plus,
But Jesus is God who has come to find us.
For while we are waiting on Jesus Anointed,
God, from the start, said that we are appointed.
We are the ones born to care for the flock,
Love one another – like chips off the block;
Have we turned out even near to God’s inkling?
The name humankind seems like just wishful thinkling.
Though sometimes I wonder in all this insanity
Why God did not just remake all humanity.
Given our violence our greed and our hate
Why not just start over; why not re-create?
Why not just make humans softer of heart,
Respectful of differences right from the start?
Why not just upgrade the human ecology?
Jesus is proof that God has the technology.
Christmas suggests that our God disagrees;
Despite all our failings, our flaws, our dis-ease,
There’s been no attempt to remake or re-coin us,
Instead, our Creator preferred here to join us.
This birth is a milestone from heaven above,
When our God shifts from giving, to sharing, our love.
It might not seem much, this new face of God’s talents,
But actually everything hangs in this balance.
When God gives us love, it’s a gift in God’s name,
But sharing requires God’s flesh in the game.
So you see, this bright night is the start of a movement,
Not a moment in time, or an act of improvement.
There is no quick fix to the mess that we’ve made,
To the nets that we’ve broken, the dreams we’ve delayed.
There’s only each day and a field fresh to sow,
When God wakes our spirits and hands us the hoe,
For we are the farmers of God’s holy crop,
And all that God asks is that we never stop
Tending the child who is born in the manger,
Feeding the hungry, befriending the stranger,
Welcoming those who just need a safe space
To breathe and regroup, and to share in the grace.
Offering refuge and true sanctuary
No matter how costly, no matter how scary.
There’s only one path to our Godly success:
To do just like Mary did – Just say Yes!
Yes! we have plenty of room at the inn!
Yes! You are welcome to bring all your kin!
Yes! We will share what we have on the table!
Yes! We are willing, that all may be able!
Yes! You are just what we’ve been waiting for!
Yes! You’re the beauty that makes our décor!
Yes! You are welcome to come as you are!
Yes! This is the place advertised by the star!
Yes! You are worthy. Yes! You are grand.
Yes! You are clearly God’s favorite brand.
That’s all that’s expected from heaven above,
And can all be summed up in the Word that is: LOVE.
For the gift that descended this night long ago,
Is the proof that God’s status is not status quo.
And no doubt the story we tell of this Word,
Is crazy, outrageous, prepost’rous, absurd.
Like virgins and angels and God born in straw,
But also like beauty, and friendship, and awe.
We already believe in things truly outrageous,
Love warms the heart, and Laughter’s contagious;
And doubting is fine, if the mind can stay open,
Asking hard questions, not giving up hopi’n.
For ours is a God who will still keep the promise –
Even if we are yet doubting with Thomas.
The promise that life everlasting is coming,
Sweet mercy is rising, compassion is humming.
The peace and the justice are still ours to make,
And so crazy new hope comes with every daybreak.
So tonight let us rise with the star in the east,
That reminds us that those who feel last are not least.
And God’s crystal-clear voice can be so plainly heard:
Stop your waiting – and live as though Love were the Word!
© December 2018, The Rev’d. Gretchen Sanders Grimshaw