Alleluia. Unto us a child is born. O come let us adore him. Alleluia.
He came into a world that was dark.
Vino en un mundo tenebroso.
He came into a world that was broken.
Vino en un mundo roto.
He came into a world that didn’t want to know him or anyone like him.
Vino en un mundo que no quería conocerlo y no quería conocer a su gente.
He didn’t have to come. It wasn’t a good time. But he came. And 2000 years later we are still celebrating and wondering at his coming.
How can this be? How can such an obscure event, so long ago, have such staying power?
Después de dos mil años todavía celebramos y admiramos. ¿Como puede ser?
The beauty of our worship and the familiarity of our carols allow us to be comfortable at Christmas, to revel in a soft blanket of sentimentality. But when you think about it, what we are actually celebrating tonight is something dark and doom-laden, the precarious beginning of a life story that starts in abject poverty and ends in the horror of public execution. The circumstances of this birth are jarring. God puts the divine son in danger by sending him, not as a warrior or superhero but as a vulnerable, helpless human baby, in unsanitary conditions, in a family that belongs to an occupied nation whose people are subject to genocide. All the odds are against his survival. It’s a most unlikely story.
En este lugar bonito podemos relajarnos en una cobija suave del sentimentalismo. Pero este nacimiento era amenazante y improbable.
And yet … the plaintive cry of the newborn babe is a divine warcry, proclaiming that God has opened hostilities against the forces of oppression and greed. The battle continues today, as we are sucked down the filthy drain of consumerism, as we are brainwashed into imagining that people from other countries or of other ethnicities are less than our brothers and sisters, as we fall for the propaganda that seduces us into living for our own immediate gratification rather than for the common good.
The Scriptures we read tonight tell us that there is another way to live. This unlikely birth is a dream, a promise of a turning: from the tramping of warriors’ boots to the endless peace of God’s kingdom. From swords to plowshares. From divine vengeance to divine sacrifice.
And we can hope for other turnings: from lies to truth. From cruelty to compassion. From darkness to light. From death to life.
As this holy child survives and thrives in those first years, so the dream of God survives and thrives through the centuries, against the odds, hope staying stubbornly alive like a candle in the darkness.
El grito del bebé proclama la lucha de Dios contra la opresión, la guerra, y la codicia. Hay esperanza de una manera diferente de vida, el sueño de Dios sobrevive, brillante como una vela en las tinieblas.
Last week a pregnant Honduran migrant teenager, awaiting US immigration processing in Tijuana, realized that she was in labor. We don’t know her name, so let’s call her Maria. Maria had fled her own country and traveled all the way through Mexico, as her pregnancy progressed. Exhausted and fearful, with no power over her fate or that of her child, she waited in unhealthy surroundings for the next step. Childbirth is hard at the best of times, and daunting for a young woman on her own, far from home. When the time came for her to deliver her child, Maria couldn’t find medical assistance in Tijuana – there was, you might say, no room at the inn – so, in desperation, she took a risk. She dragged herself over the border at San Ysidro, where she was immediately detained. Border agents took her to Scripps Hospital in Chula Vista, and she gave birth to an infant who required intensive neonatal care for complications.
Imagine her relief when they took her to hospital and she received quality care throughout her labor. Imagine her terror when she learned that her baby was seriously ill, followed by her prayers of gratitude that help was at hand in the NICU. After giving birth alone, without the support of family or friends, Maria was prevented for two days from making a phone call to share her news or to ask for assistance. And now imagine, in the midst of all that, what it must have been like to hear the agents tell her that she would be sent back to Mexico without her baby, who, because he was born in the US, had the right to remain. No human being should have to go through such an ordeal.
La semana pasada una chica hondureña embarasada, una migrante esperando en Tijuana, empezó a dar a luz a su bebé. No había posada en Tijuana, por eso, ella cruzó la frontera para pedir ayuda. Dio a luz a su bebé en el hospital en Chula Vista, pero los agentes federales la dijeron que ella debería regresar a México inmediatamente, sin su bebé. Es imposible de imaginar su temor, su dolor.
Our baptismal vows call us to seek and serve Christ in all people. I see Christ in that baby, born into a perilous and hostile world, his mother without voice or options. If Jesus were to be born on this continent today, Maria’s story would very likely be our nativity story. Thanks be to God that, like the compassionate innkeeper, someone in the border patrol hierarchy responded to the need and gave Maria permission to stay in the US with her baby, pending a hearing.
This story has a personal dimension for me, because, when my husband and I were denied green cards in 1992, it was a state department employee who saw that our children were US citizens and on that basis used their discretion to give us our green cards anyway. And so I am here today.
Nuestros votos bautismales nos llaman para ver a Cristo en cada persona. Veo a Cristo en este bebé. Gracias a Dios que el gobierno permitió que la mama se quedara con su bebé mientras espera una audiencia en la corte.
“I am bringing you good news of great joy”. “Les traigo una buena noticia, que será motivo de gran alegría para todos.” The angel’s announcement was made, not to King Herod or to faith leaders or to the Emperor of Rome, but to some dirty, disheveled shepherds in the hills of Judea. Why them? ¿Porqué habló el angel con algunos pastores insignificantes? Why share the greatest news ever with such insignificant people? To make the point that there are no insignificant people. No hay gente insignificante. It’s good news for ALL people. Es una buena noticia para todos. Each of us is worthy of receiving such news. Each of us might be visited by an angel. Each of us gets to visit the newborn Jesus in the manger. There is no hierarchy in the kingdom of God. We are all simply children of one God, regardless of achievement, ability, genes, or wealth. Todos somos hijos de Dios.
In every detail of the nativity story, from annunciation to nativity to Epiphany, God presses home a single message. “You are my beloved. You, the young girl on the brink of womanhood. You, the farm worker. You, the homeless wanderer. You, the refugee without rights or citizenship. You, the wise man from a far-off land. You, the university professor, physician, retiree, high-schooler. You, you, you. You are my beloved, and I do this for you. I send angels to speak to you. I cast down the mighty and lift up the lowly for you. I feed the hungry and bring the powerful to their knees for you.” A cada persona dije Dios: Tu eres mi amado. Tu, y tu, y tu.
Esto es la noticia buena que será motivo de gran alegría para todos.
This is the good news of great joy for all people. Alleluia, unto us a child is born. Come, let us adore him. Alleluia.
Christmas Eve 2019
The Very Rev. Penelope Bridges