Unprepared for Christmas

Sunday, December 24, 2023
Pastor Jason Bryan-Wegner

Luke 2:1-20


Grace and peace to you from Christ Jesus, who is born for us this day, the Savior of the world. Amen.

I don’t know about you, but I am barely prepared for Christmas.

I was still finishing up my Christmas shopping in just the last couple days and judging from the difficulty in finding a parking place and the lines at the checkout counters, I would guess that at least a few of you were too.

The good news is we’re not alone. I recently read that 25% of people (mostly men, sorry guys!) do ALL of their Christmas shopping in the last couple days before Christmas. Psychologists explain that it isn’t just a matter of guys being negligent. More likely, folks who do their shopping preparations last minute tend to fall into a few different categories:

  • Perfectionists who spend hours researching the “perfect” gift but can’t close the deal for fear that something better will come if they just keep looking.
  • Pragmatists who like efficiency and find the task of searching for something they don’t know how to find a necessary, but dreaded task so they put it off.
  • Optimists: who just hope that the right gift will eventually land in their lap.
  • And the over-busy folks whose schedules and endless daily to-dos compete with the additional work of Christmas preparations to the point they have to just get it done in the closing hours of the shopping season.

Any of these folks sound familiar to you?

Given the realities of our lives, it’s easy to feel unprepared for Christmas. It also doesn’t help that we’ve barely had a flake of snow this year.

It’s likely that these same characteristics show up not just in the shopping preparations of Christmas, but also in the “O Come All Ye Faithful”, “O Holy Night” preparations as well. That is, how we prepare to meet the Christ child this Christmas. How do we show up at the manger on this silent, holy night?

Amidst all the demands of life, the expectations of the season, the negotiating family schedules and travel plans – to take in the incredible act of God being born among us can feel a little out of reach sometimes. Maybe we always feel unprepared for this part of Christmas. An act so bold – that the God of the cosmos – would come to us in the humility and fragility of a human baby and offer peace to the whole world. Now that’s something none of us can truly prepare for.

Imagine those shepherds taking care of the sheep that first Christmas night. You think they were prepared to be confronted by an army of angels announcing the Messiah’s arrival? They probably didn’t think anyone even knew where they were at, let alone believed God’s would want to find them.

When they heard the news, did they herd their sheep to the manger, or just drop their staffs and run with fear and trembling, with hope and anticipation?

And what about Mary and Joseph? Even though angels accompanied them through the pregnancy, I’m sure now that the time had come, they felt unprepared for Jesus’ birth. What brand new parent doesn’t feel this way? Yet, the angels reminded them along the way not to be afraid, knowing there was much to fear. The angels assured them that this was all part of God’s holy plan, even though it was like nothing God had ever done before.

And on that Holy night, Mary and Joseph could not have been prepared for Jesus to be born away from home, in the presence of the animals and strangers. They couldn’t have been prepared for shepherds to show up. Or for a choir of angels to sing of peace and joy for all the world; which would come not from the powerful Roman Caesar, but from their newborn Son, the Prince of Peace.

How does anyone prepare for such an event? How do we prepare for this miraculous event again today?

The good news is God doesn’t wait for us to be prepared. The gift of Christmas is that whether we are prepared for it or not, God comes to us with the same peace and joy wrapped in swaddling clothes, for you and for the world today as on that first Christmas night.

It doesn’t matter whether all the stockings are hung on the chimney with care, or the Amazon packages are lost in Ohio somewhere.

It doesn’t matter whether you are prepared with the perfect gifts or if the only gift you have to give is being present with the Christ child right here, right now.

God is born among us tonight to catch our attention once again and to guide us to peace that seems in short supply today. We know the reality of this world, that there is hostility and violence, fear, division, and corruption all over the headlines. We see the consequences of war in real time.

It’s so easy to feel distrustful and cynical about the world.

But we also know the profound gift of love,

the persistent power of hope,

and the capacity of God to move the human family to the melodies of grace

that transform the world.  This is the gift of Christmas.

It is being present to this reality among us tonight that prepares us for the world God comes to give in Jesus. That is why we keep showing up at the manger, whether we are prepared or not, because something in us can’t help but join the angels in singing, “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to all the world.” God grant us faith and hope for this song to live in our lives and be a gift to the world today and every day. Amen.

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