December 24, 2019 — Rev. Paula Norbert
Over two centuries ago in a quiet corner of the world in a little town called Bethlehem, a child was born who would change the world in ways his parents may never have imagined. Tonight, we gather to listen to this story once again, to imagine what that night may have been like and to rekindle within our own hearts the spark of love and hope that he came to share with the world. Jesus didn’t come to found a church or new religion. He came to teach us how to live as a beloved community…to be gentle and kind to one another, to share love and peace, food and shelter, companionship and forgiveness. His message was simple and he would repeat it often, in word and deed, throughout his short adult life: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind,” and “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”
There is a Christmas story told about an old shoe cobbler who dreamed one Christmas Eve that Jesus would come to visit him the next day. The dream was so real that he was convinced it would come true.
So the next morning he got up and went out and cut green boughs and decorated his little cobbler shop and got all ready for Jesus to come and visit. He was so sure that Jesus was going to come that he just sat down and waited for Him.
The hours passed and Jesus didn’t come. But an old man came. He came inside for a moment to get warm out of the winter cold. As the cobbler talked with him he noticed the holes in the old man’s shoes, so he reached up on the shelf and got him a new pair of shoes. He made sure they fit and that his socks were dry and sent him on his way.
Still he waited. But Jesus didn’t come. An old woman came. A woman who hadn’t had a decent meal in two days. They sat and visited for a while, and then he prepared some food for her to eat. He gave her a nourishing meal and sent her on her way.
Then he sat down again to wait for Jesus. But Jesus still didn’t come.
Then he heard a little boy crying out in front of his shop. He went out and talked with the boy, and discovered that the boy had been separated from his parents and didn’t know how to get home. So he put on his coat, took the boy by the hand and led him home.
When he came back to his little shoe shop it was almost dark and the streets were emptied of people. And then in a moment of despair he lifted his voice to heaven and said, “Oh Lord Jesus, why didn’t you come?”
And then in a moment of silence he seemed to hear a voice saying, “Oh shoe cobbler, lift up your heart. I kept my word. Three times I knocked at your friendly door. Three times my shadow fell across your floor. I was the man with the bruised feet. I was the woman you gave to eat. I was the boy on the homeless street.” Jesus had come. The cobbler just didn’t realize it. However, that cobbler responded to the ones who came to his door exactly in the way Jesus would have wanted…
The author Paula D’Arcy wrote, “God comes to us disguised as our life.” I believe that she was speaking about such moments as we heard in this story of the cobbler on Christmas Eve. He had in mind an image of the Jesus that would come to his door that night, and yet Jesus came in the form of these ordinary people, people in need, people seeking help in some way. When the Magi set out to follow the star and meet the newborn King, they probably had in mind a much different setting than the one they encountered that cold winter’s night. A vulnerable baby with his parents in the most humble of circumstances. How could this be that long-awaited King whom they had traveled so far to meet? And yet, they did indeed recognize him and laid their precious gifts at his feet.
On this lovely winter’s evening, we’re invited to open our eyes to the ways in which God is speaking to us in the midst of our lives. During times of immense sorrow and great joy, God’s presence is eternal, reminding us that we are beloved, that our lives have value, that we are called to welcome this Prince of Peace into our hearts. The presence of the Holy is in everyone we meet and each of us carries the divine within us. God comes disguised as our lives; God speaks to us. God chose to come in the form of a newborn baby so many years ago and God is speaking to us even now in the beauty of a night, in the presence of a friend who accompanies us in sickness, in the welcome of a stranger; this Holy One reaches out to us in each moment of our lives and we are invited to listen to this voice calling us to love. May each of you know the peace and joy of Christ’s message and may you carry it in your hearts all year long. Merry, Merry Christmas!