Tonight we gather to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Christmas proclaims to the world that God is not far off. God who created each of us became one of us, and continues to be among us.
A time of celebration is a time of feasting. Our feasting proclaims that spiritual things are not all invisible. Food and drink, flesh and blood— as the book of Genesis reminds us, “God created it all; and it was good.” Across our land and across our globe people come together on this day, eating and drinking. Our Christian faith marks the importance of food and drink as we gather each Sunday around a simple meal and hear the words, The body of Christ…for you. The blood of Christ…for you. In this we remember that Christ came among us and Christ is among us still, sometimes especially in the ordinary things, like food and laughter and fellowship and stories.
As we share and enjoy these ordinary human experiences we follow the example of Jesus himself. The one whose coming-into-the-world we celebrate tonight grew to be a man, after all, and the Bible tells us his first miracle was turning water into wine. And not just a little, but as much as 180 gallons of wine. This Jesus is a man who was comfortable in his own skin, who was at home with his humanity. He was even accused by some of being a drunkard and a glutton! Jesus knew how to celebrate.
At Christmas, we give glory to God with feasting and celebration. We might say, Eat, Drink…and be Mary!
But you’ve probably already noticed in your bulletin “merry” is spelled differently. It’s the name Mary, as in, mother of Jesus!
What does that mean? What might it mean to “be Mary”? This is a young girl—maybe 13 or 14—who is engaged to be married. She has some kind of mystical, spiritual experience in which she learns she is pregnant. She has the hard task of announcing this to her fiancé. If you were Mary, how would you respond in that situation? I think I’d be terrified.
No doubt Mary was terrified. And yet, in this young girl we find someone with a simple faith, and maybe most of all, a simple courage. She is willing to risk; what seems impossible might in fact be possible. She connects the dots between her faith tradition and her own experience. She decides to risk trusting that God can take what looks like a disaster and make something of it, maybe even make something wonderful. She doesn’t do it alone. She goes to her cousin Elizabeth and is comforted and encouraged because Elizabeth has experienced something similar.
So to be Mary—to be like Mary—means to face our fears, take risks, for the sake of others and for the sake of the future, and to remember that we are not alone. God with us means being part of a community. To be Mary might mean setting aside safety, and security, and comfort–to make way for the new thing that God is doing in the world—and in us. This is Mary’s example for us. It’s Joseph’s example, too. To “be Mary” or to “be Joseph” means a willingness to rely on faith and courage when we might be tempted toward safety and self-interest. This also describes the life of Jesus. As he grew up he learned from the faith and courage of his parents.
Eat, Drink…and be Mary! Christmas proclaims to the world that God is not far off. God who created each of us became one of us, and continues to walk among us. Christ is present in our feasting and celebration. Christ is just as present as we set aside our own needs, exercising faith and courage for the sake of others.
It may be that each of us leans in one direction or the other. Some of us know well how to celebrate. Others know well how to take risks for the sake of others, to bear the burdens of others.
How about you? Or, to what extent are you tempted to escape the problems of the world? To be Mary or to be Joseph means to face our fears squarely. Could it be that God is gently inviting you to learn from the example of Mary, or Joseph, or their son who took risks for the sake of those who were ignored, despised or cast out by the world?
Or, to what extent are you weighed down by worries—whether by big global problems or personal concerns? To what extent do you take life, and maybe yourself, just a bit too seriously? This is often a challenge for people who have big hearts, who take responsibility, who deeply feel others’ pain. Could it be that God is gently inviting you to learn from the example of the Christ who rested and feasted and celebrated?
It’s Christmas Eve. Christ is born. God is with us. Eat, Drink…and be Mary! In celebration and feasting. In service and sacrifice, may you experience the power and presence of the Living Christ, the one who is born this day. AMEN