Sunday Evening, December 24, 2017
Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Eve.

Prayer of the Day
Almighty God, you made this holy night shine with the brightness of the true Light. Grant that here on earth we may walk in the light of Jesus’ presence and in the last day wake to the brightness of his glory; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Readings and Psalm
Isaiah 9:2-7 Light shines: a child is born for us
Psalm 96
Titus 2:11-14 The grace of God has appeared
Luke 2:1-20 God with us

Sermon
Title:  No Room? By Grace, He Comes

Those inns are still filled up.  Every year, every time we tell this timeless story, the inns are filled, filled to capacity.  No one else can come in.  Nothing else can squeeze in.  Signs reading No Vacancy, spelled out in bended neon tubes, flash in the windows, over the doors, at the road side.  No means NO.  No room.  Nothing available.  Not wanted.  Move on.

Yes, the inns are filled.  Again.  Maybe this year they are even filled up more than before.  Is that possible?  To have gone beyond capacity?  Or maybe the crowd that is filling the inn lately is a bit more rowdy.  A bit more demanding.  A bit more hostile.  Who’d want to bring a baby in here anyway?  No.  No room.  Nothing available.  Not wanted.  Move on.

In the midst of all your Christmas planning and shopping and visiting and card sending and gift wrapping, (how exhausted we can be on this holy night) but through it all, have you taken a moment to check the guest registry of the inn you are keeping to see who has checked in, who is occupying rooms, who or what is demanding much too much of your time, attention, energy, and special treatment?  Who or what is filling it to capacity such that there is truly no room for anyone or anything else?

Take a moment now, in the quiet of this night, in the glow of the candles, in the comfort of the carols, and look to see who and what is occupying you.

Are there individuals who are in need of special care, more intense prayer, compassionate attention?  Loved ones or neighbors whose need is very real, and yet exhausting and all-consuming for you.

Perhaps there are anxieties that are draining you and leaving you weakened.  A potential list is easily gathered:  state of the world, state of your finances, state of your health.  Or are there frustrations that are leaving you feeling completely powerless?

Oh, these inns are so full and so hard to manage and maintain.

Maybe for you it is just the everyday, sun up to sun down, never ending to-do list.

Or maybe you are feeling overbooked and overwhelmed by the burden of systemic oppression and harassment:  racial based injustice, gender based inequality, sexual identity based torment, power based victimization, to name a few.

Then there is that harassment that comes from within.  How overwhelmed we can be when it is self-doubt, self-criticism, guilt and shame that fill every room such that there is no room for anyone, anything.

Oh, how we suffer under the weight of any of these, or typically, a combination of these, so that the inn is filled and there is no room for joy and peace, no room for the gift of life itself.  Even when such gifts come searching for room, we convince ourselves that we must flick on the switch for that No Vacancy sign to blare its light so that we don’t even have to endure the knock on the door, hear the request.  We don’t even want to come face to face with that which we think we have no room for, as desired as it may be.  Keep the door of the overflowing and overwhelming inn closed and save ourselves the pain from having to say over and over again.  No room.  Nothing available.  Not wanted.  Move on.

Tonight.  In spite of that neon sign flashing in our windows, in spite of the ear buds or cotton wads we have stuck in our ears so that we don’t have to hear the din from within or the cries from without, there is a knock on the door.  By grace, it cuts through it all so that we hear it no matter how much we try not to.  Yes, we hear that knock.  Head shaking, mouth muttering we make our way to the door.  And there they are.  Asking for room.  They have no idea.

Seeing that they are nobodies, there is no reason to change our priorities, no reason to reorder what occupies us.  We have no trouble barking “Can’t you read the sign?”  And as you start to close the door, they ask again.  “Please, a room.”

But it is easy to say no, again.  After all, they’re foreigners.  They’re refugees.  They’re young people who have thoughtlessly gotten themselves into a predicament that is not your problem.  They didn’t plan.  They could’ve used Expedia or Hotels.com.  But beyond all that, and most importantly, you are all filled up.  No.  No room.  Nothing available.  Not wanted.  Move on.

Fear not, for I bring you good news of a great joy that is for all people, for to you this day is born a child, a Savior, a Wonderful Councilor, a mighty God, and everlasting, ever loving Parent, a Prince of Peace, and his name is Emmanuel – meaning God with us.

Jesus is born to us not because we made room for him in our inn.  He resides with us not because we answered the door and recognized the one asking to come in.  The Christ is present not because we made room on our calendars or scheduled an appointment.

Fear not, for I bring you GOOD news.  There is no good news if the delivery of this child is dependent on our own ability to rightly order our lives, if he comes because of our own successful preparedness, if we receive him because of our own insight.

Fear not, and hear the good news.  The amazing grace of God is made known tonight through the birth of a child, God’s Son, into this broken world that has no room for him.  Like a wedge breaking through ice, the very heart of God breaks open our hearts that are frozen with occupation.  And we are invited to step away from our fear-filled, over-occupied, impossible to satisfy lives, and see the child, see this great work of God, bask in the glow of perfect mercy, grace, and love, find heavenly peace on earth.  Can’t imagine making room?  He comes anyway.  That is the very definition of grace.

Fear not, Jesus is born, Love reigns, Hope abounds, Light shines, Life is ours forever.

The Rev. Mark Erson,
Pastor

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