This evening we have gathered with a purpose. We have gathered to remember the true meaning of the Christmas message. We have gathered around a tableau, a crib scene, which is a reminder that others gathered when the message of God coming amongst us was first announced. Mary, Joseph, shepherds, wise men angels and animals all gathered to welcome Jesus into the world. A child who would live and die with a message of light and hope! The gathering welcomed him into the world and our gathering welcomes him once again tonight into our world this Christmas.
Gathering has not been easy this last year. At some points gathering has been banned altogether. And perhaps this has given us a reminder of the importance of gathering. We gather to celebrate. We gather to grieve and mourn. We gather to help and support. We gather to laugh and forget. So I want to thank you for gathering this evening despite the restrictions on wearing masks. Despite the late hour and the cold dark season. You have responded to an invitation from the church, from friends and family, from God even .. and your response is important.
You see at the heart of the Christmas message is a call to respond. Without a response the message has no power, no value. In fact it requires the kind of response we are not used to these days. We have become used to responding to messages in a much less demanding way. We all do it. We receive a message on our phone or computer , a ping or a buzz and we read that message then with the push of a button or a tap of a few keys we respond.
LIKE THUMBS UP .. THAT’S FUNNY SMILEY FACE .. DON’T LIKE ANGRY FACE .. an image or a word to offer a response and then what .. scroll onto the next message .. watch another funny meme! We are losing our ability to respond in a meaningful way to the world and to others. In fact mediums like Twitter require that we don’t over do it. Responses are limited to 280 characters. Our response becomes brief and dare I say often meaningless. LIKE. DISLIKE. LAUGH OUT LOUD. But are we losing the ability to respond in a deeper way?
Imagine that Mary and Joseph had responded to their message from God with an imoji of a baby in a crib and a smiley face with a party blower. Or if the Shepherds had responded to the angels with a LIKE THUMBS UP. Or the wise men the Magi had sent back a meme of a king falling off a camel in shock! But then none had got up from where they were and made themselves ready for God coming into the world. None had made the effort to travel to Bethlehem and gather together to welcome the baby Jesus into our world.
Responding is so important to finding God in our world. Not with a LIKE or a thumbs up but with a commitment to do all we can to let God live in our world through our actions and words. To do this we need to gather. To come together and to live out the response of a people who care more than a push of a button, more than words alone, but through the sometimes difficult choice to gather together, even in dark and cold nights, to make a place for Christ to come amongst us just as they did that first Christmas time.
May we hear God’s message, may we respond, and may we continue to gather to worship and encourage one another in the year ahead.