Being Human (December 24, 2018)
He was a miserable schmuck.
It’s not that his life was miserable. Oh no. His life was going along just tickety–boo. He was rich. He was well–fed. He was warmly dressed. He had a comfortable place to live.
But he was a miserable schmuck.
His whole life had been devoted to one thing—the pursuit of money. He had learned from a very young age that if you don’t have money … well then, you have nothing.
And so that’s what he did. He made money. Quite a bit of it. And he held on to his money. Tightly. So tightly that his name has become a synonym for a skinflint.
Was he happy? What a silly question. What does happiness have to do with it? He made money. There wasn’t time to think about anything else. This was what life was for. This is what it meant to be human. Get all you can while you can.
And he was a miserable schmuck. Just ask anyone; they’d be happy to tell you. When they saw him coming, they crossed the street, and they crossed themselves.
And so his whole life went … until one fateful night.
On the other side of the world lives a young couple. She is very pregnant. He hovers protectively over her. They’re on the move—some stupid government decree.
This peasant couple can barely make life work. They live hand to mouth and are completely at the mercy of the higher–ups—the government, the landowners, the rich. Their future is uncertain, and they feel like pawns in a game where the rules are skewed in favour of those who have power and wealth and don’t hesitate to use it for their own gain.
The best part of their lives is found in community. They live with other peasants, their families and friends, and share the few things they have.
Are they happy? They don’t have the time to even think about that. They’re just busy trying to make it through another day so they can sleep with a full belly. Or at least a belly that isn’t completely empty.
And in just a few months, this young family of 3 will be a refugee family, one of countless families running away from abusive power.
But for now … they’ve travelled from their home up north. They’re staying with relatives who have welcomed them into their bare house, a couple of rooms with everyone crowding in around you.
This young family is well–cared–for, well–loved. The young woman gives birth to a baby boy. She wraps the infant in a linen cloth, not so soft, but the softest she can find. She lays him in the straw meant for the animals.
And this boy grows up and changes the world.
Two stories. Two parables. The miserable schmuck is Ebenezer Scrooge. We know his story well. It’s become part of our Christmas folklore.
The other is the story we tell tonight. Once again, we gather in mystery and awe to tell that familiar story. Once again, we sing the carols. Once again, we worship together, we eat and drink together, we hold the light together, and we wait for the light to break open our hearts so that we bear it as we go into the world.
The light of Christ is within us.
The boy who changes the world shows us something about what it means to be human. Charles Dickens knew something about that when he wrote A Christmas Carol. Scrooge learns in that fateful night that he had it all wrong. He learned something about being human.
Jean Vanier reminds us that there’s only one thing that really matters in life. Relationship. Do you love me? Do you love me as I am? And we give each other the gift of ourselves. Vanier tells us that we must always remember the “we”. That’s what it means to be human.
Scrooge was so wrapped up in the “I” that he had forgotten the “we”.
This boy who is born tonight … we dare to believe that he embodies God’s love. We dare to believe that he is an eternal sign of hope for all the world. He is the very definition of the “we”—forming a community of grace which, as it gathers in his name, welcomes and includes all people within the embrace of a loving and life–giving God.
What child is this? This child is the promise that God is with us in this broken world. This child is the promise that God comforts and heals. This child is the promise that God leads us into a new way of being, a new way of being human.
This child is God’s audacious promise that in the midst of brokenness, wholeness is possible.
This child shows us again and again what it means to be human. A human life, a truly human life, is marked by relationship, which involves sacrifice and grace and love. Jesus is the sign of God at work in us, making us fully human.
The shepherds, when they heard the good news, rushed to see it. When they had seen it, they cast off their fear and told everyone what they had heard and seen.
May we also, like those shepherds, cast off our fear and become God’s good news in the world. May we be the hands and feet of God in a world which needs to be loved and mended and comforted. May we be the light in the darkness.
Thanks be to God.
Rev. Dr. Yme Woensdregt
December 24, 2018 (Christmas Eve)