Pastor Shawn’s Christmas Eve Message: Bethlehem and Bourbon Street
I always have identified with the Inn keeper.
It’s the knock. You open the door …and it’s not a Jehovah’s Witness. Nothing against Jehovah Witnesses. And, there. God has confronted you with a real live person…an incarnation … “everything that has life has come into being through the Christ…”
I am still surprised at how often I fail at treating the person like an incarnation. But, you know God. God just keeps sending incarnations. ” Try again-bonehead”…God would never say bonehead…but in my head I imagine God saying, “bonehead.”
One late afternoon, this past week,
I was walking through the lobby of the church
and there were 4 women.
I introduced myself and asked if they were being helped.
They said they were waiting for someone from Hagar’s House. Hagar’s House is our beautiful home for women and children
Who are without a home.
A few minutes passed and Amber, the director, arrived and I went on my way.
Later, Amber told me that these women were (Bourbon Street) dancers.
They were donating some of their earnings to support shelters for women and children.
The women were giving Hagar’s House “a bit more than they had planned” because some of the other places would not take their money.
Being the pastor, and spiritual leader,
I got right to the important matter at hand-the bottomline.
Amber did not know. She had not opened the envelopes.
Being the pastor, I said lets’ open the envelopes.
We opened four envelopes with checks totaling $3,865.
That’s a lot of money… for dancers.
(We happen to be about $25,000 short…now we are $22,135 short.)
Life really is so beautiful and so painful.
So complicated and so messy.
Kinda-like a babe……….. in a manger
In the Jewish tradition there is a story about a master Rabbi, who is training young rabbis.
Master Rabbi Kotze asks the young rabbi’s.
“Where does God dwell?”
The young rabbis looked at each other, knowingly,
And one says,
“Master, is not the whole earth full of God’s glory?”
Master Rabbi Kotze responds-“yes”…long pause…
Then he adds,
“God dwells wherever we allow God in.” (Buber)
The glory of God is everywhere; sure ’nuff.
Yet, as the Master Rabbi is suggesting,
If we have been trained, encouraged and have learned from birth to see ourselves and everything else on earth as LESS THAN THE GLORY GOD it may be a little difficult to be awe struck by each other. To see each other as incarnations, much less THE full-blown incarnation.
So, how does God get in?
From the best I can tell, Any way She can!
Our Christmas story that our youth read so beautifully for us tonight, it tells us that God is a bit of a trickster…
God has the relentless spirit of Lin Manuel’s version of Alexander Hamilton.
God is not throwing away God’s shot…
“Not throwing away my shot. Just like the country,
I’m Young / scrappy and hungry, And I’m not throwing away my shot!”
Neither is God throwing away God’s shot.
God never gives up…the knocks just keep coming!
God will incarnate in burning bushes, whirlwinds, bolts of Light and even humble God’s self to be born a babe in a manger.
Or, a babe from Bourbon Street,
God has no shame. God has love-endless love!
If you are the Inn Keeper, or put another away,
the Pastor, the respectable boss, the distinguished mom,
the hostess with the mostest…it can be hard to let God IN!!!
you can hear the voices-in your well trained head,
what will people think?
You going to let a pregnant woman sleep in your barn?
Take money from dancers?
You going to church?
Do you believe in virgin births, stars and babes?
But God just keeps trying, trying and trying to lower you off of your mountain and raise those you are looking down at in the valley.
You might understandably hesitate on letting God IN,
It is often humbling…which, of course is the only way to let God in.
Strangely, in all this hot mess of a world,
One thing we can know for sure is when it is Christmas. When our trickster God has gotten IN.
Gotten in Somehow…
Through the grind of our Brutal economics,
Passed the numbing drug of our choice,
Under our haughty education,
Around the walls of our self-righteous religion and politics.
And miraculously in front of our endless array of screens– computer screens, phone screens, Ipads, Television, and watch screens, glass screens …
all the things we are taught from birth to believe will save us.
When God gets IN…we know it.
You see a babe…in a manger, no crib for a bed, is no longer s shameful thing, but Christ. The savior of the world.
And a babe… on Bourbon Street …is no longer a babe at all.
But, a somebody.
Somebody’s 20 year old daughter.
Somebody- Trying to make room in the world.
Somebody-in a messed up; complicated world,
trying to do a little good-if the world will let her…. IN.
somebody standing right in front of you knocking wondering if you have room for her humble offering from the valley of dolls!
When they become the incarnation right in front of you,
That’s when you know its Christmas. That God really does send babes to be received by our hearts so that old men dream again of peace on earth and goodwill to all people.