Friday, December 24, 2010

"World, Interrupted" - A Reflection for Christmas Eve

Luke 2:1-20
Matthew 2:7-12

A married couple climbs into bed one night. Maybe it's a snowy night like what we've seen here recently. Their day has been full, and tomorrow will be as well. Maybe he has an early morning presentation he wants to be well-rested for. Maybe she's had a long day and wants to get plenty of sleep before starting another. Quiet settles in, the two of them get comfortable. But then, suddenly, the wife speaks into the silence.

"My water broke."

Whether or not you've been through this yourself, maybe you can imagine what happens next. There is no more silence, no more settling in. Instead, the lights are flipped on. They both scramble to find clothes to put on. The husband grabs the pre-packed bag that's been sitting by the door for weeks and goes out to warm up the car. The wife eventually makes her way out as well, and they zoom off to the hospital as fast as legally possible.

Once at the hospital, they meet a crowd of medical staff and are eventually guided into a room. They talk with nurses, doctors, the anesthetist, and for what seems like an endless amount of hours and a flurry of activity, the baby appears.

That baby has interrupted everything. Its birth interrupted their expected night routine. It will interrupt the rest of their lives as schedules and priorities and maybe careers are adjusted. It has already interrupted their lives leading up to the birth, through classes, a nursery prepared, measures taken to prepare for its arrival.

The birth of a child interrupts everything.

The Christmas story is one of interruptions. It actually seems like we've heard of nothing but interruptions in this story.

Joseph's life is interrupted. He had been planning a nice little future for himself. He was starting a career, he was engaged to Mary. Then Mary becomes pregnant, and he's charged by an angel to care for both of them.

Mary's life is interrupted. She's engaged to Joseph, and is told by an angel that she is now pregnant with a special child. She must now navigate the world with this peculiar calling.

The shepherds are interrupted. They're out tending their sheep as always, and suddenly a whole choir of angels shows up announcing Jesus' birth and telling them to go see him.

The magi are eventually interrupted in their study of the sky as they notice a very peculiar star that they just have to follow.

Herod is interrupted. The so-called king of the Jews eventually catches wind of a different king being born, and he acts out of paranoia and violence to protect himself.

Through Christmas, God interrupts the world's routine. Jesus will turn out to be something other than safe and domesticated, and will upset a lot of safe and domesticated things. He'll interrupt the social order and redefine who really has worth as a human being. He'll interrupt the political order by preaching a kingdom different from and greater than Rome. He'll interrupt the religious order and what people think it takes to interact with God.

This will make some people very uncomfortable and angry, but it will also bring comfort and assurance and hope to people who thought they were forgotten or left out; people burnt out on the way things are and the way they think they'd always be.

The birth of a child interrupts everything.