December 24, 2020

What if Jesus was born today?


Several years ago, the Reformed Church in Hungary put out a video. It was only a few minutes long, but it was powerful.
A young couple are hitchhiking. The girl seems to be in a bit of pain. A trucker picks them up. A big ugly trucker who doesn’t say too much.
They drive for a while and the trucker can see that the girl is in discomfort.
They come to a truck stop and the couple get out and go to the washroom. As they go to the washroom, the door opens and a young woman comes out. She looks like a hooker and immediately goes up to a couple of truckers and flirts with them.
The couple go in the washroom.
A couple of minutes later the trucker who picked up the couple, wants to go to the washroom, so he goes over to the door and waits. As he is waiting he hears cries and screams of agony, and then he hears a different cry. He hears the cry of a baby.
He goes in to see the young woman holding a baby. The trucker smiles. The prostitute hears and the guy she was flirting with, they all come in and see the baby and smile.
The scene cuts to them all at a picnic table celebrating and a cop car pulls up with the siren sounding and lights flashing.
The big ugly trucker walks over. “It’s a boy.” He exclaims to the police officer. “It’s a boy.”
It is a version of “what if Jesus was born today.”
What would that look like?
And the Reformed Church in Hungary imagined Jesus being born in a truck stop with a prostitute and an ugly trucker.
Coming not in power and glory, but in a humble way, among the working class and those not acceptable in polite society.
William Kurelek was a Canadian artist who ethnic roots were Ukrainian. He was born near Whitford, Alberta which is about 90-minute drive northeast of Edmonton.
He was a prolific painter and became quite well known for some of his children’s books like “A prairie boy’s winter” and “a prairie boy’s summer.”
He was quite religious and one of the more interesting books he did was called “a Northern Nativity.” Kurelek imagined what it might be like for Christ to be born in Canada. He did twenty paintings where Jesus is born in various settings like an igloo, a trapper’s cabin, a boxcar, a motel, a hayfield, in a winter sleigh etc.
What if Jesus were born here and now?
Maybe there is a few of us who think whimsically: “Wouldn’t it be nice if Jesus were born here and now.”
Wouldn’t it be nice for Jesus to come and visit us in what has been one of the strangest years of our lifetimes?
Normally we have over four hundred people in church for this service instead of ten.
We in Alberta have many businesses closed. People  are not to gather socially in home or outside.
Big Christmas dinners are a no-no. There will be no grandchildren in our house tonight. Nobody sleeping over. The last time Fiona and I woke up Christmas morning alone was in 1981. Thirty-nine years ago for those of you who are mathematically challenged.
And there have been a lot of people affected by this Pandemic. Sickness. Death, Grieving. Lost Wages, Lost Jobs, stress, isolation, depression…
There are a few people who wouldn’t mind if Jesus would come this Christmas because it has been a kind of crappy year.
But let me tell you, it wasn’t any picnic that first Christmas.
Mary and Joseph take a long journey to Bethlehem while she is in her last days of pregnancy, and while artists love to paint Mary riding a donkey, it is more than likely she walked.
They went to Bethlehem not because they could afford it, not because they were going on holiday, not because they were visiting family, but because the evil empire forced them to go for taxation and enumeration purposes.
And it seems as if they were poor and therefore not able to secure affordable lodging.
Mary gave birth to Jesus in a barn. Alone. No mother or father. Just her husband. I have speculated that maybe a midwife from the village came and helped. I can’t imagine Jewish men being involved with a child’s delivery, not with their laws of purity and cleanliness.
The people who come to see the baby first are the most menial of the menial. Dirty stinky shepherds.
And when the Magi come, there is a warning of danger, of a jealous and ruthless king, and before Jesus has a chance to go home, he ends up as a refugee in a foreign country.
But Herod sends soldiers anyway to kill innocent children in hopes that he kills the Christ, the one come to teach us love.
So, I want you to imagine tonight, that Christ is being born…
And as Jesus was a refugee, pray for all those who have no homes tonight and are seeking a home and a place where they will be safe.
And as Jesus was in danger, pray for all who live where there is war, or high crime, or domestic abuse, or the risk of a terrorist attack.
And as Jesus was born alone in a barn, think of all the children who cannot visit parents or grandparents tomorrow, and siblings who cannot be together, and best friends who cannot enjoy and meal together…
And as Herod killed the innocent children, think of all those whom the pandemic killed and the hundreds of thousands, even over a million families who are grieving the loss of a loved one…
And as Jesus was visited by the stinky shepherds, pray for all the outcast, the rejected, the marginalized, the poor, people on the street, who are despised, or forgotten or neglected, and not considered important.
And as Mary held Jesus in her arms, pray for all the children in the world that they would grow up in loving homes, and have food, clothing, medical care, education and lots of love.
Imagine Jesus being born tonight, because your imagining, your praying, your thinking about Jesus, makes him come alive in you.
The wonderful thing about Christmas is not the presents and the big turkey dinner, and not always family…
Some of your family are probably turkeys.
The wonderful thing about Christmas is that love is born in you. Jesus is born in you.
And he is present wherever there are refugees, and wherever people are in danger, and wherever there are poor people on the street tonight, and wherever a mother or a father or a grandparent holds a baby…
And wherever someone is on a ventilator breathing their last breath
Maybe 2020 was a crappy year, but year one was no picnic either.
But it didn’t stop Christ from coming. And 2020 can’t stop Christ from coming either.
So Merry Christmas to you all. All my love, and love from First Church to you all.
Because no matter how much we physically distance, we are not separate. We are all one family joined together by Christ who lives in you and me.