“The Depth of Love”
“Light looked down and beheld Darkness.
‘Thither will I go’, said Light.
Peace looked down and beheld War.
‘Thither will I go’, said Peace.
Love looked down and beheld Hatred.
‘Thither will I go’, said Love.
So came Light and shone.
So came Peace and gave rest.
So came Love and brought Life.”
Some of you heard me share this poem a month ago at a service in Florence, it’s called, “And the Word was Made Flesh” by Laurence Housman.
It speaks of God looking down over the earth and seeing it was in need. God saw darkness. God saw war. God saw hatred. This is not what God had in mind when He created the heavens and the earth. Something has gone wrong, what could it be?
The problem is we’ve turned away from God. It’s not that its just started, it started way back in the beginning when Adam and Eve are from the fruit tree that God had told them to avoid. It seems we’re genetically predisposed to not listen to what we’re told.
So God looked down and saw the world was struggling on its own. He spoke through prophets and yet no one would listen. At least not for very long.
What’s the old saying? “If you want something done right you gotta do it yourself!” Is that it?
Enter into the story a young woman, maybe about 14 years old. She’s engaged to a young carpenter when she receives a special visitor, the angel. The angel tells her of what her special place the story is about to be. She has been chosen to carry a very special child within her womb, and she accepts this opportunity.
Nine months later, a this now very pregnant young woman begins a long journey with her fiance to the city of his ancestors. It’s a hard journey, the town of Bethlehem is on top of a mountain, in the midst of very hilly terrain. You may think it was a land of desserts and fields, but in reality, the area around Jerusalem and Bethlehem is very hilly. It probably took Mary about a week to make this journey, given her state of pregnancy.
For a moment consider Kelly’s Mountain. At it’s peak our most famous local mountain is 875 feet above sea level. Has anyone here tried to hike from the bottom to the top of Kelly’s? I haven’t, but I have climbed smaller mountains, and I can tell you it’s no small feat. It’s a lot of work, a lot of sweat. Your heart pounds in your chest and your legs are weak.
Now picture Mary. Somewhere over eight months pregnant, and has to climb the equivalent of Kelly’s mountain over her week long journey. (Nazareth sits about 1600 feet above sea level, and Bethlehem is over 2500 feet above sea level)
While she is there, the young woman goes into labour. There is no where for her to go except to a stable, and she gives birth to a son.
God has entered the world.
On this night we gather in our humble little church. We turn on our lights, we sing our carols, we light our candles… for what?
Jesus Christ has come into the world. God himself has been revealed to the whole earth as a little child. In a stable. And who is there but Mary and Joseph, surrounded by animals. Who comes to visit but shepherds who have been living out in a field, people considered unclean and unworthy. Where is the royalty? Where is the media? Where are the cameras, the interviews, the reality shows? Where are the endorsement contracts and the movie deals? Where is anyone who is considered “important”?
In the depth of love, God chose to come quietly, without excessive fanfare just so we could know Him and His great mercy and love. Revealed to outsiders, Jesus came to be a light in the darkness. To be peace in a world of war. To be love in a world of hatred.
He was born for everyone.
He didn’t come for the rich. He didn’t come for governments. He didn’t come for country music and hip-hop artists.
He came for me. He came for you. He came for everyone.
Jesus came so that we could see for ourselves the great love God has for each and every one of us.
Deep in our hearts we long to know this. Why else do we wish to gather in a church on a night such as this? Why else would something like this warm our hearts so much as we sing and be together? Why does it have to be here?
Christmas is a time for many things. It’s a time for being with family and friends. It’s a time of giving and receiving. It’s a time for celebration. This may be the only time we see certain family or friends all year long. It truly is a wonderful time of year.
But tonight is something special. Tonight is the night for a special gift. Tonight is time for the holy, the sacred to stir our hearts and warm our spirits.
I expect Bethlehem would have been pretty quiet that night. A small town under a clear sky full of stars. Houses closed up for the the night. A peaceful silence filling the air.
Not unlike our own town tonight in some ways. Closed stores. Quiet, empty streets. Lights in the windows as families gather together. It’s such a night as this when Jesus Christ was born. When God came to earth in the depths of His great love for all of us.
So this Christmas, may we all receive the gift that is so freely given. A gift we cannot find in a store or a catalog. A gift so great we could never afford to respond in kind.
It is the gift of love so great, God Himself came in person to give it to us.
Merry Christmas to you all and may God bless all your days.