Christmas Eve 2017
We’re so glad you are here with us tonight college students and young adults, come home for the holidays, Trinitarian members, and relatives and friends who traveled here to spend Christmas with loved ones neighbors and strangers and visitors who’ve come for this Christmas service.
We come to retell again in scripture, poetry and song the wonderful story of the birth of the Jesus.
It is a wonder-filled story told with different variations by the Gospel writers themselves (Matthew has his version of the story, and Luke has his) and the story has been expanded on and embellished by generations of believers who have lovingly retold it through the centuries.
This church, like every congregation I’ve served always has a Christmas pageant every December, whether told by the Sunday School kids, or an intergenerational pageant, as we’ve had the past couple of years.
A few years ago, someone told me about another Christmas pageant, the one that Wallace Purling was in.
Wallace Purling was nine years old and only in second grade. He was large for his age, and not well coordinated, but he had a heart of gold and a smile of pure sunshine. So Wally was well-liked by the other children in his class, even though the more athletic boys had trouble hiding their irritation when Wally asked to play ball with them.
Most often they’d find a way to keep him involved without getting in the way, and that was fine with Wally and he was always the kid watching out to make sure that no one else was left out — a natural protector of the underdog. When the older boys tried to chase the younger ones away, it was always Wally who said, “Aw, they can stay. They’re no bother.”
When it came time for the Christmas pageant at his church, Wally wanted to be the shepherd who carried a flute but the pageant director assigned him “a more important role.” The Innkeeper didn’t have many lines and Wally’s imposing size would make him perfect for the role of forcefully refusing lodging to Mary and Joseph.
On pageant night, Wally watched with fascination As Joseph slowly and tenderly guided Mary through the streets of Bethlehem, and knocked hard on the wooden door set into the painted backdrop.
“What do you want?” Wally the Innkeeper said brusquely, swinging the door open. “We seek lodging,” was Joseph’s reply.
“There’s no room here,” Wally replied, looking straight ahead
“Sir, we’ve asked everywhere. No one has any room. We’re tired.
My wife is heavy with child.
Surely you must have some corner for us to rest.”
Then Wally turned his gaze, and for the first time looked at the couple, acting their little hearts out as forlorn exhausted refugees.
Wallace just looked at them, and looked at them. There was a long pause – long enough to make the audience tense with embarrassment.
The prompter whispered from the wings. “No! Be gone!” “No!” Wally repeated. “Be gone!”
Joseph sadly placed his arm around Mary, and she laid her head on her husband’s shoulder as the two of them began to move wearily away.
Wally stood in the doorway, watching the exhausted couple go. His mouth was open, his brow creased with concern, and his eyes started filling with unmistakable tears. Suddenly, this Christmas pageant became different from all others. when the Innkeeper spontaneously shouted Don’t go, Joseph! Bring Mary back.” Then, with a beaming smile, “You can have my room!”
About half the audience thought the pageant was ruined, but the other half thought it was the best Christmas pageant they’d ever seen.
And you know what made that pageant so special? Suddenly it wasn’t just someone else’s story. It was Wallace’s story. Wallace made the old story his own, and knew that he could make a difference. He could change the story.
It stopped being about a long-ago Innkeeper, a story everyone already knows and simply expects to be repeated, like lines whispered by a prompter off stage.
Instead, it became a new story, a drama unfolding right then and there because one child was moved enough by the old story to change it to make it the way God wanted it to be.
Can we do that with the Christmas story?
Christ continues to come into the world, carried in the womb of a tired and weary church a church that’s very good at telling the old story, but can never just be content with that.
We continue to tell the story, because it always carries an invitation to change the story, to make it our own, and make a difference in it.
Christ is still coming into the world, knocking at the door of our full and busy lives coming to us as a fragile thing, asking for room.
We’re invited to make a space, to surrender our room, our lives, everything – to give Christ room to be born in us, as a living hope that brings good news to the oppressed today, that binds up the broken hearted here around us now, that proclaims liberty to the captives in our society, and release to the prisoners of our civilization.
How do we respond to the one who comes to establish justice and uphold righteousness and make a way for a lasting peace?
Can he have your room? Can he have your life?
God Bless us everyone!