Miracle on South Dorset Road
Christmas Eve C 2021
“Miracle on South Dorset Road”
We look for many familiar things at Christmastime, signs of what we believe in. One of my favorite Christmas movies is “The Miracle on 34th St.” In this classic, Father Christmas himself, Kris Kringle is walking around among regular people, as the embodiment of Santa Claus. We are let in on the secret that there really is a Santa Claus during the opening scene, when Mr Kringle, in his civvie (rather than a Santa suit) is spied by a little boy. He tells his grandfather that he sees the real Santa Claus. The grandfather is embarrassed by the little boy’s silly mistake, but Kris just winks at the little guy and whispers that he “is Santa.” That’s how it is, we look for signs around us of what we believe in. Sometimes we see those signs.
In the spiritual life, that’s how it is too—we look for signs around us of what we believe in. So, it is only natural for us to look around in our world for evidence of God, an invisible, spiritual being. And only when we see Jesus, the baby born in Bethlehem, do we see God in his fullness in a way that we can see, hear, and touch. Have you ever thought, without Jesus, I cannot see, hear, or touch God in the world? With Jesus, everything can be a sign of God’s presence.
Looking for evidence of Jesus and God at Christmas is why there is so much of a desire for manger scenes in public places, or on church grounds, or city streets, or neighborhood yard displays. We want Jesus to have equal time, or more time and influence on the Christmas holiday than Santa Claus.
We are most certainly spiritual people, and we are also people of celebration, so we have fun traditions of feasting, and gift exchange, and indulging our children. But being spiritual, we know too that the precious gift of life and love are from God, and the way we embrace them makes a difference; the spiritual matters of life, love and the truth about who we are were made real in the coming of Jesus into our world. Without Jesus, we could not see, hear, or touch God in the world. We could not see, hear, or touch love in its fullness.
As a certain theologian has said, God most certainly made himself visible in a very ordinary way, so as not to frighten us; an everyday couple, traveling and weary, gave birth to a baby and laid him in a manger bed because they were poor. They were a very long way from home, so no visitors were expected. No one was there to help Mary in her travail, but Joseph– who had no one to accompany him in his waiting. The room was filled with sweat, blood, makeshift blankets and diapers. Then Mary and Joseph felt the raw, immediate joy that springs into life when a child is born. At that joyful moment, there was no need to look for God. It was an ordinary birth for a mighty God. God himself was palpable—he could be touched and held and wrapped in his parents’ arms.
And the manger bed became something more beautiful (than ordinary) because of who was coming into the world. It was God himself. We look for signs of what we believe in, and people saw angels burst onto the sky—that had never happened before, nor has it ever happened since then. They sang glory to God in the highest heaven. They brought good tidings of peace to the earth. And the sight of this was apparently terrifying, but not meant to be frightening.
Whether or not you and I have seen angels elsewhere in our lives, the birth of Jesus was most certainly announced to the world by angels from God. Simple shepherds who were watching their flocks in the field that night were the eye-witnesses. They were the unexpected and very unusual visitors who hurried to see the baby lying in the manger. They were the firs people who could see, hear and touch God himself.
I doubt they grasped the fullness of how this child would become the Savior of the whole world. They couldn’t have known that he would be a messiah to save people from sin and death. They needed to take it on faith. So do we. On faith, we believe that God himself is wrapped in flesh and blood. We know how Jesus’ life and death turned into resurrection, not only for him, but we believe for us as well! So, if we, as spiritual people, have faith, we can know the meaning of our Savior as well as the shepherds knew it, or better. What a gift!
How will you celebrate God’s great gift of coming to us? Perhaps you can bring Jesus home this holiday? Our first thoughts of home at Christmas probably go to a specific place, or a specific set of people. Bringing Jesus home, however, isn’t about being in a certain set of circumstances. I think it is more about making him the center of your life.
Wherever Jesus lay was home even though Mary and Joseph were far from their home in Nazareth when Jesus was born. They were on the move and then on the run from danger—anything but secure and at home. However, their child became the center of their lives, as any parent knows; for a time, the world revolves around the rhythms of life with a newborn. When Jesus is nestled in the manger, as strange a bed as can be—they are at home. Cradled in his parents’ arms, they are at home. Wherever he lay is home.
I propose that wherever we are in the world, this Christmas, near or far from our geographic home, if the child Jesus is nestled in the manger bed of our hearts, he is at home with us, and we are at home with him.
Just as there was a miracle on 34th Street, we could say there is a miracle on South Dorset Road. Right here, this evening, love is made known in Jesus, so that we can see and hear and touch God. In the movie, Kris Kringle becomes known for who he really is—Santa Claus in the flesh. So Jesus—in the flesh—is at home in us; he looks like each person that we see here among us.
Because God gives Christ to live in you and me, we can see, hear and touch God in the world. In other words, we can recognize Jesus in every man, woman and child who is here looking for him. God’s presence in the manger bed of Trinity is palpable—he is breathing when we listen to each other, when we put our trust in each other, when we are brave together looking at the future. These are the challenges that are before us, that really compel us to pay attention to the coming of Christ.
Jesus Christ is breathing in us when we listen to each other. It can be tempting to want to get our own viewpoints out their first and foremost. However, when we stop to see Christ in the other person, and give them a chance to speak, then we can truly listen.
God’s presence in the manger bed at Trinity is real when we trust each other. A community is built on trust—believing that you and I want what is best for one another. Since everything comes from fear or from love, why not extend a trusting love to one another.
And finally, the world is changing so rapidly, that with every day, the future is dawning upon us. I don’t know about you, but I feel that God is near, and in the flesh of my brother or sister, when we can be brave to look at our future together. No one knows what the future will look like, but if we are open to see it together, we will not be confined by our fears. Listening, trusting and being brave—these are some ways that we can strengthen our community.
There is a miracle on South Dorset Road. It is far greater than Kris Kringle in the flesh. Our great God has given us Jesus, so that we can see, hear and touch love itself. Let’s bring that love home by making Jesus the center of our lives, keeping his ways in our hearts. May Christ be at home with each and every one of you, and with us all together in this house of God.
Rev Ann Marie Winters
December 24, 2021