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Christmas Eve Meditation 2021

By Rev. Nicole M. Lamarche

How can we sing of joy in a time like this? In an ongoing pandemic, in a crisis of our economy and our biosphere, a crisis for our shared life together, a crisis of social justice, of loneliness and anxiety, a crisis of disconnection and despair- how can we possibly gather tonight and sing of joy?

How can we sing of a joy that is supposed to find its way to and through the whole world? How can we sing of a thing that all of the earth is to receive? How can we sing of joy when it’s hard to believe, that it will come to all? How do we possibly sing Joy to the World in a year like this?

Because I know many of us have had a hard year, and for many of us in South Boulder, a terrible year, one that won’t soon be forgotten because it left its mark on us. And many of us have noticed that the world is meaner and the pandemic has revealed how hard it is for us to act collectively, how challenging it can be to have a shared truth, do we even have that anymore? How impossible it can feel to bring everyone along. How do we sing Joy to the World in a time like this? And why do we even sing this song at Christmas?

Because the truth is this story has horror and hardship, a family who was politically and economically oppressed by government, convinced that just some were worthy of life and love, it is a story of a family that survived more violence than they could handle so they fled in an attempt to save their child. It’s a story of fugitives and refugees without a safe place to call home, seeing the worst of human beings, a murderous leader ordering the slaughter of all children younger than 2 in the vicinity of Bethlehem. (Matthew 2:16-18)

That First Century world was mean and it showed how hard it is for humans to act collectively, how much it can take for us to care beyond our place and position, how difficult it is to bring people along, across divides, how hard it is for some to make room out of fear.

But what is also true is that the Christmas story shows that the power, the presence that we call God, makes a way, finds a way, forges a way, where there doesn’t seem to be one, as the womanist theologians say, God makes a way out of no way. And whatever name we have for It, It keeps going, even when the world seems broken, It keeps going, using groups of open hearts, wherever they may be found. And because of that, here we are, tonight, in a different place, better than we were last year, our hopes and hands gathered together thousands of years later to hear this story all over again, to hear that the Divine One, the Force among us and beyond us, the Spirit that grounds all life, never gives up on us, It is Emmanuel God with us and It keeps shining and shaping, making Its way through the cracks of the world, even us.

We are gathered on this night to hear again this story of refugees and a revolution of Love, of birth and the birth of a message and a movement, of how even amid horror and hardship, even while surrounded by political and economic oppression, whatever name we have for God, It is constantly turning what is hard into what is holy, even now, with us. The story of this night is in fact: “Do not be afraid, for see I am bringing you good news of great joy...”

The pandemic is a teacher if we let it be and part of the lesson I think is that individualism won’t save us, pulling up the ladder once some of us are safe, won’t work, not making room where we can, where refugees of all kinds are seeking welcome won’t save us, what will save us, is us, living more fully into the interdependence that is already and is our destiny. COVID has taught us that we need one another, literally to survive. And not everyone is open to this truth, but God will use whoever is. And I believe and I have seen how God is making a way, through the cracks of the world, through open hearts, with hopes woven together, with hands put to work doing good, with us. And even in this hard and terrible year, we have loved deeper and grown wider and doubled down on kindness and we have widened our circle and grown our commitments and clarified who we’ve got and who is not along for the ride to the common good, but now we know and we are coming out the other side stronger. This is good news of great joy. We are still here with the sun rising and the rain falling and the beloved connections we have cultivated between us. I believe that even in horror and hardship God can turn and God will turn all that is hard, into something holy…

So how can we sing Joy to the World tonight in a time like this? How can we not? We must! What will save us, is us. May it be so. Amen.

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