Love. Born HERE

Luke 2:1-7

Love. Born HERE.

Christmas Eve 2017     Maple Grove UMC


"Love. Born Here."  That's been our theme this Advent and Christmas season.  We asked, “What is it that’s born at Christmas?”  Well, LOVE is born at Christmas: for God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.  We pondered what it means that Love is BORN Here.  Jesus was BORN as one of us in Bethlehem.  And Jesus said to us, "You must be born again"--the Holy Spirit gives each person a new life, a life of love.  And now we come to the final thrust of this theme:  "Love. Born Where?  Love.  Born HERE." HERE (in our midst) and HERE (in our hearts). 

But I suspect Mary had other thoughts that first Christmas Eve as she went into labor in a barn far from home:  Oh no, is love going to be born HERE?  And shepherds had been told that the baby the would find was the Messiah, the Lord.  When they found him sleeping in a feeding trough for animals, they must have thought, Love was born HERE?  And those grand Wisemen came from the opulence of the East to a two-bit village in a two-bit Roman province, wondering, Love was born HERE?

The answer, as every child in Sunday school knows, is: Yes!  Love was born here in this little town of Bethlehem.  Yes! Love was born in a stable because there was no room at the inn.  And Yes!  Love was born and laid in a manger where animals feed.  Yes, Love is Born.  HERE.

One thing Christmas means is this:  God's love is born in surprising, in unexpected places.  God's love is born wherever God chooses, wherever God is; and, of course, God is everywhere and always. 

This past summer Maple Grove member Don Ackerman, who is a captain in the U.S. Army, was leading a group of cadets in training exercises near Fort Knox, Kentucky.  They were in the field for weeks on end, often incommunicado, so he told me I probably wouldn’t hear from him for a while.  And out of the blue one day I get a phone call from Don.  He's whispering into the phone:  "I can't talk long.  The enemy is just over the hill.  But I've got a question for you."

"Oh dear.  What is it?"

"While we've been out here, our unit has had Bible study together every day.  And one cadet has invited Jesus into her heart and become a Christian.  She asked me if she could be baptized, but there's no way to get a chaplain here.  What should I do?"

          Now I know the rules about ordained people and baptism and all that.  But what are you going to do? "Can you find some water?" I asked.

"Probably tomorrow we can," Don said.

"Well then, baptize her!  And make sure she finds a church home on her next post."

The next day I receive a photo of a newly baptized almost 2nd lieutenant coming up out of a watering hole in the woods, surrounded by eight or ten tired, dirty soldiers. 

Was Love really born THERE? you might ask.  And the answer is: Yes, sir!  Right there, sir!

There will always be skeptics. There will always be people who will say, Oh, love probably won't be born HERE or probably not THERE.  Love probably won’t be born in this person, certainly not in that person.  And there will always be discouraged people who think, Given the state of the world or the way my luck is going, maybe love won't be born at all, any more.  But every year Christmas proves the skeptics wrong and wins the discouraged over.  Yes! Love is born.  HERE.  A familiar song tells the story:

O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie.
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light.
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight.


Love is Born.  Here.

Of course, it love is born all the time, all year long. But Christmas is a special time to look around and see how love is being born, here:

  • You should have seen the children at pageant rehearsal a week ago!  Controlled chaos, you could call it.  Thirty-three kids singing their hearts out, caring for each other, and learning about Jesus.  I'm telling you, love is born here!
  • At Faith Family Worship, our new intergenerational experience, a few Friday nights ago there people of all ages singing and dancing, praying, and doing crafts together around tables.  At the end couple of kids crying.  I went to see what was wrong.  They weren’t crying because they didn't want to be here but because they didn't want to go home!  Love is born here!
  • In September we had our Over-80s Luncheon.  I looked around at all of that wisdom, all of that experience, all the years of service gathered around those tables.  And it struck me--love has been born here for a long time!
  • More than usual, this past year I've witnessed brothers and sisters in Christ disagree with one another, sometimes passionately, about important matters.  But for the most part—not always, but for the most part--they spoke their piece, they listened carefully, they shook hands, and then came back together to worship and pray.  In this angry and divided world, it’s so important that love is born here!
  • At one of our Muslims, Methodists & More potlucks down in fellowship hall, I ate dinner with refugees from Syria.  One of them tearfully said to me, "This is such an important event.  I thought everyone here hated us.  Now I see there’s love here too!"  Love is born here!
  • I've had dozens of people thank me for Maple Grove's Thanksgiving Day dinner—the delicious food, real plates and silverware, the warmth of the welcome.  I have little to do with that, but I say, "You are so welcome."  Because love is born here.
  • On Veterans Day we blessed and sent devotional books to military members associated with our church.  A young soldier in Texas texted me:  "I was having quite a bad day—and I checked the mail to find a prayer book with a card from the church.  Thank you! You have must made my day."  I'm telling you, love is born here.

It happens all the time, all year around.  But Christmas is a special time.  Just look around!  Where here do you see God's love being born?  And the song tells the story:



How silently, how silently

The wondrous gift is given

So God imparts to human hearts

The blessings of His heaven

No ear may hear His coming

But in this world of sin

Where meek souls will receive him still

The dear Christ enters in 

And it all starts right here (in your heart).  Your heart is where God’s love most needs and aches to be born.  Sometimes it may feel like love is beyond your reach—that it's too risky to love some people or in some ways. That you've been too mistreated or too misunderstood to love again.  Maybe you've just felt forsaken and alone for too long for your tired old heart to find love again.  The good news is you don't have to find love.  God sends the love.  Christ is the love.  God so loved the world that he sent his only Son.  God’s love is born for us and in us—here.

          All you have to do is set a manger out for Christ.  All you have to do, like Mary, is say, “Okay, Lord, let it be with me according to your word.” All you have to do is consent to the birth, or the rebirth, of love in your heart.  And Christmas I the perfect time.  At Christmas we somehow know that the way things are is not way they always have to be.  Because Love is Born.  Here.

Here’s what not to do: don’t leave this place today without letting love be born HERE.  Long for love, pray for love, consent to love, let love be born in you this day.  And the song concludes:

O holy Child of Bethlehem

Descend to us, we pray

Cast out our sin and enter in

Be born to us today

We hear the Christmas angels

The great glad tidings tell

O come to us, abide with us

Our Lord Emmanuel

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