Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Christmas Eve 2011

In Small Packages

I saw an ad for a laptop the other day—it was a picture from the side to show how thin and light it was. Seriously—this thing was less than an inch thick, and yet it was more powerful than any computer I’ve ever had.

It seems like we’re always trying to make things smaller. Everyone gets a laugh out of seeing Michael Douglas in the movie Wall Street, walking on the beach and chatting on a cell phone that looks about the size of a shoebox. I think they even called that model “The Brick” because of its size and weight. Now my Blackberry can create the illusion that I’m always in my office, and it fits in my shirt pocket.

For those of us who grew up with stereo systems that filled pieces of living room furniture, the iPod is still a little amazing.

If you’re old enough to remember Apollo 11 and the mission to get a couple of guys walking on the moon, it may surprise you to know that you have far more computing power in your laptop than they did at Mission Control, and that computer took up an entire wing of the building. And that’s not all. You have about 100x more memory in your smartphone than they did on the spaceship itself.

Cameras, computers, mobile phones and even cars—so many things are smaller and more efficient than they were in their original form.

Even Twitter is getting into the smaller-is-better game. Each message, or tweet, on Twitter is limited to 140 characters. Everything from messages about what people are having for dinner, to the real-time report of the raid on Osama bin Laden—all of that happens on Twitter at the tiny rate of 140 characters per message.

The main parts of the Christmas story that we’ve heard tonight can be told through Twitter messages:

“Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child & give birth to a son, & you are to give him the name Jesus.” That comes in at a perfect 140 characters.

And how does Mary respond?

“My soul magnifies the lord and my spirit rejoices in God my savior, for he has been mindful of the humble estate of his servant” Room to spare at 128 characters.

Meanwhile, the angels are surprising some shepherds in the fields. “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today in the town of David a savior has been born to you.” Just under the wire at 139.

The promise to Mary is pretty economical: “This will be a sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a mange” Just 89.

And the kicker, the praise-filled song the angels sing as the heavens are opened above some terrified shepherds: “Glory to god in the highest, and on earth peace to all people on whom his favor rests.” That heavenly message only takes 86 characters.

There are a couple of newborns in our circle of friends these days. Our own son is 11 now, and one of the things you forget after a while is just how small a newborn baby really is.

In the Christmas story we talk about the angels and Mary and Joseph and shepherds. We even talk about barn animals that aren’t actually in the story. But we don’t often think about just how small Jesus was on that first night. He was probably 7 pounds or so—about 3 kilos—just half a stone.

But that little baby was sent—he was born and raised and shaped and called—he was sent to be the Messiah, the fulfillment of God’s promises to his people, the one who would reconcile God and all of his creation, once and for all. Such a huge gift in such a small package.

More than 500 feet underground, at the border between Switzerland and France, there is a massive circular tunnel—17 miles around—that is used to conduct scientific experiments.

Now I’m going to try to explain this without sounding like Sheldon from “The Big Bang Theory.”

The Large Hadron Collider is a laboratory where particle beams of protons and other materials are smashed together to try and recreate the conditions that brought about the beginnings of the universe. They’re looking for a tiny particle, smaller than an atom, called a Higgs boson. Physicists believe that the Higgs boson particle is the thing that transforms energy into mass. In other words, it will help explain how solid things first appeared—and keep appearing—in the universe.

That tiny thing is often called The God Particle, because it has the potential to explain how everything got here—how this all got started—and maybe even where we’re going. All of these scientists and engineers—10,000 of them from more than 100 countries—all of these people looking for the meaning of the universe in something so small.

That’s why we’re here tonight. The Word of God, the meaning of the universe, the Messiah and savior of everyone and everything, came in the form of a small child, a newborn baby, and nothing was ever the same again.

Christmas Eve is as good a time as any to remember who this Christ-child was and is. In one of our confessions we say this:

In life and death we belong to God.
Through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
The love of God,
And the communion of the Holy Spirit,
we trust in the one triune God, the Holy One of Israel,
whom alone we worship and serve.

We trust in Jesus Christ,
Fully human, fully God.
Jesus proclaimed the reign of God:
preaching good news to the poor
and release to the captives,
teaching by word and deed
and blessing the children,
healing the sick
and binding up the brokenhearted,
eating with outcasts,
forgiving sinners,
and calling all to repent and believe the gospel.
Unjustly condemned for blasphemy and sedition,
Jesus was crucified,
suffering the depths of human pain
and giving his life for the sins of the world.
God raised Jesus from the dead,
vindicating his sinless life,
breaking the power of sin and evil,
delivering us from death to life eternal.

All of that began with the birth of this one baby: Jesus the Messiah.

If you’re searching or wondering about this Jesus we’ve been going on about, don’t let another Christmas go by without looking for the answers to your questions—without praying and asking to have a relationship with Jesus Christ.

That gift is always there for you—always waiting to be opened, even when we come with more questions than answers. If you’re curious, and you don’t have a Bible to read, let me know and I’ll get you one that you can keep. Don’t let another Christmas go by without finding out for yourself who this Jesus is.

For tonight, though, as we prepare to have meals and give gifts and wear bad sweaters and all the other things that go into this day. As we prepare to celebrate Christmas, never forget what God did—and what he promises to do—in the birth of that one baby boy, on that one holy night. Amen.