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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

All the World Changed Forever, For Better

 Christmas Eve 2013
The Rev. Betsy Hooper-Rosebrook

I've probably mentioned before that when it comes to change, I'm the poster child for a non-early adopter. I happily had the same microwave oven for 25 years, we drive our cars until they no longer function, and a couple of items in my closet are from my college years simply because they aren't worn out.

So a few days ago, when I tried to download some new apps on my iPad, I was not pleased when iTunes informed me I'd need to upgrade from my current iOS 5 to iOS 7 in order to use them. I don't even know when iOS 6 passed me by, and since I'm perfectly happy with the operating system I currently have, I see no reason why I should be pushed into changing. I assume I'll have to mess around redoing many of the settings, then rearrange apps and folders, then learn what the differences are and how to deal with them, and all along take the chance of crashes and incompatibilities...I simply question whether it's worth the time and effort.

Except, of course, for the fact that the upgrade might offer improvements I'd miss out on otherwise, and maybe glitches that currently frustrate me have been resolved, and obviously there are new apps that might be fun or useful or both. If my iPad could work better for me with an upgrade, maybe I should go for it. I will say, however, that since I write sermons on my iPad, there was zero chance this was going to happen until after tonight!

I wonder if this is how God felt about humankind?: "All the apps and systems I've been using--from the apple in the Garden of Eden to the re-boot with Noah, from Commandments on tablets to the Prophets posting comments about what everyone's doing—they all seem to have glitches, or don't work as well as they used to, or could benefit from some tweaking. The world needs an upgrade!" From one way of looking at scripture, this was God's intent all along, but I wonder. Didn't God hope that the first version, or the second, or at least the third, would be all that was needed? How hard was it for God to keep changing plans, not to throw in the towel, to come up with new ways of getting us to understand God's intent for us, that is, that we are loved beyond measure, no matter what, and our calling is to share that love with the world?

So God went for the ultimate upgrade, the game changer, and came among us…became us. Not as an apparition or angel, not as one who coerces change, not as a tycoon or even a benevolent dictator. God came as a flesh and blood, helpless baby born in the middle of nowhere. That's love: to be the God of everything, of all creation and all time...and to bring yourself vulnerably into one tiny slice of that in order to make your heart more fully known. And that's trust: to believe that in so doing, the world will be changed forever, for better.

And what about us? Some folks are eager to get the latest gadget or to clean out the closet to make room for another fashion or to try the next new thing—nothing wrong with that—but when it comes to matters of the heart and soul, I think most of humanity is agonizingly slow to turn in a new direction. We tend to believe that we're doing just fine with what we have--even sometimes despite evidence to the contrary--and in our deepest self, we resist making changes in what seems to be our instinctual way of being. How hard it is for us to believe that power isn't about control of people or property; for us to treasure wealth measured in ways far more significant than dollars; for us to accept that love can be freely given without our having to earn it. We may know these things in our heads, but our hearts are so much slower to change, to open to the joy and freedom of God’s gifts.

Yet the longing is in us. There's a reason we come back to this night, to this story, to this baby, year after year. Of course, tradition and memories and the beauty of this worship. But even more because, in the midst of whatever may be happening around or within us—health or illness, joy or grief, satisfaction or emptiness, confidence or fear—we have a desire for still greater truths, for deeper meaning, for profound peace, for more abundant love...and God desires the very same for us. All of that longing is perfectly fulfilled in the birth we celebrate tonight.

This isn't to say that the change is easy. Accepting Jesus—not only the sweet baby with the miraculous birth, celebrated by meek and mighty alike, but the crucified and resurrected Lord he becomes—accepting this Jesus into our lives means learning new ways, and redoing some of our set habits of thought and action, and rearranging our very selves. It requires time and effort. We'll have crashes and encounter incompatibilities and question why we made the choice. But remember that trust and love shown to us in this babe, and offer the same to God in return, that your heart may be more fully known and your world, all the world, changed forever, for better.

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