In the celebration of the Jewish Passover Meal the youngest child present asks the question ‘ why is this night different from all other nights? And an adult tells the story of how God delivered the Jewish people from the harsh slavery they endured under the Egyptians and led them on a long journey to their own promised land,
Tonight we can ask the question ‘why is this night different from all other nights’ and in the gospel to which we’ve just listened we are told why. We heard the story of Mary giving birth to her first born child and wrapping him in swaddling clothes and placing him in his first bed, a manger, a feeding trough of animals. Then glory of God breaks upon this simple scene and the angels of God fill the heavens with songs of glory, praise and peace. Poor hard working shepherds are the first to hear this wonderful news of the birth of a savior, Christ the Lord. Why is night different from all other nights? Because this night we celebrate in faith the awesome truth that the eternal word of God was made flesh and dwelt among us. The night is different from all other nights because we believe that Jesus, God’s eternal Son, did not consider being equal to God as something to be clung to but he emptied himself taking to himself the form of a slave and being born in human likeness he humbled himself and became obedient even unto death, even death on a cross.
This night is different from all other nights because we believe that this innocent, helpless child, God’s eternal Son, embraces our humanity becoming as we all are and through his life shared in the joys and the sorrows that are the reality of all our lives. He knew the harshness of poverty, he earned his bread by the sweat of his brow. He knew the love and support of friends, he knew the deep hurt of those same friends betraying and denying him. He would die the humiliating death of crucifixion. His spent his life telling people in his time and in ours that they are loved by God, embraced by God no matter what their faults and failings may be. God’s eternal Son would give us all a new commandment ‘ Love one another as I have loved you.’ His love for us was proven when his died on the cross for each of us.
In the story of the birth of Jesus to which we have just listened we heard the words ‘there was no room for him in the inn. ’This was just a fact, the town was probably a mob scene. Joseph probably had relatives in Bethlehem, his family was originally from there, but they’d taken in all they could. The inn was full but Joseph and Mary were lucky to find space in a stable where they could have some privacy and Mary could give birth to her first born, and wrap him in swaddling clothes and placed him in a feeding trough, a manger.
There was an old Irish custom that no matter how poor the home, a candle burned in the window on Christmas Eve to let it be known there was a place for Mary and Joseph and their newborn baby in this house.
Maybe tonight, this night different from all other nights, we could ask ourselves, is the door of my life open to accept other people into my life. Is the door of my life open to accept those who those hurt me, disappointed me, ignored me? Is the door of my life open to accept people who believe differently than I do, come from different cultures than mine, life different life styles than mine?
On this night different from all other nights and in this festive season, these are important questions for all of us. Are we willing to accept the stranger, the different, the troublesome, the new? Is the door of my life open to receive the hungry, the thirsty, the naked or the stranger? Near the end of his life the child whose birth we celebrate tonight said something like this – as often as the door of your life is open to the hungry, the thirsty, the naked and the stranger, the outcast – then your door is open to me.
May we all celebrate this great feast of the birth of Christ in our own way and may each of us welcome the Christ as we welcome all others into our hearts, our homes and our lives every day of life.