One of his favorite stories was the story about how he met my mom. He was substitute teaching – science – at Eisenhower middle school. And mom was teaching French. And he saw her for the first time – walking down the hallway. She was wearing a red and white checkered dress. And he thought she was beautiful. So he worked on getting up his nerve for about a week to ask her out – And she said no. So he waited another week – and asked again – and again she said no. And so finally he decided to try one more time a week later – and this time – she said yes. But – don’t get your hopes up. She said – I’m moving back to France next year. In his infinite wisdom – my dad decided to take what he could get. And the rest was history. We went to visit France a lot - but she never moved back.
I used to love listening to him tell this story – and others. Because they weren’t just stories. They told me something.They brought life back to the memory – and to something else that I couldn’t quite grasp…
Telling stories like this is as old as humankind itself – because there’s something fundamentally human about telling stories like these. Some of you are smiling – because you’re the offender – you have stories like these that you like to tell over and over again. And some of you are smiling because you have one – or two – or three of these people in your families. We all have these family stories. And we love them – at least in part – because they tell us something about who we are. And where we came from. They connect us to each other. And each one of them – shows us some kind of special – precious truths. Something we want to preserve – Something we feel the need to give life to again and again as we tell the story.
Tonight – we tell a story together. We listened to the Gospel that told the same story we’ve heard many times before. It’s the story. The story that makes all of our other stories possible. And the truth that it communicates to us – is how much God loves us. We tell it over and over again – because it is the story that makes us who we are.
It is the story that binds us up – and makes us the people of God. And because it is the story that promises us hope – and joy – and peace.
The story of the birth of this helpless child – Who is immediately hunted – And hated – Born in a manger – in the middle of the desert – In a region that is still torn by war and violence – In a world that seems to be filled these days – By senseless violence – and hate – And a total lack of hope – In the midst of all this – This story tells us about all that God was willing to do for us – To sacrifice for us – So that we – no matter how far away we’ve gone from the light – No matter how hard we’ve tried to ignore God’s presence within us – We can always hope for – and reach for – peace. And forgiveness. And life that is fulfilled in the presence of God.
This is the story of hope – despite all that the world would do to tamp it down. This is the story of light that shines in the darkness – Light that will never be overcome. And we tell this story because it tells us about who we are. Or – rather – about whose we are. We tell this story because it gives us the chance to hope for a better life – A better world – A better us. We tell this story because it reminds us how very precious we are in the sight of God.
We tell this story – in the same way – over and over again – Because in the telling of the story – we are made ready again – To welcome the newly born Christ child into our hearts.
Give yourself this gift this Christmas. Give yourself the gift – the greatest gift there is – Of reconnecting to this story – Listen to this story that you’ve heard again – And let it take root in your heart. So that you can welcome the Holy Child of Bethlehem – So that this Prince of Peace – who promises hope – may rule over your heart in the year to come.
As you gather – perhaps with family – or friends – and either tell – or listen to stories – Remember that this is the story – The one that makes all other stories possible. The one that makes hope possible. And let this story become this year – more fully your story. Your story of hope. Your story of love. Your story of life with God. Take in the precious truth of this story – and make it your story. Because it is this joy – this love of God – that makes all other good stories possible.
And it is here – in this story – in this place – in this family of God – that you will find the true joy – and peace – of Christmas. Amen.