Text: Luke 2:1-20
Do you know what a Nativity set is? Do any of you have one in your house? Nativity sets are little scenes that show the manger scene – the Baby Jesus born in a manger. So, let’s play a little game: let’s try to guess all the people and animals that might have been there in the barn with baby Jesus.
Well, I suppose we should see how well we did, right? So I thought I’d bring my Nativity set from home as a way to check.
So, what’s different about this one? Right…there’s a wall in the middle of the manger scene. Makes it kind of hard to see what’s on the other side, right? Where do you think that came from? Well, humans put it there. They built it. That makes me sad, because there’s a wall like this on the other side of the world, where people are prevented from seeing Jesus every day.
I don’t know how to make it better, but I do know we can pray. Would you like to pray with me? Dear God, it is sad when we build walls so that people are kept from seeing your Son Jesus. We ask you take down those walls so that all might be able to see your Son. Amen.
My wife Kelly traveled to Palestine and Israel this past summer, and bought this Nativity set. It’s quickly become a favorite of mine, and I’ve often looked at it the past month, reflecting on what it means that the Israeli government has built a wall to separate Palestinians – who are both Christian and Muslim – and Israeli Jews. I’ve done some research on my own, and as of 2012, the Israeli government has spent 3 billion dollars to construct the all in various forms across the countryside, and spends about 300 million annually for upkeep and to maintain security along the wall.
All I can say is, that’s a lot of effort and resources simply to keep yourself separated from another group of people.
There’s been a whole lot of building walls in our country this past year. Seems like walls are being built in one form or another: walls that divide people by race, ethnicity, social-standing, politics, religious beliefs. Walls get built that divide us by standards of physical beauty, popularity, and ability. Walls get built that keep out the unrighteous, the ungodly, the unfaithful, and the sinners. Walls get built that keep out those we perceive at the very least threaten us, and at the very worst, will try to hurt or kill us.
We’ve built walls, and we’ve invested a lot of time and energy and resources into building them; and all to keep us safe, to keep us secure. Or so we think. Safety and security in this life is an illusion…..I don’t know about you, but as I stand here there are those around the world who live in real terror night after night, those who are stationed across the globe to provide safety so we don’t have to think about it, and without basic living necessities like food, water, and shelter. I have friends who are facing battles with cancer, friends who are struggling in their marriages, friends who struggle with self-worth. And there are those who cannot be with us tonight simply because age has robbed them of the ability to drive at night, or an accident has left them injured and in pain. And I’m sure for each of you tonight, you know of similar struggles….you have similar struggles….that have left you unable to be at peace, to find joy, to experience love, and hope at best, is a dream.
On a night like this, I wonder if these walls we’ve built between each other are that important. On a night like this, I wonder if the divisions we draw really are worth the time and effort.
“And you will find a child, wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” A child, born into a world of powers and rulers that built lots of walls. A child, born into a world of division and isolation. A child, born into a world full of fear, stress, and anxiety.
On a night like this, God has come as Emmanuel to make God’s home with us.
On an night like this, God has given us a savior who will tear down the walls and erase the divisions that have left us feeling so weary and alone.
On a night like this, the walls come down so that we can see the One who is our peace, our joy, our hope, our love…..and such things are no longer a dream, but a reality. A reality that allows us not just to see Jesus, but to see Jesus in the faces of all those people we worked so hard to separate ourselves from.
On this night, we need no longer live alone in fear – of ourselves, of each other. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among all God’s people.” Amen.