An Unexpected Christmas Gift

Daria Shevtsova

7:30 Pm
Christmas Eve

Christmas blessings to you my friends–my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

This is a night filled with joy and anticipation. So much anticipation–from the weeks of preparation you may have made to receive family members into your homes, to the hours of baking and shopping for the perfect gift…or in some cases the “that’ll do for right now gift.”

These weeks of Advent have flown by…and very often left us with a feeling of not enough time.

And with the season of not enough time…I know that I’ve taken on the stubborn stance of making time– shoving in two or three events at the same time. If I can just control enough things…then it will all go right. The way I planned. During a season of hope, expectation, anticipation, and wonder…my need for control goes into overdrive.

I think I realized that my gears were stuck in overdrive control the other day. My husband was volunteering his time at a school in downtown Lancaster. The kids were putting on a Christmas concert. And the morning of the concert my husband turned to me and said, “How about you and Elsa drive downtown and come to the concert?”

This is a perfectly reasonable question and if asked at any other time of the year, I may have heard it as a wonderful invitation, but my ears were turned to overdrive…my sense of control seemed to be shaky… so what I heard was…

“How about you and our young child leave our warm house and enter into the cold night, drive in the dark, through traffic and construction, to head to a part of the city you don’t know very well. After you get a bit turned around, how about you fight for parking against parents and holiday shoppers as they all vie for a limited downtown parking space. And then once you park, how about you try to navigate our small child through the unseen potholes and ditches to an unfamiliar school entrance.Then try to find your way through the halls of a school you don’t know well. And try to locate me in a sea of over-sugared children and equally lost parents. Wouldn’t that be a fun thing to do?”

Somehow reason got through my overdrive ears and control-needing senses, and I said, “Sure. Let’s give it a try.”

And it came to pass that the evening of the great concert arrived. And Elsa and I were seated in the auditorium. Even though the trip went smoothly, there was plenty of parking, and my husband had guided us all the way to our seats, I found myself on edge. Overdrive needs of control were still set in.

And the music director introduced herself and then welcomed a little boy onto stage. He looked so alone standing there. A violin in his hand–it seemed to be half the size of his body. He was shifting from one foot to another, back and forth, to and fro…but a smile filled his entire face.

The music director said, “This is Daniel. He just picked up the violin and took it home and taught himself how to play a Christmas song. He was so excited and wants to share with you his newly learned song.”

And completely alone on that stage, he began to drag his bow across the strings. Quietly at first. So quietly that the entire audience hushed themselves and you could feel them leaning in. And then the melody began to form in the room. Note by note. And when he finished he looked up and smiled and the entire room exploded with applause. For Daniel was willing to do something very awesome that night. He was willing to be vulnerable. And in so doing created a space in that place for kids to try–not be perfect..but simply try, it created a space for adults to listen with anticipation and to set aside all the to-dos and find joy in the now. And in that space and time–the joy of the Christmas season became alive.

This my friends is what the Nativity is all about. Not mighty words, not music, not animals, and perhaps not even the cast of characters who ventured to a manger one holy night.

The Nativity–the birth of the Christ child–is all about vulnerability.

The vulnerability of a young woman named Mary to say ‘yes’ to God’s plan. The vulnerability of Joseph and Mary as they travel–to a place they didn’t choose to venture, but because an emperor demanded they go.
The vulnerability of the shepherds who could have stayed put in the fields that night…or ran away in fear. But they were open enough to venture to a place where a babe could be found in a manger.

This is God’s invitation to us–God invites us to the manger, as well, and to look upon God–completely vulnerable.

Is it surprising to think of God as vulnerable?
Think about it, who can be more vulnerable than a newborn baby?!

And yet God chose to be made incarnate–wrapped in the flesh–swaddled in bands of cloth–held by Mary–vulnerable and exposed to the world. The world God so loves. And today God is inviting you to receive this gift. A gift of vulnerability.

I know…it’s kind of an unexpected Christmas invitation. Who in their right mind wants to be vulnerable? I would choose receiving the gift of the fruitcake of the month club over receiving the gift of vulnerability!
I’m so much more open to receiving the gifts of self-sufficiency, control, and impermeability!

Oh yes, that word ‘vulnerability’–I sometimes think of it as a bad word. The word that means exposed…the word that opens those dark closets where I hide my shame and my fear and my struggles.

But in a world that fears being exposed or open–we so often armor ourselves against any sense of vulnerability. But we can’t numb one emotion or feeling without numbing others. We can’t blockade vulnerability without also barricading joy, happiness, and gratitude, as well.

Vulnerability is the manger–it is a birthplace for belonging, a cradle for creativity. Being vulnerable gives life to the Holy Spirit’s fruit of joy, peace, and love.

Friends, we are imperfect beings, wired to struggle, but in God’s eyes we are worthy of love and belonging and precious in God’s sight.

So precious, that God became vulnerable for us. A vulnerable God inviting us in, so that we may shed our armor of self defense, our weapons of retort, and be swaddled in the everlasting love of our Lord.

God invites you today to be vulnerable.

Imagine this invitation alive in you this Christmas.
The willingness to say “I love you” first…or “Forgive me” first.
Envision how it could be putting yourself out there…and to wait and see and invest in relationships that may or may not go as planned.

For this is the way of God.
God who always is first to speak words of love and forgiveness to us–and longs for our ears to listen.
For God who daily sends a Spirit upon us waiting for us to respond.
For God who is willing to die, so that a relationship between you and God may live.

And God invites us this night to be vulnerable.
Because feeling vulnerable means that we feel alive.

So let’s live this Christmas–let’s live into vulnerability.
Let’s be open to saying first words like I love you…forgive me…help me.
Let’s be willing to let go a little, and let God do the rest.
Let’s be into trying something new–like a little boy named Daniel was willing to do.

As you open gifts this Christmas, I pray that you yourself may be opened to God and God’s love for you. Blessings to you my friends and Merry Christmas.

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Rev. Sarah Teichmann

Pastor of Christian Formation

Pastor Sarah served as Pastor of Christian Formation at St. Peter’s from 2014 – 2021. She now serves the wider church as a partner at Kirby-Smith Associates.

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