It can be tough to live alone in Montana. A successful business man became disenchanted with the stress of the fast life in the big city and decides to chuck it all. He takes his savings and purchases a large ranch in the middle of nowhere in Montana. After a couple of months of enjoying the solitude he hears the drumming of hoof beats outside his cabin. Grabbing his rifle he challenges the man riding up on the horse. “Hold it neighbor” the man on horseback says, ” I’m your next-door neighbor. I have a ranch only 6 miles from here, and I want to invite you to a Welcome Party I’m throwing for you next Saturday. There’s going to be music, dancing, card playing, drinking, fighting…. We’ll have a great time”. Not wanting to be un-neighborly the new rancher lowered the rifle and asked ” How should I dress?” ” Aw, don’t matter” replied the neighbor, “You’re the only one coming”
Not so in the traditional Christmas reading we just heard. It is an interesting aspect of the text that no one comes to the Christ child alone. Not the angels, not the shepherds, not the wise men. No one comes alone.
Neither do you come alone to find the Christ child, to explore what he means for your life. Even if you walked into this sanctuary by yourself and are sitting by yourself, you did come alone.
If Jesus has been central in your life since childhood, I invite you to recall those who first brought you to him. Perhaps it was a parent telling you the Christmas story while setting up the family’s nativity set. Perhaps a grandparent reading to you from the family Bible. Or perhaps a Sunday School teacher telling you stories of Jesus’ life. Maybe all of the above. On this evening, remember with fondness and with gratitude those who accompanied you on your first visit to the Christ child. For you did not come alone. And even if they have passed on from this life, they came with you tonight.
Some of you may not have had such an early childhood experience. Perhaps you first encountered Jesus as an older child or as an adult. Think back to what attracted you to follow him. In all likelihood it was a relative, a friend, a spouse, someone whose life had been touched by Jesus and whose life in turn touched yours. On this evening, remember with fondness and gratitude those individuals who brought you to Jesus. They have come with you tonight.
Ah, but you are thinking, these are the easy cases. We all know our churches are full of feel-good stories of people whose spiritual journeys have always been graced by the company of others. For most of you that is probably your story. But how about the one whose life is coming unraveled at the seams, the one whose life has careened from one hellish scene to another, the one who, having run out of other options in life, stumbles by himself or herself into a place of worship hoping for a reprieve from despair? Is that one not coming to the Christ child alone? I don’t think so.
The mysteries of our faith… the bread and wine, the Scriptures, prayer… what they mean, how they work to break through our individual aloneness and connect us with something deeper and greater than ourselves… none of us can comprehend these things alone. We sense that there is more to life than meets the eye even if we can’t quite put our finger on it. No generation can comprehend it all. Religion relies on the cumulative experience of people over generations. No one comes to the Christ child alone. We are carried on the shoulders of those who have gone before us. The stories of our faith, told and retold by generation after generation, serve to give meaning and purpose to the otherwise routine events of our lives. They serve to put into words the mystery of god and the interconnectedness of all our lives.
The one who enters a sanctuary at wit’s end, despairing of any hope for his or her life, may walk in by themselves, but he or she will not come to meet the Christ child alone. That meeting will be borne on the hopes and prayers and stories of countless ones who have gone before. And that meeting will be mediated by others presently on the same journey, by ones like yourself who have been touched by their encounter with the Christ child.
The one grasping at the end of life’s rope may get only one glimpse of the child – and that glimpse may be reflected through you. It may not happen here. It may happen at work, it may happen at school. It may happen on a street corner. What an awesome responsibility. What an awesome privilege. The warmth of your presence, the hope in your eyes, the love in your touch, that may be all that there is to communicate to the lost one the song of the angels, the adoration of the shepherds and the hope of the ages. Just one glimpse. The mystery is that that may be enough. Amen.