If I've learned anything about writing from when I first began blogging until now it is this-- Good writing is as much about what you don't write as it is what you do. The same can be said about good sermons. I was told by Kyle early on that you don't have to let your audience know exactly how you came to a thought, you just have to give them the thought. This creates space for spiritual imagination.
When I read the gospel accounts of the nativity, I'm struck by how little detail we are given. There's a lot of material about the events leading up to the birth of Jesus. But other than wise men arriving from the east some time later, we are not given much to go with other than an inn that is full and an available stable out back.
Of all the valuble things the iconography of Catholic and Orthodox traditions have given us, one drawback is all the glowing. It's hard to look at a piece of this art, especially that of the nativity, withoug seeing a glow around everyone involved. Even the sheep sometimes have a glow around their heads.
Yet all my experience with human beings leads me to believe that Mary and Joseph may not have been the most pleasant people to be around during that night. I believe them to be very important, just, and above all else obedient saints whose contribution to the history of the world cannot be diminished. But I've seen video of women in labor. Even in sterile, anasthetized environment, chaos is usually involved.
Oh, and I've also worked the front desk of a hotel. Even the holiest followers of Christ become rough around the edges when denied a room.
I imagine there was a lot of screaming, anger, and doubt swirling around that stable out in the fields that night. And yet I still believe it to have been a holy night. The very humanity of it is what glows to me. The fact that God subjected himself to the fear and discomfort a newborn feels at the first pangs of hunger, this makes the night spiritual. The very power that created the universe, being nursed to strength and health by one he created, this is something special.