Silent night holy night, all is calm, all is bright and it’s a hard night to preach. It’s a big night and everyone has different expectations. The night is difficult because it is A night of poles not north and south but joy and sadness. It’s a time when people’s families come in and gather together. Kids wait all year for this night. I remember our traditions at my grandparents. We would have the same food every year, everyone would bring the same stuff, cherry pound cake, sausage balls, ham. We would start eating and wait for my dad to come in from UPS. Me and my two cousins would drive everyone crazy about opening gifts. To this day, if I admit it, I still feel that excitement. We would finally settle in the living room, a room only really used at Christmas and we would start passing out and opening gifts. There was always a little time pressure because we would need to head out to candlelight service. My cousin and I would always go through the used up Christmas paper rolls and sword fight until they were shredded. So we would make plans for the next day and head to church. I would get home and head to bed and worry that I would never be able to get to sleep. But those traditions have changed. There are people that are missing. My brother, my grandparents, my mom. My family is not out of the ordinary. I think every family and most people can relate to the prevalent mix of joy and sadness. Mental health professionals call Christmas one of the trigger days. When we lose someone that we love, several days will never be exactly the same again. Their birthday, the day they died, an Anniversary and Christmas. These days trigger a multitude of memories, good and bad and we find ourselves in a very confusing state, experiencing joy and sadness together. It hurts. It hurts to remember but I wouldn’t trade a million dollars for the joy I also feel from reminiscing. I spent some time thinking about experiencing these emotions together and I figured the French or Germans would have a really impressive word for it, but I was disappointed. But as I looked though I found something really interesting and helpful. I found something that touched me deeply and created a connection to my feelings and to the feelings of another. Stacie McLauchlan lost her son Ian to suicide on may 8, 2017. She has started a movement called Live Hard in his honor and memory. I found her blog in my search and it was titled SIMULTANEOUS SADNESS AND JOY she writes: “Lately I have retreated deeper into isolation than I have since Ian died. I haven’t actually taken the time to understand why. I think I just accept how I am feeling in the moment. As a society we are so quick to label everything, aren’t we? We all label race, gender, ethnicity and toss identities into buckets like sorting out legos and matchbox cars. So why wouldn’t I sort my joy and grief the same way? It’s bull. I am discovering how I can feel immense joy and gratitude but also feel so sad at the same time. If you take the time to talk to me, and I hope you will, you will experience me vacillating between tears and laughter within the same breath. You will see on my face such delight and pride when I share with you all of the hopes and dreams that I still have for myself and my family. But you’ll have to help me dry each falling tear when my breath is gone the moment I realize that Ian won’t be a part of that future. Its feels like a hurricane to me and I worry that my open display of emotion will be jarring to anyone sitting in front of me. What I am experiencing is that I feel sadness and joy at the same time, in the same moment, and I don’t always know what to do or how I should behave without looking a little crazy to the casual connection. What I need, what we all crave is connection. What I choose to do without is casual. What’s needed is to get to the meat of who we are and how we connect. Who the heck wants casual these days anyway?” End quote. This is what brings us to this night. Connection. Intersection. Let’s stop and truly think about what this night is all about. God stopped and laid aside power and majesty. Mary and Joseph were in Joseph’s hometown and the people of that time and place had an obligation to hospitality, but for some reason (most likely Mary’s difficult to explain premarital pregnancy) there was no room for them. God shows up here on this earth and no one notices except the shepherds, there at the bottom rung of society. God shows up and he cries out in the night for connection. An infant screaming into the blackness, the flicker of light that began to dispel the darkness because the yoke of our burden, and the bar across our shoulders, the rod of our oppressor, has been broken. “For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire. For a child has been born for us, a son given to us.” God became one of us, seeking, desiring with all of God’s heart Connection, connection with a rejected young girl and a connection with all of humanity. He saw what an enormous chasm lay between us, so he came to LIVE HARD. In our world, we have never been more supposedly “connected” to one another through cellular technology, the internet and social media, however, studies show that we have never felt more isolated and lonely. God entered that loneliness, darkness and rejection, experiencing it first hand, the hard way, one of us. With that he brought HOPE, a promise that he would be connected to each and every one of us and that no one would ultimately be alone. His choice to be with us, Emmanuel, empowers and propels us to respond and reach out, to connect, to love, to scream and fight against the darkness and bring light. So given our mission, why in a world with just over 2 billion people that identify as Christians would there be a 14 year old that is lonely to the point of self harm? Brenne Brown writes, “The silence our kids find themselves in allows them to construct their own stories – stories that almost always cast them as alone and unworthy of real love and belonging and truth that becomes connection.” End quote. If you think about it, this night wasn’t silent at all. An army of angels were singing, animals were lowing, a young woman was giving birth for the first time and a baby was crying in an overcrowded town. We so often equate silence with reverence, but we can be silent no more. We must lift our voices to one another until the darkness and silence thunders with the sound of God’s presence. In the Bible Esther struggled with fear and doubt in taking the risk and coming to action for her people and her uncle told her, “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you were born for such a time as this?” I want to echo his words. Each one of us was born at this time and this place for a reason….this reason, to dispel the darkness and not just to proclaim love, justice, salvation but to live by loving, being just and demanding justice and to connect. We must quit hardly living and live hard. I began by reflecting on Christmas memories, memories that bring joy and sadness, darkness and light. On this night it is my hope that you will see and experience the connection God has with you, a connection begun on this night and brought to completion in Christ’s death and resurrection. That it will shatter the silence and pierce the darkness, that in response we will reach out and connect with one another to be that shout, that wonderful sound and be that brilliant light, to embrace and remember with that hurting mother, and to let that 14 year old know that they are not alone. You were born for it. Martin Luther once said, “God does not need your good works, your neighbor does. When we share connections through Christ’s love the sadness part of memories doesn’t reside in darkness, but in hope. So let us go from here and reach out. Share the Gospel and share ourselves and bring Joy to the world.