painting showing presentation of Jesus with Simeon and Anna
Presentation of the infant Jesus, who is looking very mature and well-behaved

[A liturgical note: Technically, when Christmas Eve is on a Sunday, and Christmas is on a Monday, we end up with no Sundays for Christmas. Technically, today is Epiphany, or rather, the Sunday before Epiphany, which is January 6. “January 7 through January 13, inclusive” is set aside for Baptism of the Lord. Then we fill in with Ordinary Time until Lent. But our little church had a Sunday of Christmas today, and is going to have Epiphany (or maybe, the First Sunday after Epiphany lol) next week. Presumably we will go ahead and have Baptism of the Lord and just cut into Ordinary Time. So far I haven’t heard of any complaints. That’s not a guarantee there aren’t or won’t be any. As one of my seminary professors said, “Worship is the most neuralgic place in the community.” Still, it definitely feels easier to lose a Sunday of Ordinary Time than a Sunday of Christmas.]

This morning we thought about what it would mean for Jesus to be “a real baby,” a real boy, a real infant, a real toddler, a real four-year-old. Did infant Jesus get wiggly and fussy? Did three-year-old Jesus ever run or squeal in the Temple? Did four-year-old Jesus say the Aramaic equivalent of “you’re not the boss of me” to his mom? It makes you laugh. But being “perfect” and “sinless” and all of that, our pastor reminded us, isn’t about not being real. And following all the rules isn’t identical with being good; it depends on whose rules they are, and on what those rules have to do with love.

This incarnation story that begins, in some sense, on Christmas is one in which God breaks all the boundaries between humanity and divinity, earth and heaven, for love. Jesus’ life breaks all the boundaries, by loving “out of bounds.” He cares about people he isn’t “supposed to” care about, he up-ends the social conventions of his time, touches sick people, “hosts a dinner and washes all the guests’ feet,” and in the end even breaks the hitherto firm boundary between life and death.

[In other words, not the sort of person, or God, who would put the liturgical calendar before letting people enjoy the Christmas decorations … and having a little longer to reflect on the nativity. As if more time were all we needed.]