“While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” Luke 2:6-7

A couple years ago, a friend of mine began her Christmas eve sermon with “it was a night like any other, and yet it was a night unlike any we could have planned”. Those words feel more true this year than ever before. In some ways this holiday season has felt  familiar with its decorations, advent wreaths and carols on the radio, and yet we all have lived through 2020 and know that this season is unlike any other year, and this Christmas Eve is unlike any other night.

And how fitting for this story of the birth of the Christ child. Jesus coming into the world as an infant was not what was expected, it was not what the world had hoped for, and yet it is exactly what was needed. The world wanted Jesus to be a great ruler, one who would arrive with strength, power, and glory. But instead, Jesus came into the world with vulnerability, compassion, and hope. He was born and laid in a feed trough for animals, and surrounded by shepherds and angels alike. Jesus coming into the world, as a vision of hope and patience. He arrives not how we expect, but exactly as we need.

This night is not what we had expected, but it is challenging, hopeful, and everything that we didn’t know we needed. As we light the Christ candle tonight on our Advent wreaths, whether they be tangible or virtual, we see this candle surrounded by the lights of hope, peace, joy, and love. The things we didn’t expect this year, but the exact things we needed. With this, we welcome the Christ child, Emmanuel, God with us. God who has walked this unexpected year with us, and continues to move in our lives in unexpected ways. Even on this night, just like any other night, and unlike any night we could have planned. God is with us, bringing hope, peace, joy, and love. Not how we expected, but exactly how we need.