Christmas Day, December 25, 2018
Year C, Christmas Day: Isaiah 62:6-12; Psalm 97; Titus 3:4-74; Luke 2:[1-7], 8-20
There was no recording of this sermon.
The day is here – and we are gathered as a community of faith – gathered to worship God on this holy day — gathered around God’s table to partake of the Sacrament that reminds us of Christ’s love for us and for all who will follow this baby born in a manger.
As we gather, I ask each of us to ponder this question – what does Christmas mean to us?
For some Christmas toys and candy and gifts. That vision of Christmas can excite us, the children among us and the child within us.
For others Christmas means shopping – getting gifts to give – picking out a “perfect gift”.
For others it means family gatherings and good times together.
For others, Christmas is a time of sorrow, which is why many churches offer “Blue Christmas” or “A Service of the Longest Night”.
What does Christmas mean to you?
Christmas at its very core is a celebration of God’s love – and the wonderful fact that God has come into our world through Christ. Christ brought that light into the world two thousand years ago and continues to bring that light into our world.
Sometimes it’s hard to let God embrace us or for us to embrace God. But Christmas is a celebration of God’s coming into our lives through Jesus Christ – of allowing God and this baby, born of unsure circumstances, into our lives.
The coming of God into our world through Christ tells us a lot about God.
How does God come into our world today?
Well, here’s a story that’s a bit old, over twenty years, but in the context of our world today, I think it still resonates. It was published in the Philadelphia Daily News in 1996 and it speaks to the real meaning of Christmas and how Jesus comes among us through people and events in their lives.
“This holiday season, I paused to evaluate my values, beliefs and supposed good deeds.
I have always considered myself a good person, evidenced my commitment to social justice, donations to charity, history of volunteer service and constant prayer for those less fortunate.
Why, just the previous week, I had written a check to a favorite charity in memory of my parents. Let no one tell me I don’t know the true meaning of Christmas!
It was now acceptable to turn my focus on this December morning. My car had been delivered to the detailing center to ensure its shiny look for the holiday. Walking briskly towards my office, I mentally ticked off the last-minute details.
What last gifts would make my holiday giving complete? Should I buy my grandmother the telephone I had seen the day before? Did I have enough wrapping paper? Would I get out of work early on Christmas Eve, so I could start the pork roast, serve dinner and be in church by 9:30 p.m.? How long would it take to stop at Weight Watchers and still be on time to celebrate a pre-Christmas birthday with my friends’ 93-year-old aunt?
As I worried about these matters, I sidestepped a woman who was struggling with a girl about 8 years old and three large trash bags. Rather than offer my assistance, I walked to the side.
Jolting me back to reality was the sound of another human being. A man stopped and asked, ‘Where d’ya have to go with that, sweetheart?’ She thanked him and told him she needed to get to the city’s Office of Emergency Services, to seek, I presume, shelter for herself and her daughter. The gentleman then kindly picked up a bag from the mother and the bag from the girl and proceeded to walk up the street, carrying what were probably all their worldly goods.
At that moment, Christmas became real once again. No more trees to trim, no more gifts to buy, only an act of kindness by a stranger toward another who had no shelter, no place to sleep during this most holy season. I saw the baby Jesus incarnate within that little girl, and Joseph and Mary walking toward the manger.
I had forgotten the true meaning of Christmas that morning. How often we become wrapped up in ourselves and forget the true meaning of the season. For the New Year, I seek the courage and strength to offer my gifts to that stranger and to practice random acts of kindness. How can I expect others to offer what I have myself not offered?”
Your rector is not exactly proud to admit that she is the author of that letter. Yet, it provided a moment of grace to remember that Christmas is about the offering of God’s love to us, and our offering of God’s love to the world around us. Today, we are minded again of the wonderful news that God came into our world through Christ two thousand years ago and continues to bring that light into our world.
Even in the midst of the tragedies of our lives – the times when things seem to be the lowest they can be – times when we are fearful – time of economic instability and political upheaval – even in all these times and despite all these things – God has come – Christ has been born. God came in Philadelphia that cold winter day in the voice of a man saying “where d’ya have to go with that, sweetheart.”
As we come around the table this morning to celebrate the Christmas feast, we celebrate the fact that God comes to make a difference in this world. And we can find Jesus in the most unexpected of places – in the face of an unknown homeless person or in the face of those dearest to us.
The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is that He, the Son of God, has so much light and love to give the world that they could not be overcome by the darkness. Therefore, we sing this Christmas, at all times and in all places. The darkness has not extinguished the light and our songs will echo through all eternity.”
Thanks be to God!
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