CHRISTMAS EVE Sermon, December 24, 2017
2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16; Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26; Romans 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38
There was no recording for this sermon.
The day is here – we are gathered as a community of faith – gathered to worship God on this holy evening — 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.
At the heart of the Christmas celebration is the birth of a baby – a certain baby whose life, ministry, and message will bring new life to the world and offer new paradigms for us to consider.
We’ve heard Luke’s nativity gospel countless times. It’s a story about Joseph and Mary having to travel to register. “In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered.
This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. What strikes me is that the events Luke describes seem incredibly small. Does Emperor Augustus or Governor Quirinius really care about a pregnant teenager or wandering shepherds?
The reality is that Luke’s story of the birth of Jesus begins with a display of raw power. A poor young couple, the girl is pregnant, is forced to travel. Their nation has long been occupied by a foreign power, and their hand has been forced.
Mary, Joseph, and the rest – these folks are so incredibly small compared to those rulers. And yet the events Luke describes in detail are going to change the whole world.
It’s an audacious claim, when you think about it: that the birth of a baby to an unwed teen amid the squalor of an unimportant town could possibly matter.
Tonight, the Church dispersed throughout the world gathers in vigil and prayer, emerging from weeks of expectant and hope-filled Advent waiting. The faithful do what Christians have done for millennia—singing joyful songs and carols, praying prayers of thanksgiving, and hearing again the age-old story from Bethlehem. God’s incarnate Son, born this night, bringing peace, joy, and love into the world!
We sing our songs and say our prayers and tell our stories, and we are assured that since that marvelous night all those years ago in which God came down to Earth and took on our humanity, our universe—our very existence—has been changed forever! But once our singing and praying and storytelling is over tonight, we’ll all go home. Although many will continue the Christmas celebration in the coming days, eventually, business-as-usual will return. The Christmas decorations will come down, the cards will get recycled, and all of that delicious food will get eaten.
And then, reality sets in.
Wars still rage, violence still plagues our streets, hunger, poverty and drug addiction still ravage our communities, and atrocities are still committed by supposed people of faith.
Christ’s coming as a child in Bethlehem, his life and ministry on earth, and even his death on a cross at Calvary, are only the beginning of the great drama of our life as faithful servants of the Most High God
While we gather here to remember the birth of Christ, recalling stables and angels and shepherds, let us leave this place knowing that Christ’s birth is not the end of the story…
If we truly want to live Christmas, then the birth of Christ must take place within us.
But first, we must create a place within our hearts for Christ to dwell. For as long as we cling tightly to our wealth or our status or our power or anything that re-enforces the misguided notion that we can somehow save ourselves, there is no place for Christ.
No, it is only when we do as the Blessed Mother did and surrender ourselves to a strength that is not our own—a strength that works in us and shines through us, bringing the bright light of God’s love to the desperate and waiting world!
So what will your story be?
Will it be one of forgiveness?
Perhaps a story of generosity.
Maybe a story of hope.
The story of Christmas is the story of God, wanting so much to reach us, and being willing to be born to us as a small child of humble means. God, pained by the darkness of the world – a darkness we had created ourselves – sought to send us a message – not of anger, or judgment, or anything of the sort.
God wanted us to know that we are loved – deeply loved beyond all comprehension. So God came to us in this way – into the lives of people like Joseph and Mary, people of humble means, not riches, living at a time of darkness and fear. God entered into the lives of the marginalized and the poor, like the shepherds who were the first to receive the good news.
Whatever and wherever it is, may you find a place in your heart so that Christ can be born in you this Christmas; and may you share the miracle of Christ’s birth with all whom you meet.
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