The Rector’s Christmas Sermon 2016
+ IN the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us. God’s plan of salvation came to us in the flesh and blood, and it had happened all as it was foretold by the prophets of old. And in the field, the angels told the great tidings of Joy to the shepherds, who on seeing the child glorified God. But Mary pondered these things in her heart.
And indeed, we come together this evening, in the midst of the darkness of the world, metaphorical and literal, to join the Blessed Virgin Mother and to ponder these things in our hearts.
My thoughts this year have been, throughout our season of Advent, focused on the future. And throughout that season of Advent, I repeated said that our time of preparation is not so much about what God has done in the past, but what God has in store for us in our future.
But, what I haven’t said much about, really, is that future. So what is it exactly that God has in store for us? Well, tonight on this night, we discover what it is.
And the way we discover it, is by going with the Shepherds, to that manger, peering in, and looking in to the face of Jesus. And if we, like the Blessed Mother, look with our hearts long enough into that face, we might just begin to realize, that there, in that manger, IS our future, God’s Future, God’s plan for you and for me.
Christmas is for me, a time when a little sentimental feeling should be allowed. Normally, religion based on emotions and sentiments will only get you so far. But on this night, I can’t help but feel nostalgic for the place where I grew up as we sing the hymn “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” The words of that hymn nearly always bring tears to my eyes.
For me, the images of which that hymn speaks, that the greatest event which has ever happened in the history of the universe since its creation – namely that God has descended and taken our flesh up on himself in order to begin the mission of Saving us from ourselves – happened in such a way that, if it were happening even now, in this very town of Warrensburg, even next door, we might miss it. The birth of the Savior would go unnoticed. How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given!
In that little town of Bethlehem, so still, and quiet, the stars running their course as they do each and every night, something from beyond this world was breaking in. It was the light, a light shining in the streets, an everlasting light. One in which all our fears are ended, and in whom all our hopes are met. It is that line that got me thinking of what I wanted to say tonight. “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”
In the course of our lives, we pin our hopes, our futures, on many things which, on looking back, seem pretty trivial now, though at the time, they were the source of much anxiety, and fear. In school, perhaps it was passing that exam, and then making a good impression and getting that Job, and then keeping that boss happy, and getting that good review so we could get that promotion or that raise, so we could save a few extra dollars, so we could buy that shiny new thing or go to that new place we had never been before. It was that shiny new thing, or that new place, which we hoped would entertain us, distract us, placate us, so that we would be distracted from the worries that hounded us. And then the cycle would repeat itself all over again.
Sometimes, those things we pin our hopes on fail us, utterly and completely. The job we didn’t get. The relationship we couldn’t fix. The doctors who couldn’t figure it out. It hurt us terribly. We’re not yet completely recovered from it. We don’t understand it. We’ve perhaps only begun to realize that we put our hopes in the wrong place.
Tonight, we go to the manger, to Bethlehem, with the Shepherds, and we ponder in our hearts, along with the Blessed Mother, these things which have come to pass in our lives.
And if we look long enough into that face, we’ll begin to see the one in whom we can place our hope, in whom all our fears are vanquished in whom all darkness is cast out, whom no amount of darkness could ever overcome. And so, God imparts to human hearts, the blessings of his heaven.
More than all the activities of the world, that’s what Christmas is about. Its about pondering in our hearts the truth of what God has done for you and for me in the event we celebrate. And its about receiving the Word, fresh and anew. Its about setting aside our world focus, and pinning all our hopes on him, so that, knowing him to have never forsaken us, our fears shall find their end in him. It’s about knowing that where meek souls will receive him still, the Christ Child enters in.
On this holy night, we have come, to worship the one who saves us from death. And it all happened, or rather started, while the world slept, and the stars ran their courses.
O Holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray; cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today. We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell; O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!