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Christmas Day, 2017 — 25 Dec 17

Christmas Day, 2017

RCL Christmas Day 3
Isaiah 52:7-10; Psalm 98; Hebrews 1:1-4; Saint John 1:1-14

“He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word.”[1]

This Christmas morning, now that the preliminary services are over, and quietness reigns, let us simply enjoy the sheer grace of the mystery of the Word who was made flesh and dwelt among us. Let us remind ourselves that his presence brings us peace. “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace.”[2] Many Christmas cards this year had the word Peace.

The beautiful beginning of St. John’s Gospel which we proclaimed this morning says that the Babe in the manger is the man who made the world. The Babe is the Word, who is God, who made everything that is, gives it form and order, infuses the entire cosmos with his wisdom and goodness. The Babe is the Word who is the true light and life of every human being. For the peace we all yearn to have comes from the maker and sustainer of all things. That peace comes from the Babe in the Manger whose very goodness and mercy withholds nothing that we truly need.

In his time, in his good time, we shall have peace. In his time, in his good time, we shall finally understand his purpose in coming among us: to all who receive him, who believe in his name, are given power to become children of God. In his time, in his good time, we shall have the peace we need, the peace foretold by the prophet Isaiah when he prophesied: “For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed, says the Lord, who has compassion on you.”[3]

[1] Hebrews 1:3.

[2] Isaiah 52:7.

[3] Isaiah 54:10.

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Christmas Eve, 2017 — 24 Dec 17

Christmas Eve, 2017

RCL Christmas Day 2
Isaiah 62:6-12, Psalm 97, Titus 3:4-7, Saint Luke 2:1-20

These late services on cold nights are for hearty, thick-blooded people. And, whoever you are, and whatever you’ve done, we welcome you. We give you, we try to give you, the welcome Christ himself would give you.

You have to have a yearning in you, you have to have a burning in your heart to come out on a night like this. And knowing this to be true, I remember Jesus’ questions to crowds, questions about John the Baptist. You remember how Jesus asks: “What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see?”[1]

I want to ask the same question of you, all of you, who braved the cold, who came out in it, whose hearts are aflame, and who have run the risk of letting me and the world know that you want to be here. Some of you left families to be here. Some of you left your work early to get ready and to be here. Some of you pushed yourselves away from Christmas celebrations, eating and drinking, to be here.

What did you come out in the cold to see? A baby wrapped in bands of cloth, as the Gospel says? What did you come out to see?

Did you come out to hear the old, old, story, some say the greatest story ever told? About the tax, and the inn with no room, the family about to give birth? The shepherds and the angels? Did you come out to get in touch with the past, to remember what Christmas was like when you were a child or when you were just a young adult and could stay out without getting into trouble? Is that what brought you out tonight?

I’ll be frank with you. I don’t think the old, old story, the family and the inn without room, the shepherds and the angels, would match the yearning, the burning, in your hearts. It’s going to take more than that to satisfy you. It’s going to take more than a baby wrapped in bands of cloth to bring you and to bring me out on a winter’s night.

If you didn’t come out to see the past, the old, old, story, maybe you came out to see the future. We all know that a few days away, a new year awaits to be born. It’s just around the corner. But I’m not talking about it only. I’m talking about you. Maybe you came out tonight to see your future, who you are, who you really are, when God’s love shines on you. Maybe you came out tonight to see who you can become when you let God enter your life. Maybe you came out to see who you are in God’s eyes whether you are important to him. Maybe you came out to see what God bought you for Christmas. None of you has come out in vain, because all of that is here.

The old, old story is here. The baby is here. We wouldn’t think of reading and telling anything else. But that old, old story really is about you. That baby is Emanuel, God with you. That baby is about you because that baby is your flesh and your blood. That baby is about what you will become when God’s love shines on you and melts away the world, melts away everything that hinders you from being what God created you to be. And so, tonight, you see the future. Not the next year, or the next decade, or the next century, or even the next millennium. You see yourself born again, born of the Spirit of God, born with nothing to hold you back, born again with God’s infinite love to sustain you, with God’s very arms to carry you. That is God’s Christmas present to you, wrapped beautifully and sitting under Good Shepherd’s Tree. It’s in the package of the Sacrament, disguised as Bread and Wine.

What I speak to you about is more than a second chance. I speak about you remade, you born again, you restored to fullness of life as you were intended to be. That is what you are yearning to know and to be. That is why we are here, because God became one of us, so we might become one with him.

I discover that people will endure a lot and give up a lot for that to be true in their lives. But I also discover that God knows how much we will do to find meaning and purpose for our lives. God knows before we know what we need. We may not even know the words to say. We may only have a vague yearning in our hearts that drives us out on a winter’s night. But God knows, and God gives us what we need. God gives us his very self.

[1] Saint Luke 7:24 and 25a.

Advent 4, 2017 —

Advent 4, 2017

RCL Year B Advent 4
II Samuel 7:1-11 and 16, Psalm 89:1-4 and 19-26, Romans 16:25-27, Saint Luke 1:26-38

I know big churches in big cities that are canceling services for this morning, when Advent 4 runs into Christmas Eve. But we’re not doing that here. It isn’t because we’re conducting services to try your patience. It is because today’s Gospel is a big part of the big story.

Today, the Blessed Virgin Mary sets the example for us all. She agrees with God’s call to her to bring “the Son of the Most High”[1] into the world. That’s a big part of the story, a story that is as big as God. She does it with grace and with charm. She does it eagerly when she says “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”[2] She brings Christ into the world joyfully and gracefully.

Think about that, for that is our calling as Christians. We are to make sure that situations which have him not, that people who know him not, that moments in our lives which have him not, have him present. Bringing Christ into the world is our care and our joy not just in this season but in every season of our lives. You will not have to look far or to walk a great distance before you see that person or that situation which yearns for Christ. You can call that your Christmas Moment, the moment just before the Baby comes, the moment given to you right out of the blue to do what Our Lady did—to bring Christ into the world. And today’s Gospel reminds us just how that’s done and just how humanly possible it is to bring Christ into the world. You do it by saying “Yes” to God, by being obedient to his call and to his will, for his will is to be present with us, not for a moment only but for all our lives and into eternity.

This is a big part of a big story. Set your heart to do what Our Lady did, and bring Christ where he’s needed. Make use of every Christmas Moment, just as she did, and see what happens when God finds a new home. See if what happens to you isn’t rather like what happens to the speaker who does the same thing in a verse of our Psalm: “My faithfulness and love shall be with him, * and he shall be victorious through my Name.”[3]

[1] Saint Luke 1:32.

[2] Saint Luke 1:38.

[3] Psalm 89:24.

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