my miscellany

Christmas Day, 2018 — 25 Dec 18

Christmas Day, 2018

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.

Christmas Eve, 2018 — 24 Dec 18

Christmas Eve, 2018

RCL Christmas Day 2 (with the Gospel of Christmas Day 1 and 2)
Isaiah 62:6-12, Psalm 97, Titus 3:4-7, Saint Luke 2:1-20

You have come out on a winter’s night to hear the old story once again, the story of the emperor’s decree, of Mary and Joseph, and, of course, the baby, along with the poor shepherds and the glorious angels. And if you are like me, you cannot understand it too well. You know it contains the meaning of our lives, of the lives of all of us. And with humility, tonight I want to share with you what the old story means to me. The key to the old story you may find in the Epistle:

 “This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”[1]

Just about two weeks ago, a fine woman, a grandmother, told me in front of her husband that Christmas is about the children, their wonder and their joy. Her husband quickly added, “What about me?” And, as fine as she is, he’s right. The old story is about every one of us, no exceptions.

Let’s start at the beginning.  The main word at Christmas is incarnation.  And the incarnation is God taking on human flesh. That is what the baby did, and that is who the baby is.

Christmas means incarnation, and incarnation means that God, by becoming one of us, endeavors to save every one of us, and he will do it graciously, one by one, loving us, taking pains over us (the pain of the cross), in order to bring us back to him.

The incarnation means that there is no such thing as a human life, no matter how helpless, or poor, or unwanted, or rejected, no such thing as a human life that is not worth living.

The incarnation means that every single one of us has an eternal destiny and appointment with God our maker and savior.  It means that every day of our lives is full of significance, is full of meaning, that every moment of our time on this earth is an occasion of providence and an opportunity for grace.

For that is what you heard in the Epistle. The old story means that you and I are eligible through the ministry of Jesus Christ to “become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

Why shouldn’t it happen to you and to me?  We were not made to be left out in the cold.  We were made to take our place alongside the Holy Family, Mary and Joseph, and the Shepherds who come in from the cold to be warmed, to be transformed, into Christ’s people, to be made Christians in the fullest sense of the word.  Christmas means that human flesh, not only of children but also the flesh of people of all ages, the flesh that drapes your bones, has been taken into the Divine Life. We have hope, solid hope, of eternal life.

The old story means all of these things, but in humility I say to you that you may discover its particular meaning to you. Follow the baby wherever he leads you. Follow him in his light and in his love.

[1] Titus 3:6-7.

Advent 3, 2018 — 16 Dec 18

Advent 3, 2018

RCL Year C Advent 3
Zephaniah 3:14-20, Canticle 9, Philippians 4:4-7, Saint Luke 3:7-18

If you look at the nineteenth chapter of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, you will find Saint Paul traveling from Corinth to Ephesus where he finds followers of Saint John the Baptist. He asks them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?” “No,” they replied, “we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” Paul says, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.” At last, Saint Paul baptizes them in the name of the Lord Jesus, and then he lays hands on them whereupon the Holy Spirit comes upon them.[1] And we have the pattern of Baptism and Confirmation that exists in the Episcopal Church to this day.

I draw your attention to this to amplify the Gospel today. While it is clear that John prepares the way for Jesus, he has a distinctive message that prepares the way for Jesus. He tells the crowds that follow him that whoever has two coats must share with those who have none. He tells tax collectors to collect no more than the amount prescribed. He tells soldiers not to extort money from anyone and to be satisfied with their wages. In short, John demands an ethical and a moral conversion that readies people for the salvation that Jesus later will bring. Giving up extortion, blackmail, and greediness opens people up to receive the kingdom that Jesus brings and preaches.

The line between John’s ethic and Jesus’ salvation remains very fine. One is not the other, and this Advent I am pondering the relationship of the two. I am pondering the progress from John’s ethic to receiving Jesus as our Lord and Savior. I am suggesting to you that if you want to receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior that you will first put behind you the slavery to sin and wrongdoing that itself keeps you away from seeing the face of Jesus. John the forerunner and Jesus the Savior have set this progression as the road we are to travel.

As you make your way to the crib, as you ask God that Jesus be born in your heart, do not forget the journey that lies before you. And do not forget the loving and encouraging arms awaiting you.

[1] Acts 19:1-6.

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