Saint Mary’s Anglican Church
Christmas Eve 2004
Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas! Have you heard that much this year? I think I heard it first a few weeks ago, but it was October when I first saw some red and green displays showing themselves at Big W: and then there was a small mountain of red and green coca-cola six packs and I knew it was on the way. Merry Christmas. It is usual, expected this time of year, like part of the family; the greeting, the day, the feast, happens every year, and we forget how very odd it all is, how strange. The surprising child so far away, the shepherds in the field, terrified to see that what they thought was far off, was coming closer, magnified in their eyes and ears. “For to us today is born is born a savior…” Even without the foreigners coming along with gifts in a few days, it is a very foreign story.
These days we generally don’t seek a savior, though most days we do the best we can with what’s out there, and that is important. We do what we can; cobbling together an identity from need and custom, mixing memory and desire to meet the marketplace, minimizing the pains that come. We take up the daily tasks, watch the news, get along. And usually avoid the fleeting feeling that we’ve missed the train for some important event along the way, not seen the sign or taken the turn, and the billboards along side seem diverting enough while we speed on our way.
But then, sometimes, someone or something comes along from the deeper realm of birth and death, and we remember that our views and vocabulary are made up, choices that we’ve agreed to most days; to be certain ways, to see certain things. And we remember that we see only what we look for, and maybe we haven’t looked far enough or close enough lately.
So, how can we learn to see farther, how can we come to see closer? I think this child, this baby Jesus, is a kind of lens enabling us to see farther and closer. The chance of this child makes us focus, clears our sight for a moment, to look out on a world that may be much bigger then we know, may be more full of intent and information than we’ve ever supposed. The birth of this child can sometime make us wonder if the universe is both much larger and more intimate than we’ve expected. It is a surprise.
Yet there have always been hints and guesses that this might be so. From both the new science and the old poetry, wisdom speaks across tradition and time, that love might have a human face, that justice may prevail and warring factions finally lay down their weapons and find peace, that the meek will be blessed, the lost will be found. And hearing all these ancient echoes across time, we do occasionally glance around, in these busy times, to see if a new revelation might be born.
Mary takes that chance – if we listen to the story: a teen-aged woman in first-century Palestine, with her assured future along the common way, hears an angel, messenger of heaven, very foreign, proclaim that newborn truth could come from somewhere else, and become flesh of her flesh, beyond belief, virgin-born life. And she says Yes to that inconceivable possibility: and gives her future, her ascent, her life towards that new life,
Can we take that chance? When the world is so crowded with noise and news and necessity, can we take the chance that a true new love can come to us here and now, that each of us, every one of us might serve as messengers, birth-givers, seed bearers, mothering some unknown merciful truth to be born in the middle of here and now? What if that light did dawn for us tonight? What if?
Listen: we are here to sing the songs, pray the prayers, remember the story, take the broken bread and wine of the savior into our own bodies and blood, and consider this: that the creator of the whole shebang has come here into the very middle of everything, as newborn, self-giving love, as interconnected relationship which is wanting to be known, lived into, lived out. The kingdom of heaven has come among us, close as seed and breath, light, sight, soul. What can we say in response, how do we live with this?
Can we will to stay with this story? It is not easy, will mean both death and birth for us. Paradoxically, it is both painful yet full of promise: to live with the contradiction of infinity and fragility, history and hope, Can we be present to the timeless one coming into the world just in time to meet our long list of demands with a simple story of love and acceptance, and an assurance that no one and nothing will be lost at the end. Is that possibility enough for us to begin to take up that task and that discipline now?
For tonight it is Christmas Eve, when we remember his birth. And some kind of window is open; the light comes through, a connection is being made. In the midst of a tradition where much is superfluous, archaic, irrelevant, dying; there is something alive, newborn, waiting to be lived, not only in Bethlehem but here and now, in you and me. Take the chance, it says, that the Creator of all has come closer, deeper into all creation, waiting to be known, to be present, as newborn love. Can we take this up? It will take time, discipline, thought and action. But if it happened once, can it happen here? Can that creative love take form and direction, heart and breath, flesh and blood again? Can we enter into mystery and faith in this noisy age and let this hope be born again so that a new and enduring love may live in our own lives, in our own world?
There is no program for this seeing; it is only given. But in this moment, and in the moments that follow in this holy season; may we keep our eyes open, our hearts clear, our wills ready, so that we may take up our part in bringing the reality of that child we remember today to the midst of the world he waits to serve.