Sunday, January 13, 2019

Baptism of Our Lord


January 13, 2019

Luke 3.15-17, 21-22


+ I know it’s not something we want to hear about today, on this bitterly, bitterly cold morning. In fact, just thinking about it makes us even colder. But there’s no getting around it.

If there’s a theme for this Sunday it’s…

Water.

And it’s a very good thing to be considering. It is probably the natural element we most take for granted. And yet it is one of our most vital.

We depend upon water.

It nourishes us.

It cleans us.

It delights us.

In our Western society, we take for granted the fact that our water is clean.  In other parts of the world, water isn’t so clean. In other parts of the world, water sometimes is a source of illness. In some parts of the world they have little idea of the luxury of something like cold water—or even ice for that matter.  

As we’ve known here in this part of the country over the years, water can also be a destructive force when it comes to the matter of floods. Water, as vital as it is, can also destroy. It can destroy property, hopes, dreams and even lives.

For us, as Christians, water truly is the source of our spiritual lives.  Throughout Scripture, we find ourselves nourished by and reminded of the importance of water.  The authors of our scriptures, coming as they did from such an arid place as the Middle East, no doubt appreciated water in ways we don’t. And that appreciation certainly affected their spirituality.

Certainly, we find the image of water returning again and again in scripture. Each time Scripture references water, it does so as a source of life, as a source of renewal, as a source of God’s saving grace—even in the instance of Noah’s flood.  Water is important to us as humans. And it is important to us as Christians.

In today’s Gospel reading, we find probably the most profound expression of how important water is to us as Christians. We find that first great example being set. As Jesus comes out of those waters, as the Spirit, like a dove, descends upon him, he hears the words from God:

“You are my Son, my Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

Here the standard is set. Here the breakthrough has happened. From now on, this is essentially what has been spoken to each of us at our own baptisms:

“You are my child, my Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

For most of us, we have no doubt taken for granted our baptisms, much as we have taken for granted water itself. We have viewed baptism as no more than a christening service for babies—a kind of dedication ceremony.  Baptism is, obviously, much, much more than that.

As you hear me say again and again, baptism is THE defining moment in our lives as Christians.  Whether we remember the event or not, it was the moment when our lives changed. It was the moment we became new. It was, truly, our second birth.

When some Christians ask you, “Have you been born again?” you can tell them in no uncertain terms: “Oh, yes I have actually!” You can, “I was reborn in the waters of life and marked as Christ’s own forever on the day of my baptism.”

But even that doesn’t truly convey what baptism is for us. What happened to Jesus in those waters, happened to us as well. In the waters of our baptism, we were reborn as children of our loving and caring God.  We became what was Jesus is. We became children of God.  We can, from the very moment of our baptism, trace our relation with God our Parent—the God who recognizes us and loves us and accepts us and embraces us. I have preached this so much over the years about this, but because of this relationship formed in our baptism, our own baptisms are important to us.

Yesterday, we baptized Briar and Harlen Stears, grandchildren of Kris and Kip Vossler. It was a beautiful baptism.  It was a morning of happiness of and joy. But it was also an immensely important day in the life of those children.

So, why the importance of this one single event?  Well, the bond that is made at baptism is one that truly can never be broken. That relationship that was formed with God in those waters is eternal.  In baptism, we truly do  become God’s child.    

For ever.

We becomes God’s own Beloved.  It is a bond that can never be broken. We can try to break it as we please. We can struggle under that bond. We can squirm and resist it. We can try to escape it. But the simple fact is this: we can’t. For ever is for ever.

Now, we might not want to have this bond anymore.  Some of those babies we have baptized in the font in the narthex who grow up will make clear later on that they don’t want this bond anymore.

But, no matter how much we may turn our backs on God, God never turns away from us. No matter how much we try to turn away from God, to deny God, to pick God apart and make God something other than who God is, God never turns away from us. God never denies us.

Why?

Because that bond, formed in those waters, is eternal and binding. And God will never turn away one of God’s children.

What Baptism shows us, more than anything else, is that we always belong to God.  It is shows us that God will never deny us or turn away from us. It shows us that, no matter what we might do, we will always belong to God.

Always.  For ever.

In this way, Baptism is truly the great equalizer.  In those waters, we are all bathed—no matter who we are and what we are. We all emerge from those waters on the same ground—as equals.  A bishop or a king or a president is no greater than you or me in those waters.  And, as equals, we are not expected to just sit around, hugging ourselves and basking in the glow of  the confidence that we are God’s own child.  As equals, made equal in the waters of baptism, we are then compelled to go out into the world and treat each other as equals. We are called to go out into the world and make a difference in it. And we are called to act like Children of a loving God. That means we have to fight ourselves sometimes. We have to fight to not become negative people.

We, as loved children of a loving God, must work hard to not be manipulative, controlling, gossipy, backbiting, unloving people. We must not be what our critics accuse of us being. We must love and respect each other equally.

Our baptism doesn’t set us apart as special people. It forces us out into the world to be a part of the world and, by doing so, to transform the world.

So, in those waters of baptism, something truly incredible happened for us. We went into those waters one person, and emerged from those waters as someone else completely.

It was an incredible moment in our lives, just as it was in the life of Jesus, who led the way and showed us that Baptism was an incredible outpouring of God’s love and light into our lives.

So, with this knowledge of how important it is, let us take the time to meditate and think about your own baptism and the implications it has in your life.  And when we do, let us remember and celebrate the bond that was formed with our loving God in those waters on that marvelous day we were baptized.

In a few moments, I will come through the nave and will sprinkle you with water. As that water touches, remember how God loves you and cherishes you. And when you enter this church, and when you leave it, pay attention to the baptismal font in the narthex and the blessed water in it. Touch that water, bless yourselves with it, and when you do, remember it as a reminder of that wonderful event in your life which marked you forever as God’s very own.  Those words spoken to Jesus on the day of his baptism are being spoked to us again and again.

Let us listen to those words.

Let us believe those words.

And let us celebrate those words that God speaks to each of us—

“You are my Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”





Sunday, January 6, 2019

Epiphany


January 6, 2019

Matthew 2.1-12

+ Some days, I wish I had a sign like these wise men in our Gospel reading for today had. I wish I had something real and tangible like that in my life. A star I could see and follow. And not just me, but others too. As though they too could validate this sign from God.

I don’t get signs from God like that. Do you? If you, I would love to hear about it.

I mean, look at it!   A star! Not very subtle.  

Still, even if a star like that appeared as a sign, I’m still not certain I would follow it.  I doubt any of us would actually follow a star.  We certainly wouldn’t follow a star with some vague notion of a divine king being born. It probably wouldn’t mean much to us, prophecy or not.

It would take great faith and great bravery to load up everything, including valuables like gold and spices into that time of hijacking and robbery and just head off into the unknown.

But these men did just that. These “wise” men did something that most of us now days would think was actually na├»ve and dangerous.

Originally, of course, the word used for these people was “astrologers,” which does add an interesting dimension to what’s occurring here. Astrologers certainly would make sense.  Astrologers certainly would have been aware of this star that appeared and they would have been able to see in that star a unique sign—a powerful enough of a sign that they packed up and went searching for it.

And it certainly seems like it was a great distance.  They probably came from Persia, which is now modern-day Iran.

And they would’ve come in a caravan of others.  These Magi are mysterious characters, for sure.  We popularly see them as the three wise men, but if you notice in our Gospel reading for tonight, it doesn’t say anything about there being three of them.  There might have been four or five of them for all we know.

It’s a fascinating story. Certainly, it might seem strange that I am even talking about the Christ child and the Magi. It’s the beginning of January, after all. Christmas happened almost two weeks ago.   Most of us have put away our Christmas decorations.  Trees came down quickly in the first few days after Christmas, the rest in the days immediately after New Year’s.  Since we’ve been hearing about Christmas for months, we are maybe a little happy to see the Christmas season go away for another by this time. 

I, for one, am happy we don’t have Christmas commercials and songs all over the place.  (Yes, I am a Christmas curmudgeon)  We’re ready to put those trappings aside and move on.  The fact is: the Christmas season, for the Church, began on Christmas Eve and ended last night.

So, what is the Epiphany really?   Well, the word itself—Epiphany—means “manifestation” or “appearing.”  In this context, it means the manifestation of Christ among us.   And in the story that we hear this morning, it is the appearing of Christ not only to the Jews, but to the non-Jews, as well, to the Gentiles, which we find represented in the Magi—those mysterious men from the East. 

The feast is all about the fact that the Messiah was sent not only for the Jewish people, but for all people.  Epiphany is the manifestation of God’s Son in our midst. 

Epiphany is a moment of realization.   In this feast we realize that God has reached out to us—all of us, no matter our race or our understanding of this event.  No matter who we are.

Epiphany is the realization that Christ has come among us. Not in some blazing cloud. Not in some pillar of fire. Not with a sword in his hand, to drive out our enemies and those with whom we are at war, as many people believed the Messiah would do.  But in the person of this little child, Jesus, in God’s own Child. 

Over the last month or so, we, as the Church, have gone through a variety of emotions.  Advent was a time of expectation.   We were waiting expectantly for God’s Holy One to come to us.  Christmas was the time of awe.  The Messiah, the Christ, was among us and there was something good and wonderful about this fact.

Epiphany, however, gets the rap for being sort of anti-climactic.   It is the time in which we settle down into the reality of what has come upon us.   We realize what has happened and we accept it.  A bit of the awe is still there.  A bit of wonder still lingers.

In the Gospel story, the wise men are overcome with joy when they see the star stop over Bethlehem.   But, for the most part, despite the joy they felt, we are now moving ahead. 

There are no more angels singing on high for us. 

The miraculous star has begun to fade by this point. 

The wise men have presented their gifts and are now returning to home to Persia. 

It is a time in which we feel contentment.   We feel comfortable in what has happened. 

But, in a few weeks, this is all going to change again.   We will soon face the harsh reality of Ash Wednesday and Lent. 

Now, I know it’s hard even to think about such things as we labor through the winter.   But it is there—just around the corner.  The time of Christmas feasting will be over.  The joys and beauty of Christmas will be replaced by ashes and sackcloth and, ultimately, by the Cross.

But that’s all in the future.   Christmas is still kind of lingering in our thoughts today and, in this moment, we have this warm reality.   God’s anointed One, the Messiah, the one the generations were looking for and longing for, has finally appeared to us. 

When we look upon the face of the child Jesus, we see ourselves.  We see that just as Jesus is the Son of God, we too are children of God.  In this Child the divine and the mortal have come together.   And that, as children of God ourselves, we too can find the divine and the mortal within us as well.

And for this moment—before the denial of our bodies in Lent, before the betrayal and torture of Holy Week, before the bloody and violent murder of Good Friday, we have in our midst, this Child. And this Child reminds us that we are children of this same God as well. In this season of Epiphany, we are definitely being reminded that we are children of God.

Next week we, celebrate the Baptism of Jesus, and our are reminded of our own baptism.  Our baptism reminds us very clearly that we are children of a loving and caring God.

The Episcopal priest and biblical scholar, Bruce Chilton, once wrote about baptism:

“Baptism…was when…God sends [the] Son into every believer, who cries to God, ‘Abba, Father.’ The believer becomes a [Child], just as Jesus called upon his father…The moment of baptism, the supreme moment of faith, was when we one discovered one’s self as a [Child] of God because Jesus as God’s Son was disclosed in one’s heart.”

For now, we are able to look at this Christ Child and see God’s Messiah in our midst.  But we are also able to look at this holy Child and see ourselves as well. And, in looking at this Child, we see ourselves as holy too. We are able to see ourselves as truly loved children of our loving God. That was made possible through the waters of baptism.

Epiphany is the realization that Christ has appeared to us where we are—here in our own midst. Christ has appeared to us, in us. We realize at Epiphany that we often find Christ in our own mirrors, staring back at us.

And this is what we can take away with us this morning.   This is the consolation we can take with us as we head through these short winter days toward Lent. No matter where we are—no matter who we are—Christ is here with us and within us.  Christ is with us in all that we do and in every place we look.

So, let us look for him.  Let us see him in our midst—here in our life. Let us, like the Magi, adore him as he gazes upon us.  And whenever we recognize him—that is our unending feast day of Epiphany.




Monday, December 31, 2018

Sunday, December 30, 2018

1 Christmas


Dec. 30, 2018


John 1.1-18

+ Today, this first Sunday of Christmas, is one of those somewhat forgotten Sundays. Nobody pays a whole lot attention to the first Sunday of Christmas. It’s somewhat of a “low” Sunday. It feels a bit anti-climactic, after Christmas Eve and Christmas day.

But I like this Sunday, maybe because it’s kind of a forgotten, neglected Sunday. I like is especially because it always reminds me of that beautiful hymn we sang today, “In the Bleak Midwinter.”

After all, we are in the bleak midwinter. This is it. And nobody knows the bleak midwinter better than us, here, in Fargo, North Dakota.

What a lot of people don’t know is that the words to that hymn were written by an incredible poet.

Christina Rossetti.

Rossetti was the sister of a Dante Gabriel Rossetti, who was much better known in his time as a leader of pre-Raphaelite literary movement in England. Christina was the forgotten one. The unmarried sister who quietly wrote poems at home, she was also the superior poet. She was a devout Anglo-Catholic Anglican and a bit of recluse.

Think of her as kind of Anglo-Catholic Emily Dickinson.

And although, during their lifetime, Dante Gabriel was more famous, 125 years after her death, it is Christina Rossetti’s hymn we are singing today.

She was also my mother’s favorite poet (well, hopefully after me) In fact my mother requested that Rossetti’s “When I am dead, my dearest” be printed in her funeral program.

When my mother died, 11 months ago last Friday, the poem and hymn “In the bleak midwinter” spoke strongly to me. I played a wonderful version of it by the Indie band Animal Collective over and over again in those weeks after she died.

Yes, I know that it is a Christmas hymn, and my mother did not die in the season of Christmas: But let’s face it. That opening stanza speaks loudly to us who live in the bleak midwinter for months on end:

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan;
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago

And let me tell you, it also speaks very loudly to anyone who is going through a mourning “hard as iron.” Grief is truly like a terrible bleak winter, no matter what season may be outside.  So forgive me if you see me tear up today when it’s sung.

The other reason I love this Sunday is that, for us Episcopalians, in our lectionary for today, we get this incredible reading from the first chapter of John.  I know. It’s hard at first to grasp our minds around this reading.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

Maybe we just don’t “get” it. And that’s all right. Like “In the bleak midwinter,” it too is a poem. And like a poem, we have to make it our own for it to really mean something to us where we are, right here and now.

For me, as you have heard me say many times, I don’t like beginnings. Whenever I get a new biography of someone, you will see me skip to the end, or the middle.  I never enjoy the beginnings very often. I realize that probably reveals way too much about me psychologically than I care to admit.

As this year runs down and the new year begins, our thoughts naturally turn to beginnings.  We think about that New Year and how important a new year is our lives. It heralds for us a sense of joy—and fear—of the future.  All of a sudden we are faced with the future. It lies there before us—a mystery.  Will this coming year bring us joy or will it bring us sadness?  Will it be a good year or a bad year?  And we step forward into the New Year without knowing what that year will hold for us.

But, the fact is, at the very beginning moment, we can’t do much more than just be here, right now.  We need to just experience this beginning.  And we can’t let anxiety about the future take hold.  We just need to be here, right now, and take part fully in this new beginning.

That’s what beginnings are all about, I guess. That one moment when we can say:

“Right now! This is it! We are alive and we are here! Now!”

And we all know that just as soon as we do, it’ll be past.

In our reading from John this morning, it’s also one of those moments.  In that moment, we get a glimpse of one of those “right now” moments.  It seems as though, for that moment, it’s all clear.  At least for John anyway.

We encounter, the “Word.”

God’s Word.

Now to be clear, the Word of God here is not the Bible. The Word of God is always Jesus.  And this is an appropriate way to begin the Gospel of John and to begin our new year as well.

It is a great beginning.  It sets the tone for us as followers of Jesus.  God’s Word was there in the beginning.  God spoke and creation happened.  

And God’s Word is here, now, in our beginning.  And in God, we experience a beginning that doesn’t seem to end. God’s Word comes forward and becomes present among us in a way we could never possibly imagine.

God appears to us in the Gospels not as God in the Old Testament, cloaked behind pillars of fire or thunderstorms or wind.

Instead, God’s word, God’s wisdom, God’s essence became flesh.  God’s voice was no longer a booming voice from the sky, demanding sacrifices. God voice is now the Word spoken to us gently.  God’s Word spoken to us in this beginning moment, is a word of Love.

The commandment this Word of God tells us of is a commandment to love.  Love God and love one another as you love yourselves.

This might actually be one of the few times when I actually enjoy the beginning of a story.  Maybe the true message of Jesus is that, in God’s Kingdom, that beginning keeps on and on, without end.

In God’s Kingdom there is constant renewal.  In God’s Kingdom it is always like New Year’s Day—always fresh, always full of hope for a future that does not end or disappoint.

As we prepare to celebrate 2019, this is a great way to live this beginning moment.  In this beginning moment, let us think about beginnings and how important they are for us personally and for our spiritual lives.  And let us do what we can to be the bringers of new beginnings not only in our own lives, but in the lives of others.  With this encounter with the Word, we, like John, are also saying in this moment, this one moment is holy.  

This moment is special.  This moment is unique and beautiful, because God is reaching out to us. In our grasping of it, let’s make sure it doesn’t wiggle away from us. Let’s not let it fall through our fingers like sand. Or snow.

This holy beginning moment should stay with us.

Always new.

Always fresh.

Always being renewed.

We’re here.

Right now.

We’re alive!

It’s the future.

The Word, God’s Word, has come to us.  It’s incredible, really!  This moment is a glorious and holy one.

So, let us, in this holy moment, be joyful.  Let us in this holy moment rejoice.  And let us, in this holy moment, look forward to what awaits us with courage and confidence. Amen.






Friday, December 28, 2018



11 long months since I last saw this marvelous face.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Christmas

December 25, 2018

John 1.1-14

+ I know I say this every year on Christmas Day.  But one of my greatest pleasures
in life is doing the Christmas morning Mass.

Yes, I know. Christmas Eve is beautiful. Really beautiful.

But Christmas morning.  I don’t know. It’s just just…something special.  I think that is what Christmas Day is all about.  This sense of it all being just…a bit more holy and complete.

The great Trappist monk and poet, Thomas Merton, once wrote this poem. I love it:



Make ready
for the Christ
whose smile,
like lightning
sets free
the Song
of everlasting
glory
that now sleeps
in your paper
flesh like
Dynamite.

For me, that captures perfectly this strange feeling I have experiencing this morning how I LOVE a Christmas Day mass

And now—this morning— Christmas is here. This morning, we celebrate the Light of God. And we celebrate the Word of God (as we heard in our Gospel reading for this morning).  We celebrate the Light that has come to us in our collective and personal darkness.  We celebrate the Light that has come to us in our despair and our fear, in our sadness and in our frustration, even in our deepest grief. And we celebrate this Word that has been spoken to us—this Word of hope.

This Word of God is actually present among us in Christ
“whose smile,
like lightning
sets free
the Song
of everlasting
glory

When we think long and hard about this day, when we ponder it and let it take hold in our lives, what we realized happened on that day when Jesus was born was not just some mythical story.  

It was not just the birth of a child under dire circumstances, in some distant, exotic land.  

What happened on that day was a joining together—a joining of us and God.  God met us half-way by sending us the very Son of God.  God came to us in our darkness, in our blindness, in our fear—and cast a light that destroyed that darkness, that blindness, that fear.

 God didn’t have to do what God did.  God didn’t have to send the Son of God—the Word of God, the Messiah, the Anointed One—to us.  But by doing so, God showed us a remarkable intimacy.

I love this great quote from the great Dominican theologian, Meister Ekhart:

“What good is it  if Mary gave birth to the Son of God [two thousand years ago]? I too must give birth to the Son of God in my time, here and now. We are all meant to be the mothers of God. God is always needing to be born.”

I love that quote and I think it’s very true.  

God is needing to be born! 

We need to be the people through whom the Son of God is born again and again in this world. We need to bring God into reality in this world again and again.

Why?

Because God is a God of love.  Because we are loved by God. Because we are accepted by God. Because we are—each of us—important to God.  We are, each of us, broken and imperfect as we may be some times, very important to God. Each of us.

And because we are, we must love others. We must give birth to our God so others can know this amazing love as well.

Knowing this amazing love of God changes everything.  When we realize that God knows us as individuals.  That God loves us and accepts each of us for who we are, we are joyful. We are hopeful of our future with that God. And we want to share this love and this God with others.

That is what we are celebrating this morning. Our hope and joy is in a God who comes and accepts us and loves us for who we are and what we are—a God who understands what it means to live this sometimes frightening uncertain life we live.  This is the real reason why we are joyful and hopeful on this beautiful morning.  This is why we are feeling within us a strange sense of longing. 

God is here.

God is in our midst today.

God is so near, our very bodies and souls are rejoicing. And God loves us.

Last night at Christmas Eve Mass I quoted the great Anglican poet Christina Rosetti (my mother’s favorite poet) put it more eloquently:

 Love came down at Christmas,
love, all lovely, love divine;
love was born at Christmas:
star and angels gave the sign.

That is what we are experiencing this day.

Love came down.

Love became flesh and blood.

God’s Love for us became human.

And in the face of that realization, we are rejoicing today.  We are rejoicing in that love personified.  We are rejoicing in each other.   We are rejoicing in the glorious beauty of this one holy moment in time.

See, it really is a glorious morning!

Monday, December 24, 2018

Christmas Eve


December 24, 2018


+Once, a long time ago, when I was brand new priest, I had a parishioner at another congregation come up to me and critique one of my sermons. This is common thing that happens when you’re a clergy person.

Now that I’m older and crustier and less patient about such things, whenever anyone makes a critique I listen politely and then, I very gently direct them toward the pulpit and say, “Next Sunday the pulpit is yours. I’m sure you’ll preach much better sermon than I ever could.”

Back then, though, I wasn’t the savvy, with-it, together priest who stands before you tonight.  Back then, this parishioner came up and said, “You preach way too much about love.”

I was a bit shocked by that statement. I was, uncharacteristically, speechless, actually.

“Excuse me?” I asked.

“All you do is preach about love. Love, love, love.”

I didn’t know how to respond then. But if I was going to respond, knowing what I know now, I would ask, “What should I be preaching about? Hate?”

I very unapologetically preach about love. Even to this day, I will preach about love.  I will, hopefully, with my dying breath, preach about love.

I’m a poet after all.

And love, after all,  is a good thing. A very good thing.

Now, I‘m not talking about sweet, Valentine’s Day love with hearts and cupids. I am talking about real love. Solid, strong, oftentimes messy love.

And I can tell you this: love is what Christmas is about.

A love from God to us.

A love very unlike any other kind of love.

When we think long and hard about this night, when we ponder it and let it take hold in our lives, what we realized happened on that night when Jesus was born was not just some mythical story.  It was not just the birth of a child under dire circumstances, in some distant, exotic land.  What happened on that night was a joining together—a joining of us and God.

God met us half-way.

God loves us enough that God sent this Child to us—God’s very own Son.

God’s Son—this very embodiment of God’s love—came to us in our darkness, in our blindness, in our fear—and cast a light that destroyed that darkness, that blindness, that fear.

On this glorious evening, we celebrate Light and love.  We celebrate the Light that has come to us in our collective and personal darkness. We celebrate the Light that has come to us in our despair and our fear, in our sadness and in our frustration.  And as it does, we realize—there is an intimacy—a love—to that action on God’s part.

God loves us!

God loves each of us.

God didn’t have to do what God did.

God didn’t have to send Jesus to us.

God didn’t have to show us a love that had a face and a name, a love that looked very much like a newborn baby.   But by doing so, God showed us a remarkable love.

Or, as the great Anglican poet Christina Rosetti (my mother’s favorite poet) put more eloquently:

Love came down at Christmas,
love, all lovely, love divine;
love was born at Christmas:
star and angels gave the sign.

We will never fully understand how or why God send us this little holy child—this embodiment of God’s love for us—but it has happened and, because it happened, we are a different people. We realize that we are a people loved by our God.  All of us—no matter who we are, or what we are, or what we’ve done.

We are loved.

And the proof of that love happened on this night.  And that love is all powerful.  It is all encompassing. It is all accepting.  It is radical. And it breaks down barriers.

This night is all about the love that descends into the wars of our own lives.   Our lives are different because of that love that descended into our lives. This baby—this love personified—has taken away, by the love he encompasses, everything we feared and dreaded.

When we look at it from that perspective, suddenly we find our emotions heightened.  We find ourselves expressing our intimacy back to God.

But the love and intimacy we feel between ourselves and God is a very real one tonight—in this very holy moment.  We find that this love we feel—for God and for each other and for those we maybe don’t always love, or find difficult to love—that radical love is more tangible—more real—than anything we have ever thought possible.  And that is what we are experiencing this night.

Love came down.

Love became flesh and blood.

Love became human.

And in the face of that realization, we are rejoicing today.  We are rejoicing in that love personified.  We are rejoicing in each other.  We are rejoicing in the glorious beauty of this one holy moment in time.  And we are rejoicing in that almighty and incredible God who would come to us, not on some celestial cloud with a sword in his hand and armies of angels flying about him.

We are rejoicing in a God who sent us this innocent child, born to a humble teenager in a dusty third world land.  We rejoice in a God who sends a Love to us that we can actually see and feel—a Love that has a face like our face and flesh like our flesh—a love who is born, like we are born—of a human mother—and who dies like we all must die.  We rejoice in a God who accepts us and loves us for who we are and what we are—a God who understands what it means to live this sometimes frightening uncertain life we live.

If that isn’t love, I don’t know what is.

See, now you know why I love to preach about love.  

This beautiful night, let us each cling to this love that we are experiencing tonight and let us hope that it will not fade from us when this night is over.  Let us cling to this holy moment and make sure that it will continue to live on and be renewed again and again.

Love is here.

Love is in our very midst tonight.

Love is so near, we can feel its presence in our very bodies and souls.

So, let us share this love in any way we can and let us especially welcome this love— love, all lovely, love divine—this love made human into the shelter of our hearts.