Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve


December 24, 2007
St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church
Fargo, North Dakota

In the name of God, Father, + Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Well, here it is. Christmas Eve. Although it might have felt like Christmas since sometime in September (at least in the malls and stores), Christmas didn’t officially start until tonight.

As many of you know, I am an Oblate—or an associate –at Blue Cloud Abbey in Marvin, South Dakota—a Benedictine Roman Catholic monastery. At Blue Cloud, the Christmas tree and the Christmas decorations don’t go up until tonight—until Christmas Eve, when Christmas officially starts.

And now—this evening— Christmas is here. In this dark, cold night, we celebrate Light. 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, no doubt most of us are feeling two emotions—the two emotions Christmas is all about—hope and joy.

Hope—in our belief that what has come to us—Christ—God made flesh—is here among us

And Joy—at the realization of that reality.

As we come forward tonight to meet with joy and hope this mystery that we remember and commemorate and make ours this evening, we too should find ourselves feeling these emotions at our very core. This hope and joy we are experiencing this evening comes up from our very centers. We will never fully understand how or why Jesus—God made flesh—has come to us as this little child in a dark stable in the Middle East, but it has happened and, because it happened, we are a different people. Our lives are different because of what happened that evening. This baby has taken away, by his very life and eventual death, everything we feared and dreaded.

When we look at it from that perspective, suddenly we find our emotions heightened. We find that our joy is a joy like few other joys we’ve had. We find that our hope is more tangible—more real—that anything we have ever hoped in before.

And that is what we are facing this evening. Our true hope and true joy is not in brightly colored lights and a pile of presents until a decorated tree. Our true hope and joy is not found in the malls or the stores. Our true hope and joy does not come to us with things that will, a week from now, be a fading memory.

Our hope and joy is in that Baby who, as he comes to us, causes us to leap up with joy at his very presence. Our hope and joy is 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. Our hope and joy is in a God who comes to us in this innocent child, born to a humble teenager in a dusty third world land. Our hope and joy is in a God who comes with a face like our face and flesh like our flesh—a God who is born, like we are born—of a human mother—and who dies like we all must die. 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.

But who, by that very birth, makes all births unique and holy and who, by that death, takes away the fear of death for all of us. This is the real reason why we are joyful and hopeful on this beautiful night. This is why we are feeling within us a strange sense of longing. This is why we are rushing toward our Savior who has come to visit us in what we once thought was our barrenness.

Let the hope you feel tonight as Jesus our Savior draws close to us stay with you now and always. Let the joy you feel tonight as Jesus our Friend comes to us in love be the motivating force in how you live your lives throughout this coming year.

Jesus is here. He is in our midst tonight. He is so near, our very bodies and souls are rejoicing. So, greet him tonight with all that you have within you and welcome him into the shelter of your hearts.

Amen.

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