Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Day

December 25, 2012

Isaiah 52.7-10; John 1.1-14

+ I don’t know about you, but do you notice how this morning seems just a bit different? It feels just a bit more holy than usual, more joyful, more…glorious. I think that is what Christmas Day is all about. This sense of it all being just…a bit more holy and complete.

Yesterday, my dear friend, the poet, Marjorie Buettner shared this poem by the great Trappist monk and poet, Thomas Merton:

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 some reason, I have been clinging to that poem since yesterday. It has rung in my mind again and again.

Make ready
for the Christ
whose smile,
like lightning
sets free
the Song
of everlasting
glory…

For me, that captures perfectly this strange feeling I have experiencing this morning I was sharing last night at Christmas Eve Mass about how I LOVE a Christmas Day mass. I haven’t done one in several years and I have never done one here at St. Stephen’s.

But I love the Christmas Day mass in the same way I love the Christmas Eve service. Today, things do seem just a bit different. Things seem a little more beautiful.

And now—this morning— Christmas is here. This morning, we celebrate the Light. And we celebrate the Word. 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 we celebrate this Word that has been spoken to us—this Word of hope. This Word that God is among us.

We celebrate this “Christ
whose smile,
like lightning
sets free
the Song
of everlasting
glory

And as we experience Light and Word and Song—as we experience God in our midst—it does, no doubt seem 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 this morning to meet with joy and hope this mystery that we remember and commemorate and make ours today, we too should find ourselves feeling these emotions at our very core. This hope and joy we are experiencing this morning 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 stable in the Middle East, as this glorious Light, as this Word, 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—than anything we have ever hoped in before. And that is what we are celebrating this morning.

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. Our hope and joy is in a God who smiles at us and when this God does, we find music being set free within us.

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 and fulfillment. This is why we are rushing toward our Savior who has come to visit us in what we once thought was our barrenness, our Savior who has, as we heard today in our reading from Isaiah, “bared his holy arm.”

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

Jesus is here. He is in our midst this morning, as he always is. We hear his voice speaking to us in the scriptures And we feel him and sense him the bread and wine of the Eucharist that we are about the share on this altar. He is here as the Light that shines in the darkness of our lives. And he is here in the Word which he speaks to us.

But we are also more aware of him because of what we celebrating this morning. He is here in the form of an innocent, defenseless child. He is here as one of us, with a face like our face and flesh like our flesh. In him, God has visited us and is present with us. And we, in turn, are able to carry Jesus within us and share this incredible Presence with others by our very lives. Jesus is so near this morning that our very bodies and souls are rejoicing.

So, let us greet him this morning with all that we have within us. Let us greet him with songs. Let us greet him with thanksgiving. Let us greet him with all that you have within you. And let us all welcome him into the shelter of our hearts. And when we do, we will realize that “all the ends of the world shall see the salvation of our God.”

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