Friday, December 25, 2009

24 December 2009 - Christmas Eve Sermon

Christmas Eve Sermon
24 December 2009
The Rev. Peter M. Carey
Emmanuel Episcopal Church

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness –
on them light has shined.
~
For unto us a child is born,
unto us a son is given.
~Isaiah 9


Sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth.
~
Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
let the field exult, and everything in it.
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
before the Lord.
~Psalm96:11-12

“I bring you good tidings of great joy which should be for all people.”
~Luke 2:10


Light – the light of heaven has been lit here on the face of the earth.  A deep and abiding light that shined only in the heavenly courts has been sent to earth, and once here, this light lasts forever.  As earlier peoples sought comfort in the returning light of the Sun, God has sent a Son who is the light who comforts all peoples.  Here, in this feast of Christmas, the feast of the Incarnation, we celebrate and recognize the light that has been sent into the world, a light that brings hope to our hopelessness, a light that gives courage to our fearfulness, a light that gives joy to joylessness.  God has stooped down and reached down into the manger in Bethlehem to become known in the world.  God has stooped down and brought light to the world in the baby Jesus.  God has stooped down and lit every candle of every heart with a fire that is ever-present, always warming, and never extinguished.  The people who have walked in darkness have seen a great light, those who lived in a land of deep darkness, on them light has shined.

And we are they!

Whether or not we always feel this light in our hearts, the light is there.  Whether or not we always see the light, the light is there.  The magic of Christmas includes glimmers of that light in various forms and in surprising places and spaces.  We may look back to Christmases past feel something quite deep and rich that we haven’t felt in a long time.  We may remember the gift of a present under the tree, or the gift of a grandparent’s presence and love for us, giving us glimmers of the gift of God’s presence in our lives.  We may watch one of many holiday tv shows and find ourselves getting choked up when the Grinch’s heart grows three times that day. 

“He didn’t stop Christmas from coming, it came just the same!”  There is a deep and abiding power of the Spirit that can feel more alive, and more tangible in this holiday time.  This deep and abiding power can lead us to wonderful and joyful places.  Conversely, this deep and abiding power can lead us to places of sadness, and the blues.  But this too, can be a gift to us, perhaps helping us to focus our attention on what really matters, perhaps allowing us to remember that though we go through peaks and valleys, the miracle of Christmas is that God is with us always – God with us – Emmanuel.

New song - and so, we sing a new song, we “sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth.”  God is with us, and we rejoice. We light lights and we sing songs, and the psalmist reminds us to sing to the Lord a new song.  This song is a song of hope, a song of rejoicing, a song of glory for the Lord.  This song is a song that everything in the whole creation sings.  The sea roars, the field exults, and everything in it.  And even the trees, the trees!  This new song is sung by even the trees, “all the trees of the forest sing for joy, before the Lord.”  All of creation sings for joy for this new song, this new reality that has been brought down to the world.  As sunshine covers the world, so God’s grace and love covers us, and the entire creation. 

The trees and all the creation sings for joy.  How strange you might say.  But then, C.S. Lewis puts language into the mouths of animals in his Narnia books.  There, the snow covered the entire land of Narnia because the Lord had not returned.  Snow covers the earth because Aslan had not yet returned, but the animals, and the entire land awaits his coming.  All of the land sings for joy when they hear that “Aslan is on the move!” 

The deep and abiding power of Aslan is a deep power that is beyond the paltry magic of the White Witch.  The deep and abiding power of Aslan is warmer, and richer, and stronger than any magic we might imagine.  It passes human understanding.  It is like the warm sun shining upon an icy driveway.  God’s love and deep care for us is like a sunny 85 degree day after a long and icy winter freeze.  If you’ve spent any time trying to chip away at the snow and ice, you will find that all your efforts are eclipsed by the warmth of the sun.  We can spend a lot of time and energy trying to chip away at our own ice and chilliness, but God’s grace will blast it all to bits.

“Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord.”  We sing this new song as we are willing to receive the grace and allow it to transform our lives.  We sing with joy as we remember the gift of this night.  We sing with joy to behold the presence of God in Jesus in the humble manger.  We sing with joy to behold him among us. 

Joy – the birth of Jesus is the decisive fulfillment of that “always coming” reign of God – and yet we still look forward to the fullness of that reign when Christ will come in glory. 

“For behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which should be to all people, to you is born in the city of David, a savior which is Christ the Lord, and this shall be a sign unto you: you shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”

“I bring you good tidings of great joy which should be for all people.”

May the light of the Lord shine bright in dark places, illuminating your hearts, giving you deep joy so that you may sing a new song, for unto you is born this day a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. Amen.

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