Thursday, December 25, 2008
Christmas Eve, 2008
Madonna and Child,
December 24, 2008 Christmas Eve
Before us: in the dark, in the simplicity of the stable and his manger bed. These few shepherds as witnesses, and Joseph, and of course his Holy Mother, the young girl who becomes our Mother and the Mother of the world.
As the ancient prophet whispers this night, across the centuries: The LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him. Or as from John: The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us. Literally the Greek, eskenosen, “pitched his tent” here. Here, with us.
In this night of blessing and hope, grace and peace to you. Grace and peace. As we have come to this place at this late hour and at the end of this year, we can all use as much grace and peace as we can find.
In our wide world a time of unsettledness, with concerns about financial crisis, war and rumors of war, transitions of leadership. In the bleak midwinter. With our prayers for those whose lives have been disrupted, for those far from home this evening, serving in places of danger, for our city and our nation and our world. Christmas Eve. And bringing all of what we have in the stories of our personal lives. The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.
In all this, I would thank you for sharing this evening of worship, this holy night. As our hearts are warmed and our spirit is nourished by such beautiful music, as we hear once again from the pages of Holy Scripture the announcement of God’s gracious action, his generous gift of love, the miracle of incarnation, Word made flesh, born in Bethlehem, to live for us and to die for us on the Cross, so that we might live in fullness of life, to know the possibility of reconciliation with God and with one another, and in the promise of life eternal. Glory streams from heaven afar. Heavenly hosts sing alleluia. Christ the Savior is born.
Born in the stable, born in our hearts, our food and drink at the altar. Born to be our joy forever.
I want to take as a text this night the last couple of sentences from the traditional Christmas Eve reading from the Letter to the Hebrews, not to say a whole lot about it, but to lift it up again, this amazing New Testament hymn to God’s Christ, his only Son: Therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. And Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands: they shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; and as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.
It is all about him. Tonight. Every night, every hour, in every corner of the spinning cosmos. Bethlehem’s Child. See him in a manger laid, whom the angels praise above. Sometimes there just aren’t words enough or songs enough or images and ideas big enough to carry the fullness of what flows from the heart. Overflowing. To say that he is the beginning and the end, the first and the last, above and beyond, world without end. Our Lord Jesus: Born to be our joy forever. No crib for his bed. No universe wide enough to contain him, who is the creator and preserver of all things, of one substance with the Father. Who made heaven and earth.
Eternally here in the manger, eternally here, at the Cross. Here on the altar, and born anew in the perpetual Christmas of our minds and hearts. From everlasting to everlasting. With us at our beginning, and with us at our ending. God’s benediction and good word and highest hope for us, his best gift for us, the gift of himself. Pouring himself out, in such abundance. That in a renewal of our own lives, as we are renewed in him, we might set out this night to live by his grace lives of joy and peace and gentleness and generosity, forgiveness, reconciliation, faithfulness. Faithfulness to one another, in the integrity of our lives, and above all, most of all, faithfulness to him. To know for ourselves the deep refreshment and blessing of holiness that can be found in him alone.
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he hath visited and redeemed his people; and hath raised up a mighty salvation for us, in the house of his servant David. Luke 1
Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem. Isaiah 52
Behold, the Tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. Revelation 21
The song goes on and on and on. World without end.
Again, may this holy night be a blessing for you and for those you love, in all ways, as we gather in his name and then as we go forth in his name, in Christian fellowship, to be his people. A wonderful Christmas and New Year. Grace and peace. As in the darkness of the night those two figures make their way slowly through the hills, and into that little town, and it was, and is, and will be Christmas, and he will be born, and we will be born in him.