Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas stories



May my words be in the Name of the Father, the Son, & the Holy Spirit – Amen.

I begin of course, by wishing you Merry Christmas again!

In our home, like many homes, we have our own little Christmas traditions … some are fairly ordinary, like having the youngest child put the star on the Christmas tree … and I can tell you that now that Malachi is 4 and a half, it was no joke lifting him high enough to reach the top of the 7-foot tree we bought at the parish Christmas fair … others are fairly unique … my wife and I have a large star of David made of cardboard and covered in tinfoil with stickers from the nativity scene stuck on … we made it with the children in the emergency shelter we were house-parents in over 20 years ago and we have carefully carried it with us from house to house since … and every year we place it atop our Christmas tree … another of our traditions involves stories … in the box with the decorations that go up into the attic are some books on the theme of Christmas … there is 'the little Christmas tree' by ee cummings … 'how the Grinch stole Christmas' by De Seus … or how he didn't steal it as Malachi likes to point out … and 'the night before Christmas' by Clement Clark More … in our house it is a special tradition that on Christmas eve I read that story to our boys …


Because stories are important, I think … and they are a special part of our Christian tradition … every year as we work our way through the Church calender we tell special stories at certain times of the years in our readings in Church … on Saints days, if they are people who are part of the Bible story, we read from those parts of the Bible where they are mentioned … at times such as Pentecost, or the transfiguration, or the Baptism of our Lord, we read those stories … during Holy Week and Easter we read about the events leading up to the death of Jesus, his crucifixion, burial, and resurrection … and at Christmas we read the different stories that led up to the Nativity of our Lord …

We don't have time to go over all of the stories this morning … or rather, we do, but I might be held responsible for a great many late or burned Christmas dinners if I tried … but there are a few I would like to over briefly …

There is the Christmas story of Joseph … an honest, hard-working carpenter … a righteous man whose heart was perhaps broken when he discovered that the young woman he loved was going to have a baby and that he was not the father … a kind man whose first impulse was not to punish the girl for betraying him, but to end the relationship quietly, privately, to spare her from public disgrace … a man of faith, who believed the word of God that came to him in a dream that Mary had done nothing wrong … who took the woman and her child into his home … who protected them from harm, even to the extent of fleeing with them to Egypt to protect them from Herod's soldiers … who provided for them, and cared for them, and loved the child as if he was his own son …

There is also the Christmas story of Mary … the young women who is told by an angel that she is going to have a baby and that no human man will be the father … if what we know about the time and place in which she lived, she must have been very young, perhaps only 14 or 15 … and yet, she doesn't ask what will happen to her when people find out … she doesn't ask if anyone will believe her unlikely sounding story … she doesn't ask who will look after her and the baby … she simply says that she will do what God asks … and then shows what a kind and good-hearted young woman she must have been by going at once to look after her cousin Elizabeth, who is also expecting a baby …

There are many other Christmas stories we could tell … that of Elizabeth and Zechariah and their baby John … that of an inn-keeper kind enough to let poor travellers use his stable even when the inn was full … that of shepherds who heard the song of angels as they huddled for warmth around a small fire on a cold hillside … even that of Herod, a man so obsessed with power that he would stop at nothing to retain his grasp on it, even if it meant defying the will of God spoken by the prophets and killing children …

But all these stories, varied though they are, have something in common … they are all human stories … the stories of ordinary human beings like you and I to whom something extraordinary happened … a profound encounter with the divine that changed their lives forever … which is very appropriate at this Christmas time when we remember how the human and the divine became inextricably intertwined when the Word became flesh and the son of God was born as Mary's Son and God entered into the world, fully man and fully God, as the baby Jesus … and because that happened, when we hear the stories of Joseph and Mary and Elizabeth and all the others, we know that what happened then is not only that happened to other people in a place far away and long ago … we know that it was when the story of God and the story of humanity became visibly one … that this is a story that we are part of also … the eternal story of how God loved us all so much that he sent his Son into the world for us … Christmas comes but once a year, the old saying goes … but this Christmas I pray that you will know that you and all others will know that you are part of the Christmas story not just today but everyday … so that the joy of the Christmas season, that Merry Christmas I wished you when I began, will be yours throughout the year and all through your life from the day of your baptism and every day of your life … Amen.

Sermon notes: 25 December 2011 (Christmas day)


No comments:

Post a Comment