Monday, January 5, 2009


And So This Is Christmas

Let me ask you a simple question on this Christmas Day. How many times have you heard the story that we just read from this gospel in Luke?

How many times have you heard the story about the simple shepherds in the field watching over their flocks at night, and suddenly in a starlit sky there comes the angel and the heavenly host proclaiming good news to all of humanity, and the shepherds go and follow the directions of the angels and they find Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus lying in the straw surrounded by the silent, innocent animals in the stable? How many times have you heard that story, and how many times have you seen it portrayed on greeting cards around the Christmas season, in pictures that we see on television-every Christmas-this wonderful, warm, loving image?

If Christmas were a Marathon –this is almost the finish line. Here you are tonight... most of the presents are wrapped, hopefully all of the food is bought, the plans are laid in, and really, it is time to sit back, relax, and wonder...

This is when we let the stories and songs of Christmas remind us of the real message deep within our celebration; the message of Love.You know, the truth is no matter what your faith is like, no matter what you believe, every Christmas we all turn into traditionalists. If you are like me, you are, just as I am, an absolute sentimentalist whenever it comes to this Christmas season. I don't want Christmas to ever change. I don't want to ever stop hearing this story in Luke. I never want to stop seeing that image of the baby Jesus in the manger. I want to feel that again and again and again. I am so nostalgic for it. It is so comforting to me. I never ever, ever, want my Christmas to change.

Ah, but... there is another image of Christmas we all contend with right, the stress, the pain of lost loved ones, the sickness, the fear, the chaos of the malls, trying to please everyone... these are a very real part of the season – a very real part of Christmas. And there are moments for all of us, aren’t there, where we wonder if this is all there is.

Do you remember the Christmas song; I have only heard it once this year, about Snoopy and the Red Baron? There is a line in that song, that goes like this:

"The Baron had Snoopy dead in his sightsHe reached for the trigger to pull it up tightWhy he didn't shoot, well, we'll never knowOr was it the bells from the village below.Christmas bells those Christmas bellsRinging through the landBringing peace to all the world; And good will to man."

See, there is something about Christmas that cuts through everything else. There is a sense, and each of us gets it at different moments in different ways... Here tonight when we sing Silent Night, or home in front of the tree with just the lights turned on and a glass of eggnog, but a sense that something miraculous really does happen at Christmas.

It is like watching it’s a Wonderful Life. Every time the ending comes there is a tear in my eye; I don’t know why, I know it’s coming, but it is just so much a part of what I think Christmas is all about – it is about love; the miracle of love.

Tonight we celebrate the fact that to Shepherds in cold fields abiding, and to visionaries who travelled from distant lands, and to poor parents struggling to survive, and to honest fishermen who wanted change but didn’t know how to go about it, and to every other person in every sort of position in life... all poor and humble ones, all rich and haughty ones... even you and me... God came.

A baby was born so that we might know Hope, and Peace, and Joy, and Love... and we might realize that despite our sometimes painful lives, and despite the stress of it all, there is a vision that can bring light to a darkened world.

It is God’s vision of love that we celebrate tonight.So it is worth being a little sentimental about. It is worth hanging on to past traditions. It is right and proper that we should put aside some of our deeper questions and concerns and just let Christmas be. Revel in it, celebrate it, remember it...

Enjoy those visions of angels and shepherds and the manger and the baby in the straw and the animals and Mary and Joseph and keep it exactly the way it's always been for you.
The Celtic faith held that there were thin places, thin moments, when you could almost see through this world into the next, when God feels closer. This is one of those special moments. So tonight, and tomorrow, and maybe all this week, may we be able to relax into the peace that is holy and into a time where time itself seems to stand still and the winds and tides of change are held back with the sounds of angelic voices drifting through a starry, cold night.

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