Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve 2011

The Story Thus Far

Isaiah and Luke 2:1-7

We have all heard the story, if not at church in the last few years, then maybe on television, or you read it in a book, or something. It seems part of the collective consciousness to say that once a long time ago, in a little town, in a stable behind an inn, a baby was born.

We are also told that the heavens rejoiced, that kings trembled, that wise men searched him out.
It happened to fulfill a prophecy…

It happened so that the people who walked in deep darkness might see a dawning light on the horizon… It happened so that God might increase the joy of a people struggling in a time of uncertainty.

Legend has it that a German Priest by the name of Martin Luther began the tradition of decorating trees. 
One crisp Christmas Eve, around the year 1500, he was walking through snow-covered woods, thinking about the Christmas sermon he would preach.  Time slipped away from him and it began to get quite dark. Luther began to get nervous as the shadows lengthened and he could hear the howls of wild animals around him. 

Just then, he looked up at the night sky to see it filled with tiny pricks of light – twinkling blue and silver stars. As he looked around, he was struck by the beauty of a group of small evergreens. Their branches were dusted with snow and shimmered in the moonlight. 

He was no longer afraid
When he got home, he set up a little fir tree indoors so he could share this story with his children. He decorated it with candles, which he lit in honour of Christ's birth. All of a sudden the image of the birth of Jesus as God's light shining in the darkness for everyone made more sense to him…

This is the same light that the prophet Isaiah talks about when he tells us that God sends light to those who walk in darkness. It is as true now as it was then.


Do you know what an Angel is? Most religions have them, but we in the Jewish Christian and Islamic tradition know them as Messengers.

Angels come to bring a word from the Lord - When Mary first conceived, it was the Arch-Angel Gabriel who broke the news to her and helped her to be excited about what would transpire. Joseph moved from anger to understanding about the whole pregnancy situation only when an angel appeared to him in a dream.  

And after the birth of Jesus, it was a choir of angels that brought the good news to the shepherds, and in that moment, “the glory of the Lord shone around them…”

I see that as awe… everything lit up, it overwhelmed them, God was present…

I don’t know what most of you do tonight when the presents are wrapped and the kids are asleep and everything is ready… I remember when I lived with my five brothers for a brief period of insanity that the 11pm on Christmas Eve was magical.

We would sit in the living room, only the lights on the tree illuminating the world. Outside would be dark and quiet. No one would be fighting, we were usually allowed some rum in our egg nog… and it was somehow, momentarily, perfect.

The Celtic folk call this a thin place – a time where the line between heaven and earth is a little blurry. A time where you realize there is more than meets the eye going on. Those moments are indeed quite rare, but they often happen on Christmas Eve.

Whether it is as a child waiting for Santa, or seeing the presents under the tree, or the quiet of a night filled with significance…. If we are open to it, the Angels are still bringing a message from God.

And the message is the same as it always has been, a message of God’s glory and of peace for us.

Treasured in the Heart

In the 119th Psalm we are told that God has hidden love deep within our hearts. In fact, there is a tradition that says we spend our whole lives searching outwardly for that love, and it is only when we realize it is hidden within us that we become capable of loving fully.

I think too often we forget the last words of the Christmas story, that Mary “Treasured these things in her heart.”

I was listening to an interview with Rabbi Harold Kushner the other day and he was talking about how it is a good idea to go to the graveyard and read the tombstones every now and again. He pointed out that never once will you come across ones that say things like: Brett Anningson, good with numbers; or exceptional preacher; or anything remotely like that… what you will see is devoted wife, loving son, you will see expressions of the heart.

Too often we have those moments in front of the fire, or sitting around the tree, or opening presents, or feasting with family, and then go back to work the next day as if it is all over. We forget to treasure those moments that allow us to see the world from a different perspective.

Christmas is a time that we can let seep into our soul. It is the coming of the light into an otherwise darkened world. And it is not just right now, it is forever.

So enjoy it, revel in it, relax in it, but let it seep into your very soul. Tomorrow the light is dawning.

 Words of Reflection:  Sharing the Light & Blessing

Look around this sacred place and see all the lights that are burning. 
See the light that shines in each of us.

From the Light of the World comes light for every one of us to take into our corners of the world. 
Take this light with you tonight and remember who you are and who has made you.

Tonight, light has broken through the darkness.
New life is starting right now!
Go forth and live in the light.
Go forth in peace to love and serve our God.

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