25 December 2008

Christmas Eve Sermon

Despite my best efforts the Dr. Seuss sermon did not come to fruition. I tried like the dickens but it was a hard sermon to fashion. So I went in a direction that took me by surprise. A question crept in my subconscious: What have you to do with me Jesus son of the Most High God? It is the question from the Geresane demoniac, odd I know for Christmas Eve but it worked last night, better than I could have imagined.

The Hopes and the Fears
text: “I beseech thee, torment me not.” (Luke 8:28, KJV)
Christmas Eve

This Advent I have attempted to present Advent from the poetical angles of the four Evangelists: St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke, and St. John. The human/angel asks us to sit a spell and comfortably listen to the story of God laborious work in a family from Abraham to Jesus. The lion of Judah wrests from our comfortableness shouting: Change, Change, Change. The ox of focuses on two families: Zechariah and Elizabeth and Joseph and Mary to show in fascinating if not mysterious detail what happens when the overshadowing presence of God enfolds human life. Finally, the eagle, with a stand up bass violin, a snare drum, and a trumpet shows us the way with the rhythm of the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us.

Depending on where we are in life one approach is able to penetrate our thick armor of numbness and blindness to transform our heart and guts: the very essence of our existence.

For four weeks we have been preparing, not for a birth (that is tonight), but about the time to come. Advent is four preparatory, even penitential, weeks set aside to right the alignments of our hearts, minds, bodies, and souls so we can love the Lord our God with everything we have.

This evening all of time is at hand: past, present, and future. Tonight when all of the hopes and fears are met in Thee. This eve in all its innocence we fully, openly, and honestly ask: “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?”

Yes that is our question and this is our plea: I beseech thee, torment me not. We are not all modern day representatives of the Gerasene demoniacs, but if we were to peel away all the layers of our false selves would we not find fear at the core? would we not find an unnatural fear of God? Two conversations this week engraved this for me: one, a mother (of no relation to me) told her child to straighten up for Santa and Jesus were watching. What an ultimatum! {editorial note, this was meant to illicit a spot of humor, it did not - oh well} The other conversation was with someone who harbored a deep hope that despite unbelief God would not hold it against him. These two vignettes segue into a historical and universal deep-seated fear of God.

Travel back in human history to the mythical time when the Israelite storytellers described the creation of humanity. We are in the garden, right after we ate the apple, right after it was revealed to us that we were naked, right after we quickly jimmied together some garments to cover ourselves, right after we heard the Lord God walking in the garden, right after we hid ourselves among the trees, right after we said: I was afraid. We are wrought with a fear of God. We are afraid that God is out to get us, that God is just waiting for us to screw up, that God is against us.

This eve says otherwise. For tonight a little child is born, an innocent, dependent, and vulnerable child. The child is born to parents who should be scared, but they are not. For in their arms is not just a child, but a New Adam, a new human, a new humanity whose name is not just Jesus (meaning God saves) but is also Emmanuel (meaning God is with us). This child who is fully God and fully human, who is righteousness and peace, who is all of our hopes and fears is living proof that God is not against us but is for and with us.

God pitched his tent on earth in a vulnerable enfleshed vessel: a child. A child who did not come to torment us but came to heal and set us free. A child who came to show us the way to true love. A child who came to offer an everlasting hope for life. That is the poetry of Advent and now Christmas Eve.

Brothers and Sisters sing with all you have the carols we have preserved for they are about a time when all of creation rejoices as God says once again: fear not you are now my children, my friends, my co-creators.

Sisters and Brothers, Merry Christmas.

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