Sermon: Christmas Eve RCL C

Photo by Akira Hojo on Unsplash

Boudreaux and Thibideaux somehow managed to get a job working in the same office, and on one particular Friday, Boudreaux showed up to work and found Thibideaux hanging upside down from the ceiling.

“What are you doing?” Boudreaux asked.

“Shh,” Thibideaux said, “I’m a light bulb. I’m acting crazy to get a few extra days off, as squirrel season opens this weekend.”

A minute later the boss walked by and asked Thibideaux what he was doing.

“I’m a light bulb!” Tibs exclaimed.

“You’re going crazy,” said the boss. “Take a few days off, and come back when you are less stressed.”

With that, Tibs jumped down and started walking out. Boudreaux started following him whereupon the boss asked where he thought he was going.

Without missing a beat, Bou says, “I can’t work in the dark.”

Boudreaux knows how to work the angles.

I am definitely a night person, but I still need the light in order to work, but we know that John in his prologue was speaking of different kind of light and a different kind of darkness when he wrote, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” Lord Byron, in his poem, Darkness, does a fine job of describing the kind of darkness that John refers to. He writes:

I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
The bright sun was extinguish’d, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;
Morn came and went—and came, and brought no day,
And men forgot their passions in the dread
Of this their desolation; and all hearts
Were chill’d into a selfish prayer for light.

In Byron’s world of darkness there was nothing but despair and the people began to die off. They all finally came together and built a great fire, but they all died when, in its light, they saw what they had become. And a Merry Christmas to you too.

I don’t know the circumstances behind Byron writing that peom, but I believe it does a fine job of describing the world that Jesus was born into. For the people of God, the world held a great spiritual darkness. There hadn’t been a prophet from God for over four hundred years, the oppression of the Roman legions was steadily on the increase, and the religious leaders were no help, so all that God had promised seemed to be vanishing before their eyes.

The people of of God were horrified at what they had become and there seemed nothing that they could do about it, but our God who is faithful and true had not abandoned his people.

On a cold winter’s night, God tore open the heavens over the region of Judea, above the City of David, which is called Bethlehem, and a star appeared. That star received its light from the God who created it, but was then wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger. And the child not only gave light to the star, but to all flesh. God had become flesh and dwelt among us.

As we declare in the Nicene Creed: For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven, by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary and was made man.

The birth of Jesus, the Incarnation of God, was what this dark world had been waiting and praying for. Yet, the mistake we all can make is to limit the incarnation of our Lord to its historical context. We say that it was something that happened 2,000 some odd years ago, and in doing so we fail to understand its power in this present dark world and in our own lives

The light that first shone in the world on that first Christmas still shines as brightly today as it did back then. It still has the power to dispel the darkness and to bring about our redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

St. Paul confirms this: “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” This Light, who is our very life—body, soul, and spirit—has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and given us access to the very Kingdom of God. And to all who receive this Light, who believe in his name, Jesus gives the power to become children of God, but understanding this still leaves us with one very important question: Why? Why has God rescued us? Why has he forgiven us? Why has he given us power to become His children?

Why did God become man? Holy scripture has one answer to this question: love. “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.  In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atonement for our sins.”

God became man because of his love for you, so then the question is: do you believe that you are loved by God? We can talk theology and philosophy and so on, but that’s what it all comes down to: do you know and believe that you are loved by God? My friend Brennan Manning says, “I am now utterly convinced that on Judgment day the Lord Jesus will ask one question and only one question, ‘Did you believe that I loved you? That I desired you? That I waited for you day after day?’” Brennan believes the answer for most of us will be, “No.” We don’t believe God loves us or even could. Why? Because, as Brennan says, “We make God in our own image and he winds up being as fussy, and rude, and narrow minded, judgmental and legalistic, and unloving and unforgiving as we are!” And a God like that could never love us, but those are human traits, not God traits, because as St. John tells us, “God is love.” Because of this love, Brennan believes that Jesus comes along side each one of us and says, “I have a word for you. I know your life story. I know every skeleton in your closest, I know every moment of sin and shame, dishonesty and degraded love that darkens your past. Right now, I know your shallow faith, your feeble prayer life, your inconsistent discipleship. And my word for you is this. I dare you to trust that I love you, just as you are! Not as you should be. Because none of us are as we should be.” I dare you to trust that I love you….

On a cold winter’s night in the region of Judea and in the City of David, which is called Bethlehem, God tore open the heavens and the Virgin gave birth to the light of the world, God’s one and only son. Mary wrapped the child in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger. This and all that followed… was for us, for our salvation, and because of his great love. Receive the gift. Receive the Light. Dare to believe you are loved by God.

Let us pray:
Father in Heaven,
You made us Your children
and called us to walk in the Light of Christ.
Free us from darkness
and keep us in the Light of Your Truth.
The Light of Jesus has scattered
the darkness of hatred and sin.
Called to that Light,
we ask for Your guidance.
Form our lives in Your Truth,
our hearts in Your Love.
Through the Holy Eucharist,
give us the power of Your Grace
that we may walk in the Light of Jesus
and serve Him faithfully.
Amen

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