Sermon preached by the Reverend Nicholas Lang
St. Paul’s on the Green, Norwalk, CT
The Nativity of Our Lord – Christmas Eve – December 24, 2010
In the name of God who gathers us together, comes to us as baby and creates life all around us. Amen.
It is my great joy as rector of this amazing church community to welcome each of you to this celebration of Christmas and to the mystery, awe, and wonder of this sacred space. Someone said that there are four stages to life: (1) When you believe in Santa Claus; (2) When you don’t believe in Santa Claus; (3) When you play Santa Claus; and (4) When you look like Santa Claus. With all due respect to the one known around the world by many names such as Kris Kringle or Father Christmas, our reason for raising our voices in much loved carols and carefully choreographed holy drama is not a bearded, jolly old man in a red suit but rather of a baby born in poverty, born more than two thousand years ago into a world of violence and oppression.
Surrounded by our sisters and brothers in God’s family of humanity, basking in the beauty of our worship here tonight, our spirits fortified by glorious music, it’s a night when I suspect even the most cynical of folk may take a sabbatical and suspend all disbelief, believing, if only for this night, this hour, that God is born among us and everything is possible—yes, even the seemingly outlandish idea that God would come to us as a baby, live among us, and teach us how to love so that God could, through our human efforts, bring about a new creation where there will be justice and righteousness without end.
2010 has for a lot of people not been the best of years and we continue to hear the gloomy news about unemployment, violence, and countries on the brink of warfare. But, I spite of it all, people will fill houses of worship this night because the one common thread among us as human beings is that we want to believe in something, something beyond ourselves, something that will help us in our search for that unique commodity for which we all desperately long—hope; hope of a better next year. Where is your hope this holy night, this silent night? To find peace in your anxious lives? To get answers to the problems and struggles you face? Or maybe you come here because you hoped to find fins some beauty in a world where there is so much unpleasantness and ugliness.
Perhaps you are here, carrying in your heart the highest hopes for the human entire family—for those near to you and those far away, those you know intimately and those you’ve never met. Whatever your reasons for being with us tonight, I would wager that you have come because you have hope for a better world, for a new creation promised by God, one where the lion and lamb will lie down together.
My prayer for each of you is that you will leave here tonight with this truth implanted in your heart: that Christmas is an awareness that grows in us each day of our lives, our awareness of eternal Life come among us, a call to make today better than yesterday because on a day just like today, God came to us as one of us in the form of the very humanity that is our flesh and blood fabric. Christmas is kind of a moveable feast in that our experience of it changes with time. As a child, we think of it as the season for getting presents. When we’re young adults, it becomes a season of parties.
When we settle down with a life partner and perhaps children, it’s a season of nesting and preparing our home for a family feast. When we get a little older, it changes more profoundly. From behind the trappings of Christmas cards, big dinners, candles and carols, past the nativity scenes and poinsettia-laden Altars, we may begin to see what Christmas is really all about: finding life where we do not expect it.
We celebrate it not only near the longest night of the year and in the darkest coldest season, but at what is almost the tail end of another full year of life where every stage has come and gone again, every good and bad moment becomes a memory, every hope may dim and every possibility may seem to disappear until…Christmas comes again and we are summoned at the deepest level of our being to begin once more to live again and to look towards the dawning of a new creation.
Christmas brings us back to a crib in a manger where a baby cries with the delight of new life and implores us to start over, aware of the year that has gone before, full of hope that the life of this Holy Child of Bethlehem will once again teach us what it takes to live well and make the world even just a little safer, healthier, more compassionate, planet than it was in the year we are leaving behind us.
Benedictine nun and author, Joan Chittister, says that “there is a child in each one of us waiting to be born again. It is to those looking for life that the figure of the Christ, a child, beckons. Christmas is for those who refuse to give up and grow old, for those whom life comes newly and with purpose each and every day, for those who can let yesterday go, so that life can be full of new possibility always.”
May the sweet mystery of this sacred commemoration, the tenderness of the God-Child, the delight of the shepherds who first beheld him, the encouragement of the angels’ song to us, and the hope of all good things to come, be with you this night and fill all your tomorrows. Amen.