Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Eve 2009 - Sermon

“In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.”

The word we translate as “word” comes from the Greek word logos and its root word has two meanings. “To speak” is one and it’s obvious why it can be translated as “word.” The other meaning is “to act.” Both are appropriate for what we say about Jesus Christ, whose birth we celebrate tonight, because in Jesus Christ God speaks and acts.

Another wonderful image we use at Christmas is light. In John’s Gospel it says, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” What a wonderful image – no darkness can overcome the light, no darkness is powerful enough to overcome the light. The light always wins. No matter how big the darkness seems – the light, even a small light, just a candle, in the vast darkness defeats the darkness. The light always wins.

Tonight we proclaim that Word and Light, the Word and Light of God became flesh and lived among us. God shines on us. That’s what we celebrate today.

Christianity has been known from the very beginning as a faith of women and slaves. A faith that appealed to those who felt shut out and powerless.

I remember one Christmas when I learned a valuable message. I was probable 17 years old and our High School had an assemble. Students performed songs and skits for the other students. That year, in order to gain admittance into the assemble people had to bring a canned good for some Christmas hampers that were being put together. The next day, I was one of the people helping to deliver the goods. Now I was the sort of kid who would have said that the system worked for me and it seemed to work for the people I knew. That day I learnt that the system didn’t work for everyone. I went into buildings I walk past every day and had no idea the extent of the poverty that existed behind those doors. I was shocked. For the first time I knew that the system didn’t work for everybody. I even realized that if it didn’t work for everybody then it really wasn’t working for me either. There were people in my neighbourhood who were shut out and powerless.

Jesus proclaimed that the order of this world is passing away, and that a new one was already breaking through. A new order, one in which the poor would be honoured.

This sharing is represented in the Eucharistic, everyone worshipping and receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ together. People normally shut out from the banquets are included at this banquet. All eat and drink (side by side): the rich and poor; female and male; young and old; slave and free; Jew and gentile, young and old – sisters and brothers with one another.

The Story of Christmas that we all know so well, was not told from a day-to-day fact sheet. Born this day, in the City of David, a king. Tune in tomorrow for more on this developing story.

Everyone who told us anything about the nativity of Jesus Christ knew the whole story. They knew about Palm Sunday and Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem, on the back of a donkey and the crowd shouting Hosanna!

They knew about Maundy Thursday and Jesus showing his disciples the great example of his leadership by washing their feet. That if they wanted to be followers of him they would be expected to serve others. It was on Maundy Thursday that Jesus instituted the Last Supper; the Great Thanksgiving; the Eucharist. He said that the bread was like his body and the wine like his blood and that by sharing in this meal he will dwell with us, inside of us. It was on Maundy Thursday, the holiest night of the year, the night he was arrested, that Jesus gave his disciples a commandment to love one another. It was as if he was pleading with them, “love one another” he said over and over again.

They knew about Good Friday and the crucifixion, the day when humanity inflicted their worst on this Jesus; the Word of God; the light that shines in our lives.

They knew about Easter and the Resurrection. The women went to the tomb and discovered that the body was missing. It was Mary Magdalene who was given the opportunity to first proclaim that he is risen. Peter and John went to the tomb as well, and found it empty and eventually realized that the darkness could not overcome the light. The light always wins. The light of God always wins.

Everyone who told us anything about the nativity also knew the whole story. They knew about Palms Sunday, and Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday and Easter Day.

All of it was written with the whole story in mind. Like the angels - scaring the wits out of people. What’s the first thing angels say? – “Don’t be afraid.” They say that because it’s scary to be visited by an angel.

The Virgin birth; the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, City of David; the shepherds washing the socks at night, or whatever; the Maji – Kings from the East bearing peculiar gifts: gifts that had to with who we know Jesus to be at the end of the story; gifts that had to do with death and being God son. All of it was told with the ending in mind.

That Christmas night – long ago – a star rose – a light rises and that is the light of Christ rising in us. The Cross and the Resurrection are parts of the Christmas Story and Jesus rises like a light in our lives; a light that no darkness can extinguish. It is a light of hope that shines in the darkness. To this day the darkness has not put it out. The darkness will never put it out. The darkness can never put it out.

This light that shines is a light that rises like Jesus Christ in our lives. And this light rises today! It is a light that promises transformation. It is a light that transforms the lives of Shepherds, of Kings, of Mary, and even the Little Drummer Boy. This light is risen today! Alleluia!

Sing – Jesus Christ is risen today! Fa-la-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la

Now, I know that there are several of you who think I shouldn’t be allowed to sing solos. And this time I agree with you. This is not a solo, it is a chorus, it is an anthem, meant to be sung by as many voices as possible and as loudly as possible. Please join me in one verse of this great Easter morning anthem. The Easter message cannot be confined to one morning. Let’s sing…

Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!
our triumphant holy day, Alleluia!
who did once upon the cross, Alleluia!
suffer to redeem our loss. Alleluia! Thank you…

So, if we want to know about the Nativity, about the birth of Jesus Christ we celebrate on this joyful feast this evening. But, if we want to experience more fully the joy we announce today we’ll have to come back together again. We’ll have to join together in worship and praise again. I would suggest that next Sunday would be a good time. I would suggest that we do this each and every Sunday.

I hope we will, because the Christmas message; the Easter message; the Christian message; the Good News offers real hope for those who feel shut out or powerless, it offers real change for those of us who want to have a system that works for everyone. The Good News is real hope and real change for our whole lives and for our whole world.

God speaks and acts in Jesus Christ!
The Word of God is risen today!
The Light of God is risen today!
Jesus Christ is risen today! Alleluia!


This sermon borrowed from Dylan's Lectionary Blog.


Shipagent said...


Thank you so much for posting your wonderful Christmas Eve sermon on your blog. As you are aware, Di was spending Christmas and New Year with her family in northern Ontario and therefore was unable to be present to hear your sermon. This gives her (and hopefully others who missed it) the opportunity to enjoy as we all did ! Thanks and God Bless .
Peter (Fenton)

John Clarke said...

Thanks for the comment. I think you said that Dianne was returning Friday. I hope she had a good Christmas and New Years. The posting was what I intended to say on Christmas Eve, I think it came across better in the actual delivery. I was asked, maybe 50 times, if I meant to say “Shepherds washing their socks…” But one person humorously asked how I even knew that shepherds wore socks. I said what else would all that wool be for?