Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Sermon: Breathless

Sermon for Christmas Day, Year C
St. Philips In The Hills Parish, Tucson, AZ
The Rev. Vicki Hesse, December 25, 2012

For Readings, click here
Isaiah 52:7-10, Hebrews 1:1-4 (5-12) and John 1:1-14

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of all hearts be acceptable to you, o Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen

A few years ago at Winter Solstice,
I went dog sledding in Minnesota. I know, crazy.
It was 40 below. 
The morning of our first run, we gathered in the common room to learn how to do this.. 

We learned about harnessing the dogs,how to lead them (on their back legs), and
how to call out GEE and HAW to steer the rig down the path. 

As we talked inside, the 35 anxious dogs outside 
howled, barked, and pulled on their chains in anticipation.
They knew we were preparing and got very excited.  
We went outside, with courage in our hearts and
harnesses in our hands to the cacophony of barking canines.

Pick Me! Pick Me!  the dogs cried, only fueling
our own anticipation and hyper-vigilance for the upcoming adventure. 

One by one, we grabbed a dog,wrestled the harness over its head and
slid across the icy path toward the sled. With six frantic, barking, jumpy dogs hitched,
the excited guides yelled commands and pointed to us to jump on board. 
The unceasing yelps from the “left behind” dogs created an ambiance of frantic energy.
At last, we jumped to our places, the tether was released and we yelled “Hike Hike!”.

At once, the dogs pulled with the speed of an Olympic athlete, and we heard….

Silence. No sound.

It took my breath away!

Just barely audible ~the sound of satisfied breathing, cantering paws padding through snow and
the edge of the sled’s runners cutting through the ice.Even the left-behind dogs were silent.  
They would not run, not today.

All that effort and anticipation and excitement and now…breathlessness. 
Beauty. Mystery. Peace. Joy. Surprise.

The season of Advent – the time leading up to Christmas day – is like that. 
All the anticipation, the decorations, the worry,
all the hustle and bustle only gets more hustly and bustly as we get closer to Christmas day. 

On the eve of the birth of Jesus, we found Mary and Joseph, expectant mother and father,
embroiled in the hustle and bustle that preceded birth,
all while trying to find a place for the coming child. The anticipation was palpable and finally – delivery! 

Like other birth experiences, after the crowds disbursed, the mother and father finally 
had time to spend alone with the newborn child. 

Silence.  No sound. Beauty. Mystery. Peace.  Joy. Surprise.

This was the day of breathless realization that life would never be the same again.
For this was not just any birth.

The poetic language of the Gospel of John describes this life-changing birth in stark contrast
to the concrete birth stories of Luke.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  
2He was in the beginning with God.  
3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being…”

This breathless poetry floats above Luke’s din of messy, daily reality that existed:
pregnant women, babies, a decreeing emperor, weary travelers, a swaddled baby, visiting shepherds. 
In this incarnation, we have the language of beauty, mystery, peace, joy, and surprise.

And somehow, even devoid of details, we feel grounded by the paradox of our Savior,
born into this world, yet one who cannot be boxed into human expectations. 

With the birth of our Savior, we are alerted to signs of life’s new meaning –
that life will never be the same again. We have crossed a threshold.

And now, it’s time for a little truth in advertising that may be different from the sweetness and light
of the adorable pastoral scenes that often accompany Christmas. This was not just any birth.

Jesus, born into a specific time, to a specific people with a prophetic legacy,
who practiced a specific religion, Jesus, born into a tradition that placed faith and loyalty
to God’s truth above all the niceties of diplomacy.
Jesus, this savior of the world, born as a human being 
 with a personality and identity that might embarrass us. 
Jesus, born today, is likely to cause some trouble. Powerful people found him a threat.
This was not just any birth. 

Because, to anyone who has ever encountered darkness, anyone who has ever struggled,
anyone who has ever looked at a newspaper headline about Newtown, CT (or any other tragedy)
and felt their heart break, anyone who knows anyone living a broken life,
anyone who knows that she or he is living that broken life, 
Jesus brings possibility, light, and life to the world. 

The good news, today, announced in the post-hustle and bustle breathlessness
proclaimed by the poetic Gospel of John, is this – darkness cannot overcome light.

“What has come into being 4in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.
5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it…”

God became flesh, so that we might know God – not just “about” God, 
but really know God, through Jesus. 
God became flesh to bring love to all people. 
God became flesh, messy, human flesh,
in beauty, mystery, peace, joy and surprise.  
God’s very Word, living among us. Now.

This is not just any birth. How Jesus’ life played out means that we see,
God’s dream becoming a reality.  
Our Savior was a threat to the powerful people of his day 
because he brought light and life - God, in Jesus, brought
beauty, mystery, peace, joy, and surprise to all of God’s people.

Beauty in the hands of meal preparations for the hungry
Mystery in the arms of forgiveness and reconciliation
Peace in the hearts of comfort and healing
Joy in the love of companions and passion for the poor
Surprise in anger seeking justice for all,
especially those on the margins of society, and
Love to the lives our sisters and brothers

The birth of Jesus into our world is not just any birth.
The birth of Jesus means that life will never be the same. 

After all the hustle and bustle of preparations,
today’s birth-day of Jesus, is ultimately a day of hope. 
This birth means that God became human and lived among us to know us, love us, and restore us.
This birth means that nothing and no one is outside the creative, life-giving purposes of God’s world. 
This birth means that we are all part of God’s dream for light and life and fullness of grace and truth. 

when you wish one another Merry Christmas,
what you are really saying is
“God loves you with complete abandon.”
When you wish one another a Merry Christmas,
what you are really wishing is
“God’s glory is shining in you.” 
When you wish one another Merry Christmas,
What you are really sharing is
your the deep confidence that all things,
came into being through Jesus,
with a light and life of which
darkness cannot overcome. 

We now see God’s glory – in God’s Son, Jesus,
the light of the world. 

And that, is something to take our breath away.


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