Sunday, December 28, 2014

Sermon: Our Story, too

Baby, Crying, Infants, Cry, Kid, LittleSermon for December 28, 2014
First Sunday after Christmas
The Rev. Vicki K. Hesse
St. Philip’s In The Hills Parish, Tucson, AZ
For readings click here
Lord, open our lips, 
that our mouth shall proclaim your praise. Amen
Listen here on Sound Cloud 

·        The angel said to Mary, “Do not be afraid, …
for you have found favor with God.”
·        And an angel of the Lord appeared … in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid,
...for the child conceived in [Mary] will save people from their sins.”
·        “…and they shall name him “Emmanuel” which means God is with us.”
·        And [Mary] gave birth to her first born son
and laid him in a manger.
·        And the angel said to the shepherds,
“Do not be afraid, for I am bringing YOU
good news of great joy for all the people:
TO YOU is born this day
a Savior, the Messiah, the Lord.” 
·        And the Word became flesh and lived among us, full of grace and truth.

This is a familiar story. 
And yet we listen, don’t we, with
deepening silence,
increased attention,
and heightened expectations. 

We listen to this astonishingly powerful story
of a young girl giving birth to her first child,
nearby only shepherds and stable animals
but heralded by angels above.

While we listen and reflect,
let’s not forget
how daring, downright eccentric
and perfectly ironic is this story from Luke. 

Juxtaposed against
the powerful Emperor
and his demand for a census,
we hear a story of a newborn baby
in meager surroundings. 
Perhaps this is what draws us to this story –
the emperor on the one hand
and the vulnerable Mary on the other. 

This vulnerability draws us every year.
This vulnerability is a package
of palpable fear and hope
bundled with a mother’s heart. 

We all know of this vulnerability:
in faltering relationships,
in illnesses of family members or friends,
in foreboding of safety for those serving abroad,
in the delicate weight of caring for an elderly or frail loved one. 

Perhaps, like the shepherds, we are drawn toward this vulnerability from our fields. 

The shepherds,
lowest in the social standing
of first-century Palestine,
had no right, no expectation,
no hope in the world of being met by the divine. 
So, of course they were terrified
when the glory of the Lord shone around them.
That intimate conversation with
the divine messenger drew the shepherds,
and it draws us,
to a surprising scene:
where there is vulnerability:
fear and hope all wrapped in one. 

What is being born in you, this Christmas?
Is it a new call to reach out to those who are
hungry, thirsty, or imprisoned?
Is it to make friends with people on the border?
Is it a draw to nurture your inner life more?
Is there a new determination
to stand up for justice and peace
or to approach life with a more expansive heart?
Listen, the angel is saying, to you,
        “Do not be afraid.”

For this is where we meet the divine.
This is where God dwells:
in the lowly, the unexpected,
the vulnerable spaces
traversed with courage.
If God can work in and through ordinary people[1]
like a young mother and plain shepherds,
God can also work in and through us,
through our flesh, our very lives
to which God is committed.

This story is a story from not just long ago. 
It is also our story, all of us gathered here. 

God came at Christmas for us
to pour out hope and courage
amid dark and dangerous times of our lives. 
And just as God entered into time and history
so long ago, God enters our lives even now. 

This is why we yearn for this familiar,
astonishingly powerful story over and over: 

This is why we listen
with heightened expectations every year:
·        to care for that vulnerable birth of God’s love in our lives
·        to testify to that pervasive light of God’s dream for the world
·        and to receive the Word of God among us, who loves us deeply, with grace and truth.


[1] Inspired by David Lose, commentary on Luke 2:1-14 at

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