Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Christmas, 2019-A: Our sacred story

Lectionary: Isaiah 9:2-7; Psalm 96; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-14-20

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En el nombre del Dios: creador, redentor, y santificador. Amen.

This truly is the greatest story ever told - and it never gets old, does it? We hear about this intrepid family who guard the secret of a new life given to them by God in a most miraculous way. Our backs and bodies ache with very pregnant Mary as she rides for hours and hours on a donkey. We feel ourselves tense up with Joseph as he searches in vain for a safe place for his wife to deliver their baby. Time is running out and the lack of compassion they face is astounding!

If you’ve ever been a parent awaiting your baby’s delivery you know how anxious that time is. TV often depicts this moment with hilarity - people running around chaotically scrambling to get the pregnant mother to the hospital to deliver, often running out the door without the mother! It’s a nerve-wracking time, especially for first-time parents.

In our sacred story, Mary gives birth in less than ideal conditions: with no mid-wife and no women family to support, encourage, and watch out for her safety in the delivery. By the end of this adventure Joseph probably knows a whole lot more about child-birth than he ever dreamed he would!

But the new life has arrived and they are awestruck by it. There is a peace that passes understanding in this part of the story, a peace beautifully described in the hymn, Silent Night, which we will sing later in order to share in this deep, resounding, soulful peace.

This sacred story demonstrates for us the rhythm of the process of divine love: chaos transformed into peace.

If we move from what happened to those particular people on that particular night and look at it as a prototype for all humanity in all time, what we see is how God’s loving redemption plays out eternally.

The reality is people are ostracized – for lots of reasons. They are shunned by people who matter in their lives, left out in the cold to fend for themselves. In their powerlessness, they accept the derision directed at them, maybe because they learned to believe that they deserve it or maybe they know they don’t deserve it, but they aren’t going to change the minds of those who believe they do.

In this story, they focus on something bigger already happening: the birth of a new life. This new life for them has been conceived by God and is now ready to be made manifest. It will be so real they can see it, touch it, be awed by it; and others will too – because this new life will reveal the love of God in a whole new way.

It starts small, this new life. It’s as delicate and vulnerable as it is beautiful. The people given this new life know they’re going to have to tend to it for a long time before it comes into its fullness.

This means they have to commit to doing the little things, the everyday, homely, inglorious, things that will bring this new life to its fullness. Then, when it comes to its fullness, this new life, conceived by God, will have its effect.

For Mary and Joseph, that meant breastfeeding a crying baby Jesus, changing his dirty diapers, schlepping back and forth between Bethlehem, Egypt, and Nazareth to keep him from being murdered by an insane, paranoid ruler, teaching him to be a carpenter, taking him to church, and watching his trial and execution. Through it all, the parents of our Savior had to deal with the continued shame of the rumors about how Mary really got pregnant - because, really, would we believe the story Mary and Joseph told if we heard it today?

For us, it means doing the menial spiritual and worldly work that feeds and nurtures the new life God is giving us. Practicing the disciplines of daily prayer and weekly corporate worship, participating in the councils of the church, being patient, loving, and hope-filled even as tensions rise and compassion seems absent, caring for our bodies as the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.

It means suffering through the moments that are devastating, illogical, and totally unfair, knowing, as Mary and Joseph did, that God has a perfect plan of love and is working redemption even in what feels like a present darkness.

One of the reasons this story never gets old, I think, is because it is so deeply within us that we’re no longer listening the way we did as children - to the sacred story of the birth of Jesus to Mary and Joseph. We’re listening now to the sacred story of all humankind and the birth of new life, redeeming life conceived by God, and brought to manifest reality through us.

This is the sacred story of the eternally happening birth of the Christ.

When people draw near to us, the parish of St. David’s, they are like the “shepherds,” those regular, hardworking, unpretentious folks in our sacred story who draw near to see and experience the Christ made manifest in our lives. Because I know what they’ll find here, I believe that they too will be amazed and give thanks to God; and they’ll run to tell others that this is not only possible but real and they know where to find it.

The new life, being conceived right now by God at St. David’s is about to become manifest through everyone here. Chaos is being transformed into deep, resounding, soulful peace as the Christ is being born and nurtured here in a whole new way.

Trust the process. Ours is the sacred story of the eternally happening birth of the Christ - and it is truly the greatest story ever told. Amen.

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