- February 25, 2017
The Rev. Robert P. Travis
Christmas Eve Sermon – 5, 10pm Church of the Ascension and Chapel of St. John the Divine, Saunderstown
RCL Year A 12/24/2016
Scripture Text: Isaiah 9:2-7
Last week in the paper there was a cartoon.
It showed a little boy,
Sitting on a couch,
Writing a letter.
The letter said,
Don’t believe what you may have heard
About my being bad.
That was fake news.
We live in a world,
Where it can be hard to tell what to believe,
Where there is fake news,
And real news,
Where all around us there is a lot
of unbelievably bad news.
Tonight (Today) we get to celebrate
The good news,
That the unbelievably good news really happened.
Even though massive odds were
Stacked against it,
And forces continue to try to destroy it today.
The good news is that God is with us.
Emmanuel has come,
And Jesus is his name.
In fact, the good news includes the fact
That audacious though it was,
God chose to prove the evil powerless,
By defeating it in the most harmless of ways.
Of all the ways that God could come into the world,
The idea that God would risk so much,
By becoming an infant,
The first born son,
Born to a poor young woman,
Who had never done this before.
In labor privately with her husband,
But otherwise in a strange village,
By a manger where animals feed,
because there was no room at the inn,
after a journey.
Why didn’t the baby come
With all the jostling on the journey?
Couldn’t there be a place found with room,
By God for his only son?
How did the birth happen without
Difficulty, when there were no women around to help?
These are just some of the questions,
That make me think how risky this situation was.
Any number of things could have gone wrong,
For Mary and Joseph,
And for the baby Jesus.
You know one thing I learned this week
From our bishop,
Who many of you know is a physicist…
One photon visible…
Just when Jesus was born,
An Angel appeared to the most unlikely
People, to shepherds in a field.
I say unlikely,
Because one would think that
For The King of the Universe,
God’s own messenger
Would appear to the most powerful people.
Leaders don’t customarily
Send diplomats to peasants in a foreign place.
By the world’s standards, the angel should have appeared
To Caesar, or at least the king of Judea.
Not to some rough men at the bottom
Of the employment chain.
That brings up the notion,
Of the jealousy of those with power,
Which we learn about later,
When we see the young family
Escaping to Egypt for the life of their son,
After being warned that the king
Wants to kill the baby.
Talk about a risky situation.
There were so many things that could have gone wrong.
With so much at stake,
And so many possible pitfalls,
One might think that even God
Would be afraid that this plan
Would not work out.
But the first message the angel
Gave from God to those humble,
Terrified shepherds was
“Be not afraid.”
That message was for all of us as well,
Under the circumstances of that time,
As well as under the circumstances of today.
Notice from the first few verses,
The news, if you will,
that brought about these circumstances,
Was the ruler of the known world,
Called for a census,
That required everyone to go to the
Town of their ancestors and be counted.
So everyone had to go.
Then as now power, men with political power,
had control of people,
power could cause people to take risks
they would not otherwise do.
In other news,
Luke tells us, that
At that time Quirinius was governor of Syria.
This year that statement has taken on
New meaning for us.
There’s a name we’ve heard about
Frequently in our news lately,
The news from there has been horrible.
Showing that powerful men,
Can cause people to take risks,
Like fleeing their own country,
That they would not otherwise do.
Then there was the news just last week,
Of the terrorist attack with a hijacked truck,
On the open air Christmas Market
Showing that men without political power,
Will also try to use whatever power they can hold,
Sometimes in anger against innocent people.
Those kinds of people wrought havoc
In Jesus’ time as well.
Often accosting travelers on the road.
They could have been yet another risk,
Mary and Joseph were forced to take,
By travelling at that precarious time,
When Jesus was to be born.
If I were in Mary and Joseph’s shoes,
Like a Syrian fleeing my country today,
I might wonder if God was present at all,
With so much danger facing us.
These situations in our news today
tell us that the same forces,
That were arrayed against Jesus
Two thousand years ago,
Are still fighting to steal, kill and destroy the good today.
The difference between then and now is,
Those forces are desperate,
Because they have already lost.
God chose to come into such circumstances,
To become a vulnerable, helpless new born baby,
To show us we have nothing to fear.
The angel’s message,
“Be not afraid”
Is for all people of faith as well.
This vulnerable baby,
With the help of his humble but good,
And most importantly faithful parents,
Made it to adulthood,
He was even able to accomplish the amazing
Task that was his purpose here among us.
He would show God’s glory,
By healing, teaching, giving hope,
And finally defeating evil by dying at evil’s hands,
Only to rise again,
showing that finally evil will not have
the upper hand.
In God seeming to take the greatest of chances,
as one of us,
God shows the confidence
God knows is real good news,
not fake news,
Not the bragging of arrogant men,
But the confidence of One who truly cares,
About the most vulnerable people,
People whose circumstances
Often require them to take risks
They would not normally choose.
God cares about the most vulnerable
Of people enough to make holy
Their lives by entering the world
In the most vulnerable way.
Jesus birth shows us that while our situations
May seem risky or fearful,
He is with us.
Emmanuel is God with us.
He became one of us,
One of the least of us,
To show us there is nothing to fear.
Our powerful enemy is defeated by a little baby,
Brought into the world safely,
Though every possible risk said it shouldn’t work.
The Shepherds had an interesting response,
To the message they received.
These low-class people
we might think would not be
worthy to be entrusted with such a message.
Who first heard the message of the Angel,
And first witnessed Christ the Lord,
Born among us,
Responded by telling everyone the good news,
Rejoicing and praising God.
In a world where evil still tries to destroy
the Good news all around us,
One of the most powerful ways
To respond to God’s confident message,
Of strength in weakness, love overcoming death,
Is to simply share this good news with others.
It was like they experienced the light that
Had been born in them,
In the midst of the darkness of their lives.
That little baby, that tiny amount of light
Was enough to overcome the darkness.
That same light is born in each of us.
You can go out and bring this light to others.
The message of Christmas calls for
A response from each of us.
What will your response be?