Sermons 2003-2004

Christmas Eve A, "Are we really ready?", Luke 2: 1-20, 24 December 2004
Home | Christmas Eve A, "Are we really ready?", Luke 2: 1-20, 24 December 2004 | "Finally! Well, almost...." Advent 4A , 19 December 2004, Matthew 1:18-25 | Faith and Doubts, Advent 3A, 12 December 2004, Matthew 11:2-11 | John the Baptist, Advent 2A, 5 December 2004, Matthew 3:1-12 | Left Behind? Advent 1A, 28 Nov 2004, Matthew 24:37-44 | Some King of kings! Proper 29C, 21 November 2004, Luke 23:35-43 | "Not one thrown down", Proper 28C, 14 November 2004, Luke 21:5-19 | All Saints and for all the saints, 2004C, 31 October 2004, Luke 6:20-36 | The Lambeth Commission Windsor Report, the Pharisee, and the tax collector, Proper 25C, 24 Oct 2004 | "Lord, teach us to pray." Proper 20C, 17 October 2004, Genesis 32:3-8, 22-30; Luke 18:1-8a | "It's all in the choosing", Proper 23C, 10 October 2004, Ruth 1:1-19a; Luke 17:11-19 | "Increase our faith", Proper 22C, Luke 17:5-10, 3 October 2004 | Proper 21C 2004, 26 September 2004, "R&R: Response and Relationships", Luke 16:19-31 | Proper 19C 2004, 12 September 2004, "Lost and Found", Luke 15:1-10 | Proper 18C 2004, 5 September 2004, "Preaching or Meddling", Luke 14:25-33 | Proper 16C 2004, 22 August 2004, "The Narrow Gate ", Luke 13:22-30 | Proper 15C, 15 August 2004 | Proper 14C, 8 August 2004 | Proper 13C, 1 August 2004 | Shrinemont: "Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses", Proper 15c, 15 August 2004 | "Lord, teach us how to pray," Proper 12C, 25 July 2004, Genesis 18:20-33; Luke 11:1-13 | The Summary of the Law and the Good Samaritan: "Go and do likewise" Luke 10:25-37, 11 July 2004 | Independence Day 2004. "The Creative Tension of the Church: Who is to be included?" | "Now! Now! Now!", Proper 8C, 27 June 2004, Luke 9:51-62 | "Star Throwers", Proper 7C, 20 June 2004, Galatians 3:23-29; Luke 9:18-24 | The more things change the more they remain the same, Pentecost 2C, 13 June 2004 | "O Holy Triune God, most Holy Trinity; here are we. Send us." Trinity C, 6 June 2004 | "Come, Holy Spirit", Pentecost C , 30 May 2004 | "That they all may be one", Easter 7C, 23 May 2004 | The Holy Spirit: Paraclete, Pneuma, Ruach, Easter 6C 2004 | Agapate Allelous: Love beyond each other, Easter 5C 2004, 9 May 2004 | The Good Shepherd and the five people you meet in heaven, Easter 4C 2004 | "The God of the Second Chance -- and of many chances", Easter 3C, 25 April 2004 | Baptizatus Sum: I am baptized, Easter 2C 2004 | It is NOT an Idle Tale: Easter Sunday, 18 April 2004 | Palm Sunday-Passion Sunday Roller Coaster: What We Want or What We Need? | Who are the Wicked Tenants, Lent 5C 2004 | The Prodigal Son -- and so much more | God, the Gardener, and the Fig Tree | "The Hen and the Fox", Lent 2C | The Comfortable Rut of Ordinary Temptation | "Getting from Uh-oh to Aha", Luke 9:28-36, Epiphany Last C, 22 February 2004 | Jesus, Jeremiah, and the Beatitudes: What to Make of it All | The Sword of the Lord and of Gideon: God working in the world | Jesus, the Archbishop, and Annual Council The Dark Abyss of Schism | The Nature of Revelation: Jesus' Sermon at Nazareth | The Miracle at the Wedding in Cana | The King of kings and the Lion King | "The Magnificat, Watching, and Waiting" | "Gaudete in Domino semper: Rejoice in the Lord always" | A Voice crying in the wilderness, "Prepare the way of the Lord." | "Standing in the Day of Battle: Isabel and the Gospel" | Dogma, Doctrine, and the Theological Enterprise | The Little Apocalypse | Jesus and theWidow's Mite | One Priest's Response to the Election of Gene Robinson | The Great Commandment: Jesus Meant What He said | Who is blind? | Eyes on Jesus and minds on mission! | Tradition or Traditionalism? | Credo: Be doers of the Word and not hearers only." | Who do YOU say that I am? | "It's about Power and Winning" | Contact Wicomico Parish Church

Christmas Eve 2004 Luke 2:1-20

Finally! Finally, it’s here. Christmas Eve, the night Jesus was born. Now we can let go of at least some of the hurry and preparation and getting ready and Christmas shopping and all the things that fill our days and minds and hands until now – when, finally, it’s here.

Oh, to be a little child on Christmas Eve again. I think that’s some thing of what Jesus meant when he said we have to approach everything about the Kingdom of heaven as a little child, bedazzled by the wonder and majesty and mystery of it all. Have you noticed how our attitudes toward Christmas change as we grow older and maybe wiser – especially when we compare it to the attitudes of our little children and grandchildren?

It doesn’t seem to bother the children that Christmas is so close so soon. Why is it they never seem to have any trouble getting ready for it? We older and wiser ones make a much harder thing of it; we always insist there is so much to do to get ready. Perhaps the difference is that the children are content to let Christmas happen, gaily and joyfully entering into the majesty and mystery and wonder of it all. Meanwhile we adults and senior citizens are so sure that it can't happen unless we do all the right things to make it happen.

Many of the things we do to adorn this season, to set the stage for the drama that is coming, are certainly good, and belong there - so long as they do not take over so completely that we have no time or room for that other kind of preparation, which is nothing more nor less than being ready, like the children, to let Christmas happen in its own way. Or perhaps we should say, to let it happen in God's own way! (1)

And tell the story – wallow in sentimentality. If there is a time to wallow in sentimentality it is on the night when the angles sing, the shepherds watch, and the stars danced in the sky. So come away to Bethlehem, come as a child, come to see this thing that has taken place which the Lord has made known to us.

Two examples: There are many pictures of the Christmas story as painted by the old masters. These paintings reflect the different understandings of the incarnation that each of the artists tried to express. One picture of the shepherds is a detail from a 15th-century Dutch Book of Hours. Eight solid and solemn shepherds hold hands and are obviously doing a circle dance, although two are going in opposite directions and one seems to be standing still. Another shepherd points to heaven, where the words of the angel appear in large letters. Their faces express not even a glimmer of excitement—these are sturdy, no-nonsense shepherds—but as joy, and wonder, and majesty, and mystery starts seeping into their souls, their feet cannot help dancing.

Contrast this with a card by a contemporary five-year-old artist. In the stable scene, a red-cheeked Jesus beams cheerfully from his manger. Mary grins like a Cheshire cat and has her arms raised in triumph as though her soccer team has just scored the winning goal, and two shepherds in multicolored, almost gaudy clothes stand happily at either side. At everyone’s feet are seven of the woolliest sheep you could wish to meet, all falling around laughing for joy; one even seems to be holding its sides as it laughs. A lantern swings from the ceiling of the stable as if it has been shocked by an earthquake, and it fills the stable with bright yellow light spilling out into the world. (2)

Auditions were held in heaven for the angel choir that would sing to the shepherds on the first Christmas. A committee selected only 100 angels, based on musical ability, commitment to practice, and overall enthusiasm for the task.

When the choir director met with the choir for the first time, one voice was obviously out of place; it was loud and off key. After listening to each angel individually, the angry director identified the loud angel and sent her home.

The selection committee intervened, stressing that the loud angel was deliberately included because her commitment and enthusiasm clearly exceeded that of all others who auditioned. The committee made its case up the chain of command and ultimately God called the choir director on the telephone to have the loud angel reinstated.

Months of rehearsal failed to train the loud angel to sing more quietly and on key. In volume and pitch, the loud angel was not able to blend with the other 99 voices. In desperation, the day before Christmas the choir director instructed the loud angel to move her lips, but not to let any sound pass through them.

With the loud angel silenced, the angel choir was perfect. The dress rehearsal was flawless, but no one, including the choir director, was satisfied. It just was not quite right, and everyone knew it. The unique sound of this choir – what made it special and gave it character – was missing; it lacked that one voice that was slightly louder and slightly off key.

With resignation, the choir director told the loud angel to sing, “but not too loud.”

All 100 angels and the choir director had tears in their eyes as they heard their signature sound restored with the return of the loud angel’s voice standing out among the rest.

On that first Christmas Eve, the shepherds said that the angel choir was the very best choir that they had ever heard, now that all the voices were there. (3)

But even as the shepherds heard the heavenly chorus die away and as they hurried off to Bethlehem, one shepherd stayed back. His most mischievous and troublesome newborn lamb had wandered off again. And the shepherd was afraid that it would fall down a cliff and hurt itself. Or worse, be killed by a wolf.

So this shepherd searched high and low across the hills, but no lamb was to be found anywhere. He thought that maybe somehow it was following the other shepherds on their way to the manger so he hurried to catch up. But they hadn’t seen the lamb and the lamb wasn’t to be seen.

The shepherd kept looking for the little lamb on the way but the great shining star over the manger soon distracted him from his search. The light spilling out of the manger seemed to light up the whole world as they came closer. And when the shepherds reached the manger and stopped to look at the wonderful sight of the newborn king, they noticed that the little lost lamb was lying at the feet of the baby.

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness-- on them light has shined. For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Come to Bethlehem, come and see, come as a child to see this thing that has taken place which the Lord has made known to us. And join the little lost lanb at the foot of the Christ Child.


1. Adapted from “Christmas preparations we often forget,” in SOMETHING’S COMING ... SOMETHING GREAT, by ROBERT A. BERINGER, C.S.S. Publishing Company, 1992.

2. Adapted from Rosalind Brown, "Go Out in Joy,” at

3. Ted Johnson, “Bodybuilding: Christmas Stories”, at