Sermons 2006
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day 2006

Home | "Light and Darkness", Christmas 2C, 31 December 2006, John 1:1-18 | Christmas Eve and Christmas Day 2006 | "What then shall we do?", Advent 3C , 17 December 2006, Luke 3:7-18 | "Luke's Gospel", Advent 1C, 3 Dec 2006, Luke 21:25-31 | Which Jesus? Proper 29B 2006, 26 November 2006, John 18:33-37 | Apocalypticism and Fundamentalism, Proper 28B, 19 Nov 2006, Daniel12; Mark 13:14-23 | "The Widow's Mite: All and Everything", Proper 27B, 12 November 2006, Mark 12:38-44 | "The Commandments to love God, Neighbor, One Another" Proper 26B, 5 November 2006, Mark 12:28-34 | "Sight -- and Seeing" Proper 25B, 29 October 2006, Mark 10:46-52 | "Baptism: Overwhelming Washing", Proper 24B, 22 October 2006 Mark 10:35-45 | "God's Transforming Love", Proper 23B, 15 October 2006, Mark 10:17-31 | "Divorce", Proper 22B, 8 February 2006, Mark 10: 2-9 | "Hard Sayings and Sharp Words", Proper 21B, 1 October 2006, Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48 | "First or Last?" Proper 20B, 24 September 2006, Mark 9:30-37 | "Unintended Consequences", Proper 19B, 17 September 2006, Mark 8:27-38 | "Ephphatha! Open up!" Proper 18B, 10 September 2006, Mark 7:31-37 | "Rituals", Proper 17B, 3 September 2006, Deuteronomy 4:1-9; Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 | "Choices." Proper 16B, 30 August 2006, Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-25; John 6:60-69 | "Come to the Table." Proper 15B, 20 August 2006, John 6:53-59 | "Do not be afraid." Proper 12B, 30 July 2006, Mark6:45-52 | "General Convention and Jesus' Compassion", Proper 11B, 23 July 2006, Mark 6: 30-44 | "Basics for the Journey", Proper 10B, 16 July 2006, Mark 6:7-13 | "Jesus and Rejection", Proper 9B, 9 July 2006, Mark 6:1-6 | "Trust, Faith, and Belief" Proper 8B, 2 July 2006, Mark 5:22-43 | "Storms, Fear, and Faith" Proper 7B, 25 June 2006, Mark 4:35-41 | Mighty things from Small, Proper 6B, 18 June 2006, Mark 4:26-34 | Trinity, Pentecost 1, 11 June 2006, Exodus 3:1-6; John 3:1-16 | The King Jesus Fire-Baptized Holy Spirit Church, Pentecost , 4 June, Acts 2:1-11; Jn 20:19-23 | "That they may be one" General Convention 2006, Easter 7B 28 May 2006, John 5:9-15 | "Friends, friendship, and love" Easter 6B, 21 May 2006, John 15:9-17 | Mother's Day, two mothers' love!" Easter 5B, 14 April 2006, John 14:15-21 | "Interesting, this Good Shepherd!" Easter 4B, 7 May 2006, John 10:11-16 | "How do you prove you are alive?", Easter 3B, 30 April 2006, Luke 24:36b-48 | "Do you believe because...." Easter 2B, 23 April 2006, John 20:19-31 | "He goes before you to Galilee...." Easter B 2006, 16 April, Mark 16:1-8 | "Journey into darkness", Palm Sunday B, 9 April 2006. Mark 11:1-11, 14:32-15:47 | "Sir, we would see Jesus!" Lent 5B, 2 April 2006, John 12:20-33 | "Miracles and Faith, Ordinary and Not", Lent 4B 2006, 26 March 2006, John 6:4-15 | "Rage, Rampage, and Outrage", Lent 3B, 19 March 2006, John 2: 13-22 | "Images of the Cross", Lent 2B, 12 March 2006, Mark 8:31-38 | "Baptism, Temptation, Redemption," Lent 1B, 5 March 2005, Mark 1:9-13 | Ash Wednesday , 1 March 2006, Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 | ""Nanny McPhee' and transfiguration", Epiphany Last B, Mark 9:2-9 | "Jesus, leprosy, and the law of Moses", Epiphany 6B, 12 February 2006, Mark 1:40-45 | "Healing, wholeness, forgiveness, and love", Epiphany 5B, 5 February 2006, Mark 1:29-39 | "Haints, Unclean spirits, and demons" Epiphany 4B, 22 January 2006, Mark 1:21-28 | Epiphany 3B, 22 January 2006, "God's Call -- and Our Response", Mark 1:14-20 | Epiphany 2B, 15 January 2006, "Call and Response", John 1:43-51 | Epiphany 1B, 8 January 2006, "The Baptism of our Lord -- and Ours", Mark 1:7-11 | The Holy Name, 1 January 2006, Luke 2: 15-21

Christmas Eve 2006 Luke 2:1-20

One of the most important secular human events in history has been space flight. Not just putting a man on the moon or cute little robots on Mars but more esoteric things like the deep space probes and the Hubble Telescope. The Hubble in particular has revealed to us that there are other galaxies beyond our earlier imagining and newer ones being formed even as older ones die or collide in the creation of newer ones. We are after all inhabitants of a rather small planet, third out from a small sun way out on a spiral arm of a small galaxy at the edge of the universe, a galaxy we call the Milky Way and which was all we knew of space until very recent times.

At the same time orbital flight and reconnaissance satellites have changed our perceptions of the this planet on which we dwell. I remember in particular the discovery of those human like figures laid out on the ground in Latin America. They were so huge that we didn’t know they were there even though explorers and civilizations one after another had waxed and waned among them. They were elongated stick figures such as a child might draw, but these were hundreds of miles long. They were first brought to the public consciousness in the National Geographic Magazine or Life Magazine years ago. I barely remember them but I do remember that there was much initial speculation that the earth had once been inhabited or visited by humanoid creatures from the depths of space early in the lifetime of the planet.

Eventually the conventional wisdom prevailed: that these were the undertaking of some earlier civilization, one of the greatest engineering feats of all time. Theologians and anthropologists began to argue that these figures were the most ambitious, imaginative, and perhaps desperate acts of reaching out to the gods that humankind had ever attempted. These ancient people, lost in the grandeur of earth and faced with the immenseness of sky and stars, made a grand and noble gesture to the heavens as if to say “Here we are, we are here, come to us.”

Considered as a work of art on the largest scale, they might have been entitled “The Invitation.” It was a request of the highest order from a people to God, any God, saying, “Come, be with us.” It exhibited a powerful faith that there was a god and that that god would respond to humankind. It is also a sign that the impulse to faith is implanted in our genetic code, in the very essence of who we are as humans.

“Come, be with us.” We resonate with that ages old desire to call upon God to be with us. In our own heart of hearts we make the same prayer underneath the words of every prayer we pray: “Come, be with us.”

O Come Emmanuel. Emmanuel: God is with us. Jesus Christ is born today. Alleluia.

It was such an event that the ancient builders of the great figures might have desired. Yet they could have no idea of what it was like that first Christmas Eve night when galaxies shuddered to a halt and the universe stood still to hear the angels sing. (1)

“Come, be with us.” O Come Emmanuel. Emmanuel: God is with us. Jesus Christ is born today. Alleluia.

We get only hints of the powerful forces present on the earth that night, that night when God was born as the little Lord Jesus, the helpless baby lying in the manger, with two almost equally helpless very ordinary human beings given the task of bringing him safely to adulthood and the full revelation of who he really was and what had been given to him to do.

The shepherds in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks that night, felt the first touch of that unleashed divine power radiating through and permeating the far reaches of the stilled universe in that moment: “Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them.”

Of course they were terrified, these simple shepherds. Their whole world and their conception of their place in it had suddenly been drastically shifted. For them nothing would ever be the same again. At the same time the event was of such magnitude that when the angel released them they could do nothing but flee into nearby Bethlehem to see if what the angel had said was true – otherwise they would have counted themselves insane.

“Come, be with us.” O Come Emmanuel. Emmanuel: God is with us. Jesus Christ is born today. Alleluia.

Far from being what the ancient builders of the giant figures thought, God came among us not as a Star Trek like god, but as tiny helpless baby, given to humans to raise and prepare for what lay ahead of him. Our God put himself in our hands, a deep and profound trust hard for us to imagine, except as we contemplate the depth of feelings we had and have for our own children. He came not in a way and form so grand and complex we couldn’t get the arms of our minds around it, but as the child pf parents so poor he was born in a stable. He came as a human, like us.

“Come, be with us.” O Come Emmanuel. Emmanuel: God is with us. Jesus Christ is born today. Alleluia. “Come, be with us.” He came – and he is still with us.


1. St. Mary’s Fisherman, December 2006.

Christmas Day 2006 Isaiah 9:2-3; John 1:1-5

"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it." Those who have ever been to the lovely city of Santa Fe, New Mexico, in December know an unforgettable experience. During December the tradition in that city is for residents to line their walkways, walls and rooftops (really, any flat adobe surface) with small paper bags filled with sand and a lighted candle. These are called luminarias, a Spanish word from the Latin “lumen.” We measure the strength of light in lumens. If one walks outside on the streets of Santa Fe on a cold winter's evening, when occasional gusts of swirl the powdery snow, hundreds -- probably thousands -- of luminarias provide a soft, flickering glow to the city. And Santa Fe turns from beautiful to magical.

Christmas always reminds me of the stark contrasts that frame this season. At the same time that we journey toward beauty and wonder and light, we carry with us painful memories of absent friends and relatives, some more painful than others. At the same time that we celebrate this "family" holiday, we are keenly aware of the brokenness of our own families. At the same time that children experience excitement so strong that they are vibrating with anticipation, we carry in our hearts worries about paying the bills and frustration at their less-than-angelic behavior. At the same time that we annually dust off the word "merry" for repeated use, we are gripped by depressions that cannot be drowned by glass after glass of good cheer. At the same time that we toast each other's good health, we are aware of those whose health is not good, those who carry the burden of debilitating illness. At the same time that we profess to be following the light of a star hovering over Bethlehem, we are moving step by step into the darkest days of the year. We have entered the long mid-winter, the winter solstice barely past.

So it is a good thing that John's Gospel begins with powerful words about light, words that make us think about who God is and what God is up to in the person of Jesus Christ. Majestic words that echo the creation story in Genesis, "In the beginning." There are words here that speak about eternity and the life of the world and the light of all people. Good words. Strong words. Poetic words. Words that are beautiful, but also words that are difficult to pin down. These are the kind of words that demand that we wrestle with their meaning. These are words that beckon us to theological contemplation.

Take, for example, "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it." We struggle with these words because they do not say what we want them to say. We want them to declare that when the light comes into the world it obliterates the darkness. That it takes the bleak mid-winter with every sadness, every despair, every raw deal, every horrendous tragedy, every evil plan, every awful, life-sucking disease, and tosses the whole mess into the cosmic trash bin. We want the light to arrive and to win, and to win big. We want the light to deal with the darkness in a way that is overwhelming, completely devastating.

Instead of total victory, we get something much more "modest" in John's Gospel. The light came into the world, and the darkness did not overcome it. The light came. The darkness looked up and saw it and was indifferent to it. The darkness still continues in the world -- that darkness which drags humanity down, that which nibbles at the edges of people's fractured souls, that which sneaks up on people to devastate them when they least expect it." Wars and rumors of wars, parents and children against each other, siblings against each other, poverty, slavery – the darkness is still with us. But so is the light.

There’s a story about a Christian education student at a seminary who was preparing a lesson plan on the ninth chapter of Isaiah: "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." As part of her research into this passage, a student decided to try and find the darkest place on campus. After hunting around, she discovered a little-used racket ball court deep in the basement of a classroom building, down two flights of steps and through a few heavy doors. This enterprising student discovered that when you got inside and closed the door and turned out the lights, it was really dark in there. It was dark -- totally dark. Scary dark.

When it came time for this student to lead her class through the lesson, she brought them down the stairs, through the doors, and sat them down around the edges of the court. Then she said, "You are people who live in a land of deep darkness." And she turned out the light. A few students gasped. Then it got pretty quiet. She waited.

In the hush and in the dark, they sat. They sat and waited. After five minutes, five surprisingly long, silent, and absolutely dark minutes, she read the words, "Those who lived in a land of deep darkness-on them light has shined." With those words she lit a small candle. The small candle did not fill the vast room with light, but all the same it changed things powerfully. With the flickering of the light, people saw themselves, and they saw each other. They saw faces-surprised faces, puzzled faces, and even faces streaked with tears. For those in deep darkness, a little light made all the difference, all the difference in the world.

"The light shines in the darkness," writes John. It still shines in the darkness: that's the thing. It is not that the light obliterates the darkness; it is simply that the light is there. This is the message of the incarnation-the story behind the story that we will tell each other this day. God enters into the darkness to sit alongside of us. God refuses to dwell in the heavens above and from a safe distance watch the drama of human life play out. Instead, God climbs right into the darkest places to be with us. And in that holy and luminous action, we find reason enough to hope, een in bleak midwinter.

Adapted from The Rev. Dr. Scott Black Johnston, "Luminarias", December 24, 2006, Fourth Sunday of Advent, John 1: 1-5,

Wicomico Parish Church
PO Box 70
Wicomico Church, Virginia 22579