Mother Katherine’s sermon preached on Dec. 25, 2022, at 10:30 AM

Posted by on Sun, Dec 25, 2022 in Christmas, Feast Days, Sermons

Christmas Day

Dec. 25, 2022

On Christmas Eve churches almost universally use the gospel from Luke. He paints a picture with his telling, and we’ve been captivated by it since it was first set down. Last night we read it too, and one can’t help but notice how the images form in our mind’s eye, and we feel quickly immersed in the story Luke essentially ‘paints’ for us. Even St. Francis of Assisi was inspired by it and through his desire for people to be connected with scripture, with Jesus, he used Luke’s gospel much like stage directions, scenery, and a script. We saw it come to life last night with our own children—and quite the host of angels!

That’s not how John’s gospel works at all. If Luke is all about the visuals, tangible details and painting the story for us to feast our eyes upon, then John is about what we hear, the sounds more than the sights. The Word as a symbol is already rather abstract —nothing we can really picture seeing. It gives us a depth of knowing instead. Using language to harken back to Genesis, the Word Incarnate shares a timelessness from before the beginning of the world.

We hear, ”The light shines in the darkness,” and and perhaps imagine an endless darkness without knowable time or space—and a light exploding in brilliance, unique to each of our imaginations and grounded in creation; “the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.”

In Frederick Buechner’s book, A Room called Remember, he posits this “imagery of John is based rather on sound than on sight. It is a Word you hear breaking through the unimaginable silence—a creating word, a word that calls forth, a word that stirs life and is life because it is God’s word … [it] has God in it as your words have you in them, have in them your breath and spirit and tell of who you are.” (Frederick Buechner, Harper One, San Francisco, 1992.) This is whose coming we celebrate, and in John it’s free from visual and even historic tethers, it comes into being every moment and before any moment. The Word is marked by it’s content and not for where it falls in the sequence or how long it lasts.

We mostly talk of time being sequential, one day follows another, that epoch came before the next one —which is all well and good if such a thing as the incarnation of God can be only linear, but time also has depth and power, magnitude, and John expresses this as “He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own.” In John’s words we hear the connection, the kinship, between ourselves and the ‘true light”, again in the depth and power present; “to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.”

In Hamlet, Buechner cites, “Marcellus explains that Christmas is a time of such holiness that the cock crows the whole night through as though it is perpetually dawn, and thus for once, even the powers of darkness are powerless.”

Last night I asked who remembers asking or being asked by a child, ‘Why can’t we have Christmas every day?’ The answer, no matter well reasoned, always sounds lame. That’s because any answer that says we just can’t, is wrong! Christmas is every day. Christ comes amidst the messy, imperfect, disordered life we have — to love us, to be present in us. He isn’t waiting until fresh sheets are on the bed, he’s not waiting until you have the perfect job or body or home or family or political argument. God’s Word comes in that perpetual dawn.

At Christmas we revel in what is deeper than Jingle Bells and well-targeted sales offers popping up every time we log on, more than anything we can wrap. This quiet morning is filled with the depth revealed in beloved carols proclaiming a theology of greatest love, in scriptures that ground us back to the beginning of creation, as if we we looking into the clear still water and seeing the ocean floor fathoms below.

Today “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”What we hear from John is eternally true, and although we may have foolishly thought Christmas is only one day, or even a mere twelve days, as people of faith we can look into the oceanic magnitude of our spiritual depths and love makes it eternal.

“And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”

© 2022 The Rev. Katherine Sedwick. All rights reserved. Posted with permission.

Post will be removed at 10:30 AM on Wed., Dec. 25, 2024.