Bishop Ordinary: Rt Rev Brian R Marsh

Sermon

Christmas Eve homily, 2012
Good Shepherd, Charlestown; Trinity Church, Lebanon

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

 

It is that time of year once again. This year, as in every year for over two thousand years, the birth of our savior is celebrated. In those early years, His birth was celebrated by only a few people; close family members who gathered to celebrate the birth of this unique child. Though every child is indeed unique, this one was truly a gift from God. This child is a gift of God himself, given to the world for the sake of the world.

        Over time, this day would be celebrated by billions of people. Christians would come together on this particular day to celebrate what theologians call the Incarnation of Our Lord. The skeptics among us question whether this particular day was indeed the date on which Jesus was born. Though it may matter to some, it is ultimately irrelevant. God knows precisely when He was born. He will be sure to let us know. It is, for us, enough to know that the child Jesus was born in Bethlehem, that he fulfilled the prophesies of old and that he came to save the world.

        Christmas is, for Anglicans, a very special time. Though it certainly is for all Christians, Christmastide has particular resonance for Anglicans. If we had to point to any time in the long calendar of the year that the Anglican ethos is most richly felt, it is now. This season defines us like no other. Perhaps it is in the cadence of our liturgy or in the tunes of the ancient carols we sing at this time of the year. The joyful, poignant and sometimes haunting melodies that we sing during this season bring us close together in ways that we do not find at other times of the year.

        This sense, this mood, this spirit of Christmas draws us close to the manger in Bethlehem. We do need to draw close to that place in our hearts and in our minds. All that we do this night; the hymns and carols we sing, the words we hear, the presence of faithful Christians seeking to know the presence of Jesus in the world – all these things give us a sense of the mystery of this night.

        Although we can never know that first night in Bethlehem, we can seek it out in the knowledge of God's love.

        Jesus comes to us in the most humble of circumstances. Can we imagine a more humble place in which to be born? It is, we know, the opposite of Eden, a picture of a fallen world, a world that has moved away from God. Jesus does not come to us in a house or an inn or a castle; He comes to us in the ruins of the Garden of Eden. It reminds us what we have done with the world that God has given us. We have not only made mockery of the physical garden, but we have also ruined the spiritual garden, the garden filled with love that was given to us.

        But now, in one moment of immense love, the God who has created us has returned to make things new. He has come to us to redeem the word, to break the bonds of sin, to return us to that wonderful state of grace that was given us in the creation of the world.

        The words of John's gospel (“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God...”) calls us to a new understanding of the world that God has made; it calls us to an understanding of Jesus, the Logos, the word made flesh who dwells among us.

        The word made flesh to dwell among us. When we look at the tiny child in the manger, it may be hard for us to see the Logos. So frail. So vulnerable. How can this be the Logos, the Word made Flesh? It is impossible to imagine. Impossible to image. And yet it is.

        It is the wonder of this night, this holy and hallowed night; this night so full of God's grace, that we begin to see. With the eyes of our hearts, we come to know that God has given us more than we can ask or imagine or deserve.

        He gives of Himself. Because He is God. And because He loves us.

Amen.