Friday, December 31, 2010

Sermon for December 19th 2010 - Flesherton Ontario

Stay tuned ... the reading from Ann Weems will come soon ...(Peace on Earth – Ann Weems)

We are watching ... we are waiting ...

Around us the last scurry of activity and preparation is underway. Christmas parties and seasonal celebration have been happening for weeks, cards have been sent and arrive in our mail boxes, presents are wrapped and ready, and over it all comes the ubiquitious debate about the real reason for the season ...

Over and over you can, if you really to be part of it, find discussions and debates about what Christmas really means ... there are those voices who focus entirely on the story of the Nativity and tout Jesus as the ONLY reason for the season ... there are those voices who point and accusing finger at the unfettered commericalism of the season and in their best Scrooge like tone offer a ‘bah humbug’ at the seemingly boundless buying and giving of presents ... there are those voices who call for a simpler observation of the season, focused on family, and charity and expressing concern for our sisters and brothers ... there are those voices who whisper quietly from the margins, trying to avoid the hurts and sorrows that may mark this season for them ... and there are the voices who try desperately to render benign and neutral the religiousity of the season – stripping away any suggestion that Christmas might have a religion origin and be an observance of faith ...

Yet through it all, certain elements remain firm and strong ... the awe and wonder of the season ... It is at Christmas that ANYTHING is possible – Christmas is ALL about the transformation of hearts, minds, live and even the world from what is, to what God yearns it to be ... there is the positive energy that comes with the season ... the suggestion that we remember each other, offer a cup of kindness, show our care and concern for others, and focus on what’s really important rather than simply engaging in the consumerist frenzy that marks the season for many ...

And behind ALL of this ... in a place beyond the lights and the tinsel ... removed from the carols and the celebrations ... in a quiet darkened corner of the season lies a tiny frail and vulnerable new born baby, who remains the reason ALL of this – the good AND the bad – happens at all.

It is easy to lose sight of the manger and the stable and the cast of characters who make their way out of the shadows and the darkness to kneel at the foot of a baby.

It is easy to forget in the scramble and busy-ness of the season, that pausing in the stable to welcome God’s gift of love and life is the most important action we can engage in ...

And yet, to pause in the midst of the scramble that too often marks the christmas season is simple ... it’s easy ... it’s the heart of what we do here, and what we seek to offer the world around us ...

Christmas and Easter are often the times of year when we see those who have for any number of reasons been away from our congregations and communities. There are many theologians who write about the seasonal visitors and unfortunately take a less than positive stance in regards to those who feel the pull at Christmas and Easter to join in the fellowship of the season.

There is something deep and primordial in the observances of Christmas and Easter ... we may not be part of a regular worshipping faith community for the other 50 weeks of the year, but at Christmas and Easter we feel a deep spiritual pull to come back and to immerse ourselves in the familiar celebrations of life and love and community ... There is something comfortable in the stories of the Nativity ... there is something that touches us deeply in the familiar narrative of angels, shepherds, magi and the young girl who bears a child who is part of God’s plan for the cosmos.

And yet, in the midst of the story there is one character who in many ways stands out, but also blends in so thoroughly that we might completely forget about him ... Joseph is a key figure in the nativity story, but so much is focused on Mary, the baby, the shepherds and the Magi, that Joseph just fades into the background, standing somewhere in the corner patiently waiting to be rediscovered, yet remaining vigilant and watching protectively over his family and the fulfilment of the promises he himself carries ...

Joseph is a fascinating character for a number of reasons ... he is, as I’ve said simultaneously central to the story, but also almost entirely marginal to it. Joseph, like Mary struggles with the news that Mary will bear a son. Joseph like Mary recieves a divine visitor who reveals a truth about this child.

AND Joseph like Mary is told who this child will be. In Joseph’s case, the Angel who appears in the dream tells him that the child will be known as Emmaunel – God is with us.

Jesus will be known to the world as Emmaunel – God is with us !!

In addition to the many other titles and honours bestowed upon this child, he will be the incarnation of the Living God – he will come into our world to share a profound and radical understanding of God’s role in the cosmos, but more than that, he will be the very physical presence of God in our midst !!

How can someone who is gifted with this understanding of who Jesus is and will be, be marginalized to the fringes of the story?

Yet, Joseph – the father who protected his wife on their journey – Joseph the father who protected his family when strangers stepped out of the darkness babbling about angels and lights and stars and divine messages. Joseph who stood and took it all in, and saw the fulfillment of the promises offered to him and to his wife Mary – this Joseph, remains a marginalized figure because we fail to appreciate the importance of each person who gathered that night in the stable ...

Who put Joseph in the back of the stable?
Who dressed him in brown and put a staff in his hand,
and told him to stand in the back of the creche,
background for the magnificent light of the Messiah?

God-chosen, this man Joseph was faithful
in spite of the gossip in Nazareth,
in spite of the danger from Herod.
This man, Joseph listened to angels,
and it was he who named the Child EMMANUEL (God is with us)

Is this a man to be stuck for centuries in the back of the stable?
Actually, Joseph probably stood in the doorway
guarding the mother and child
or greeting shepherds and kings.
When he wasn't in the doorway,
he was probably urging Mary to get some rest,
gently covering her with his cloack,
assuring her that he would watch the Child.

Actually, he probably picked the Child up in his arms
and walked him in the night,
patting him lovingly,
until he closed his eyes.

This Christmas, let us give thanks to God
for this man of incredible faith
into whose care God placed the Christ Child.

As a gesture of gratitude,
let's put Joseph in the front of the stable,
where he can guard and greet,
and cast and occasional glance at this Child,
who brought us LIFE!

(Getting to the front of the stable – Ann Weems)

Everyone there had a role.
Everyone there had a reason to be there.

Everyone there represents us – the people of every time and place – and the living out of our invitation to come and stand in the stable and behold the arrival of God’s chosen One – the Messiah, the wonderful counsellor, mighty king – Emmanuel/God is with us !!

God is with us !!! – Let us go into the world proclaiming THAT message, and giving and rejoicing over that GIFT!!!

May it be so, thanks be to God ... let us pray !

No comments: