29 December 2009

Christmas Eve 2009 - The Incarnation

By Stuart Pike

St. Luke’s, Burlington

8 P.M. & 11:15 P.M.

It is finally Christmas Eve. As we all know Christmas is a time for celebration. Within our culture it has become a time for gift-giving, for festivity and decoration. Mostly it has become a time for family. A time to reconnect a time to focus on the children or the grandchildren. A time to deepen the love that exists between family members. Many people’s most treasured memories are memories of a Christmas time in the past.

Of course Christmas to Christians is also about hearing the story of the very first Christmas. For us this evening the herald angels are heralding, the shepherds are hearing the news and running to witness the Good News themselves. The good news of the birth of a baby who is the saviour of the whole world. Joy to the world we say and sing on this night. And Joy is supposed to be what we are all supposed to feel this night and tomorrow.

There is sometimes a bit of a problem though for Christians in the 21st century. Firstly, there are always people who can’t feel joy at this time of the year because of whatever situation they’re in. Personal loss, tragedy, poverty, sickness. These people are among us and sometimes they are us. What is the Christmas message for those who don’t feel joyful? How is Christ born for them today?

Secondly, there’s a problem even for those who’s life situation is just fine, but might feel removed from experiencing the true depths of Christmas joy. The Christmas story happened so long ago. The distractions of the commercial media Christmas or whatever it is - it’s hard for many to experience the spiritual reality of Christmas. What is the Christmas message for those who don’t feel spiritual? How is Christ born for them today?

Thirdly, there’s the problem with our world right now. The message of Christmas was about the birth of the Prince of Peace. It is more than 2 millenia after that birth and we wonder where the peace is. We look at Iraq, Afghanistan, and what many call the “Holy” land and we see an unholy force of evil which seems to rule at times in those lands. Sometimes it seems to rule in our lands too. What is the Christmas message for those who don’t know peace. For those who live in fear? How is Christ born for them - for us today?

It had been a particularly tiring day for a four‑year old girl and her parents. They had been out all day, fighting the maddening crowd trying to get all their Christmas shopping in on one of the last days before Christmas. After putting their daughter to bed, they collapsed into their room. But the little girl was too tired to fall asleep and became fearful of the dark.

Her words, "Mommy, Daddy, come here, I'm scared" came just as her parents' eyes closed. "It's okay, God's in there with you," they replied, hoping to ease her fears. A minute passed. "Mommy, Daddy, come here, I'm scared." "But we told you, God's in there with you." She answered, "I know he is, but I need somebody with skin on them!"

There are many adults who can understand the girls point. She didn’t want a God who she couldn’t see, one that seemed far away. She wanted a person who could hug her and talk to her and make her feel safe. In a scary world, God knows that we need more than a God who lives far away in the sky. We need a God with skin on them, if you like.

Many years ago, when I was first ordained a Deacon, I went with some other theology students to Peru for a month to study Liberation Theology. We stayed for a couple of weeks in Lima. However, the poorest of the people live outside the city proper. When they first moved to Lima from the countryside, they lived in shacks in public parks and other public lands. The authorities moved them out into the desert where they had to build their towns with their own hands.

Pueblos Jovenes - Young Towns. Shanty towns.

Father Gene - Padre Eugenio - one of the Brothers (from Ireland who lived in the brother’s house in Lima. Father Gene moved in to be with the people. (You’ll get sick) To experience what they experienced, to live a life like theirs and to be alongside them as they built their town and lived their lives.

That’s how I first met Father Gene. Soup kitchen - cup of milk program, the Church building. The people of hope.

Father Gene was living out the example of his Christian faith. God came to be with us. To live our life and experience what we experience. To be alongside us as we live our lives and experience our joys and our trials. This is the meaning of Christmas. That God loves us so much that he became one of us to show us how to return to him.

What does Christmas mean to all people - no matter their situation. It means that God became human. What does it mean to us today - how does God become human today? In the people who let Christ’s love live in them and reach out to others in that love.

Thou shalt know him when he comes

not by any beat of drums

nor his manners, nor his airs

nor by anything he wears.

Thou shalt know him when he comes

not by his crown or his gown

but his coming known shall be

by the holy harmony which his coming makes in thee.

Thou shalt know him when he comes. Amen. Amen.

No comments:

Post a Comment