1. During the lock down last spring,
2. I did what many of us did.
3. Yes I ate – guilty of that.
4. Yes, I drank – probably at times too much of that!
5. But in between eating and drinking and trying in any way possible to keep our parish, scattered in homes and apartments all over the country together through internet masses and offerings,
6. I CLEANED.
7. I Marie Kondo’ed the heck out of my rooms in the rectory.
8. Parting with anything that “did not give me joy” I believe is her famous expression.
9. And that was a good thing.
10. For I had many things that no longer gave me joy,
11. but were just taking up space.
12. But one day I came across this.
13. (Show the tie)
14. It was hanging in the back of my closet among my other ties, which I OBVIOUSLY don’t get many chances to wear these days!
15. The moment I took it in my hands,
a. I was no longer a balding 60 year old priest,
b. but a young boy, standing next to my parents in old photos at Christmas and Easter, I was a teenager at my graduation,
c. in my 20s at commencement in college
d. I was at weddings and other important events.
16. Because this tie was my father’s tie; which I took from his things when he died; shortly before we gave his clothes to Goodwill.
17. I knew the tie was there of course, but at that moment. . . I was suddenly lost in the past.
18. And I realized I liked it.
19. Because who wouldn’t especially this year.
20. We are living in the midst of a health crisis,
a. Where a virus allowed to run rampant and has sickened and killed millions all over the world.
21. We are living in a time of economic crisis caused by the pandemic
a. Where the one percent have access to the best treatments while the rest are without healthcare, increasingly dependent on handouts and unemployed.
22. We are living in a time of political crisis,
a. where the officials we elected to serve our interests,
i. served only their own.
23. We live in a time of international crisis,
a. Where populist leaders have ruptured alliances and divided the world into us and them.
24. It is not surprising that many of us want to lose ourselves in the days of our childhood; or even those of our parents or grandparents.
a. We do it politically; for what else was platform of the ruling party for the last for years but a plea to return to America’s past greatness?
b. We do it socially; for what else is our growing frustration with lockdowns, travel restrictions and masks but a yearning for a past where hugs, handshakes and kisses were not potential healthcare risks?
c. We even do it religiously – for what else is Christmas for so many if not an occasion to return to a golden past when faith was easy, and the stories we tell at Christmas seemed so real?
25. Given the present, who wouldn't long to return to the past?
26. The people of Judah listening to the words of the first reading certainly did.
a. For in a time of crisis,
b. The prophet Isaiah predicted that God would send them a king,
i. like King David of old, whose wisdom, bravery and concern for his people would bring them everlasting peace.
c. It didn’t happen.
d. But that did not mean they stopped yearning.
27. They were still yearning in the final years of the first century BC,
a. when if you were a Roman times were good.
i. So good in fact that altars were built all over to worship the emperor Caesar Augustus as “son of God” and Prince of Peace”
b. However, if you were anyone else, you would know that that peace came at the point of a sword, and brought with it crushing taxes and exploitation
c. Again and again Jesus’ people rose up in rebellion against the Romans,
d. Hoping that God would finally send them that King, who would liberate them from the present crisis, and allow them to return to their glorious past,
28. And according to Luke, it happened!
a. Angels filled the skies over Bethlehem,
b. proclaiming the birth of a child;
c. Born in David’s city he must be their long-promised king;
29. God was glorified and peace was proclaimed . . .
a. And yet, most people evidently did not even notice.
30. But the shepherds did.
31. That image of shepherds kneeling before the baby Jesus in Luke’s Gospel
a. is so familiar to us from cards, manger scenes and carols such as Away in a Manger and Angels We Have Heard on High
b. that we never pause to think about how crazy it is – a Lord who is a baby? A king born in a stable? Whose first subjects are unclean shepherds?
c. Those who first heard this story must have wondered;
d. Why isn’t this Jesus the fulfillment of all our glorious memories of king and kingdom?
32. But that is precisely Luke’s point; they never existed. And even if they did, you can never go back to them. And even if you try, it always ends up being nostalgia
a. Like people who so want our country to return to some imagined past greatness they ignore what makes our country truly great.
b. Like so many people who yearn so much to return to the past at Christmas that they become depressed and angry every year.
c. Like me standing with my father’s tie, suddenly wishing I could go back and rewrite the 38 years I had with him and appreciate them and him more.
33. Hence the royal king is born to impoverished parents
34. Hence the prince of peace is born in a stable
35. Hence his first subjects are not soldiers but shepherds
36. Luke is saying that in the birth of Jesus
a. God is not returning us to the past but revealing to us the future
b. God is not doing something old, but what God always does; something new!
37. And yet, just like the first time the news of Jesus’ birth was proclaimed,
a. Most of us will fail to notice it;
b. or if we do, it will only be as a story from the past,
38. Instead of what it truly is; a promise made to us in the present
a. that if we wish to find safety and peace, in the midst of the crises in our lives;
b. It will not be by following people who promise to return us to some imagined past, no matter how pretty;
c. But rather by looking to the God who in Jesus reveals the future.
39. Because Christmas isn’t about the baby
a. it is about how what Jesus said and what he did enabled people to envision a new world.
b. it is about how what he said and what he did got him killed,
c. And it is about how at Easter God raised him from death
d. at first people did not understand;
e. because once again God was doing something new.
40. This Christmas,
i. Hear the Christmas Story not as some reminder of the past,
ii. But as a challenge to look for God in the present.
b. And then ask yourself.
i. where are new things happening in the world,
ii. in my community in my life?
iii. where can I help, foster support that change?
iv. Where am I changing?
v. Where do I need to change?
vi. Look there first.
vii. Because that is where God is doing what God did at Christmas, the real reason for the season.
viii. What God ALWAYS does;
ix. something new.
x. In me, in you. In us all.