Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sermon for Christmas Eve Midnight Mass 2009


They’re back.

They show up on occasion at other times of year
but every year on Christmas eve—
Here they are.

Those shepherds.
Keeping watch over their flocks.

Those shepherds
who are probably just barely awake
(after all much of shepherding is inherently boring).

They are rather like firemen.
They have to show up for that midnight shift IN CASE something happens,
In case there is a fire—
the firemen needs to be ready to spring into action.
In case there is a hungry wolf out for a midnight snack,
the shepherds need to be ready to spring into action.

They are there in case help is needed.
Just in case.

But those shepherds did not sign up to be the first to hear the good news
of God shattering the darkness
and coming into the world as a human baby.
The good news of Jesus Christ.
Why on earth would that news
be first revealed to shepherds in the middle of the night?
What was God thinking
sending big news like this to marginal people like those shepherds?

This is probably the last things those shepherds
expected in the middle of the night.
An angel appearing in a field?
An angel coming to them ?

What is God thinking?
What is God thinking when angels are sent to us?

Angels come in so many shapes and sizes, forms and formats.
They seldom announce or introduce themselves –
We don’t get a message on Facebook that says,
There’s an angel that has asked to be your friend.
Confirm or ignore?

Angels often just appear out of nowhere,
show up and stand right before us.

If you notice in the scripture of Luke’s gospel—
no where does the angel say,
Hello shepherds. I am angel. Sent here from God.

The angel just says, Do not be afraid.
The angel just says,
I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people.

For all the people.
We are so afraid
to believe in this good news of great joy.
We are so afraid
of being disappointed or naïve or foolish—or a religious fanatic.
We are so afraid
to trust and believe that God would really send us any kind of angel.
We think so little of ourselves
that we cannot conceive that God might want us—me! You!—
to know the great joy of this good news.

We need an angel to come to all of us and say,
Do not be afraid of angels.
Do not be afraid of good news.
Do not be afraid of great joy.
It can happen!

Angels point the way for us.
Angels show up when we have lost our power and sit in darkness--
they turn on the lights.

Angels appear in many forms and formats.
As humans, as animals, as a line in a song or a character in a film,
as we gaze at a painting or stand on top of a mountain
or hold the hand of someone who is dying.

Do not be afraid.
The news is good.
The joy is great.
And the good news and great joy are for ALL the people.
All the people.
Do not be afraid.

This week I heard a poem on Garrison Keillor’s radio program
The Writer’s Almanac.
It is a poem by Anne Porter
Her poem titled Susanna.
Here is the poem:

Nobody in the hospital
Could tell the age
Of this old woman who
Was called Susanna.

I knew she spoke some English
And that she was an immigrant
Out of a little country
Trampled by armies.

Because she had no visitors
I would stop by to see her
But she was always sleeping.

All I could do
Was to get out her comb
And carefully untangle
The tangles of her hair

One day I was beside her
When she woke up
Opening small dark eyes
Of a surprising clearness.

She looked at me and said
You want to know the truth?
I answered Yes.

She said it is something that
My mother told me

There’s not a single inch
Of our whole body
That the Lord does not love

She then went back to sleep.

That is Anne Porter’s poem “Susanna”.

There’s not a single inch
Of our whole body
That the Lord does not love.

There are parts of our bodies and parts of our lives and parts of our world
that we do not love.
But it is so different for God.

God’s love is so immense, so encompassing,
that God loves every single inch of us and of the world.

Tonight we celebrate the birth of a baby
A baby who comes into the world
to remind us that there are only two things—
two things-- that matter in life:
Loving God
and loving one another.

We fret and worry about so many things,
when only two things matter.
Loving God.
Loving one another.

.Oh this holy night—
this night of Christ’s mass—Christmas,
we are called to go out into the world—
to go tell it on the mountain--
and to say,
Do not be afraid.

Hope is born into the world.
Love is here to show us the way.
Love for every inch of us,
for every one of us.

Good news of great joy for all the people.
Merry Christmas!

No comments: