Monday, February 23, 2015

The Visited Planet

Sermon for Christmas Day 2014
December 25, 2014
Cathedral Church of St. Paul, Burlington, Vermont
The Very Rev. Jeanne Finan

The Visited Planet

For those overwhelmed by Christmas.
Sit down.
Rest a bit.
Imagine that you’re in God’s presence.
Because you are.
Now just be with God.
And let God be
with you.

Aren’t these marvelous words?
These words are written by Father James Martin,
a Jesuit priest,
and editor of AMERICA magazine.

Wonderfully wise words for Christmas Day--
especially for those of us
who love coming together to worship on the day of Christmas.

Yesterday evening over 300 people gathered
to watch little angels
and wise men and shepherds
energetically herald in
the birth of the baby Jesus.

And then a few hours after that
we listened to the angelic voices
of our choir
and then,
with our Bishop Tom Ely
moved into worship that ended close to midnight.

But here we are this morning.
Ready to worship once again.
I love Christmas Day.

Yes, there is that feeling of ,
“Whew! We made it!”
but it is much more than that.

It really is a grand day
to stop
and just be with God.
Christmas Day.

What a gift to begin this day together.
Here in the nave
of this Cathedral Church.

This is a grand day
to ponder the words we hear in John’s gospel:
The light shines in the darkness
and the darkness did not overcome it.

Darkness can be overwhelming at times.
The news headlines, both local and global,
can be so dark and desolate.

Many of us face
our own personal nooks and crannies
of despair and darkness.

The good news is
that there is good news.
The good news is
that there is light.
The good news is
that Christ has been born
this day
and will keep being born
every day.

Some of you may be familiar
with the Anglican clergyman
and author J. B. Phillips.

His most well known book may be the one titled
or perhaps it’s his translation of the New Testament--

What you may not know
is that Phillips also wrote a version
of the Christmas story
from the point of view of two angels.
The story is titled THE VISITED PLANET.

In his story
a senior angel is giving a very young angel
a tour of the universe.
The angels observe swirling galaxies and blazing suns
and then they fly across cosmic space
into one particular galaxy
of 500 billion stars.

Phillips writes:

As the two of them drew near to the star
which we call our sun
and to its circling planets,
the senior angel pointed to a very small,
and rather insignificant sphere turning very slowly
on its axis.
It looked as dull as a dirty tennis ball to the little angel,
whose mind was filled with the size and glory
of what he had seen.

“I want you to watch that one particularly,”
 said the senior angel,
pointing with his finger.

“Well, it looks very small and dirty to me,”
said the little angel.
“What’s special about that one?”

You see, to that little angel,
who had seen things
that you and I can’t even imagine,
earth was not all that impressive.

That little angel’s jaw dropped open
when the senior angel told him
that it was this planet,
small, insignificant and not particularly clean,
this very planet
was the renowned Visited Planet.

“Do you mean that our great and glorious Prince..
went down in Person to this fifth rate little ball?
Why should He do a thing like that?”

The little angel’s face wrinkled in disgust.
“Do you mean to tell me,” he said,
“that he stooped so low as to become one of those
creeping, crawling creatures on that floating ball?”

“I do,
and I don’t think He would like you to call them
‘creeping crawling creatures’,
in that tone of voice.
For strange as it may seem to us,
He loves them.
He went down to visit them
to lift them up to become
like Him.”

The little angel looked blank.
Such a thought
was beyond his comprehension.

It is often
beyond our comprehension as well.
And the Word became flesh
and lived among us....


All because of love.
The immensity of God’s love for us,
for each of us,
for all of us.

Christmas says to us:
Believe in this overwhelming, unconditional, love
Believe in this love
that is larger than the universe,
and much, much larger than any one of us.

that light is always trying to break into the darkness.
that love is stronger than hate.

Believe that God loves YOU--
yes, YOU--
and God wants only the best for you.

It is Christmas Day.
So at some point in this day stop.
Sit down.
Rest a bit.

Imagine that you’re in God’s presence.
Because you are.

Fall into God's love
and just be there.
Be with God.
Just as God is always being
with you.


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