Every year at Christmas we stand at the creche in awe and wonder and poder again what it means to say that we believe that God came into our world as an ordinary, helpless, human baby.
It has so many ramifications. You should never run out of ideas for Christmas sermons. It harkens back to that most beloved of Bible verses, John 3:16: “God so loved the world … “ God sent Jesus, God sent the Son into the world. It speaks of a love that is so enormous that it can’t be contained. It overflows into Creation, and it overflows into this great act of love in Jesus.
It says to us that all of creation is holy. That the earth is holy. That it’s a sacrament of the presence of God. It says that God is with us in the most profound way, that we’re never alone, that God is with us in our joys and in our sorrows. And I talked last night about Mary theotokos—the idea of Mary as the Christ-bearer. This morning I did bring the Christmas card from the diocese. I’ll let you pass this around.
It is, as I said last night, a very modern interpretation of this traditional icon, and Mary is standing here like this, and she’s almost wearing vestments. She’s in a cape with a connector that looks almost what we call a cope, which is a vestment that is used in more formal Episcopal churches. I don’t think we have any here. Any here’s Jesus in this sort of oval, almost that is representing her womb. And he’s holding his hands out in blessing. She bears this God-life into the world, and we’re called to do the same. To bring God into the world, and to look for God in the world.
I tried to tell some stories last night about what that looks like, when people bring God to birth in the world. When they bring Jesus into this world. And when I went looking I found so many stories, they couldn’t be contained in one sermon. So I’m going to tell you two more, just briefly.
One is a story of a guy in Wales, his name is Owen. Naturally. I don’t know how many first names they have in Wales, but Owen is pretty typical. Owen is a guy in his 80s, and when his neighbors had a baby, he sort of became a grandfather figure to that little girl. And he gave her Christmas gifts each of the first two Christmases of her life.
And he died this past October. And time passed. And his daughter comes over to this child’s house with a big bag. And in the bag are 14 wrapped presents. Owen had brought presents for every Christmas for the next 14 years of this child’s life. Isn’t that great? I love that story. It’s just so touching, in that case in a very personal way of connection.
The other story is about a guy who lives in New York and he travels for business. He gives speeches, and he flies all over the country. He racks up hundreds of thousands of air miles, travel miles, and when he has time off, the last thing he wants to do in the world is travel. He wants to stay home. So for the last five years he’s given those miles away to people who couldn’t afford to fly to be with their families. And he tries to pick particular cases, someone who can’t afford to go be with a parent who’s sick and probably dying. Maybe this is their last Christmas. Or someone who’s older and hasn’t been able to visit their child at Christmas for many, many years. So he publicizes this and a lot of other people chip in. And five families were reunited this year, and who knows how many next year. Again, such tenderness and compassion, for strangers in this case.
I thought about the fact that when I went looking for stories of grace in the world, I found too many to fit in one sermon. I think it’s an inspiration to us about how to live, how to bring God into the world, and certainly a cause for Christmas hope ,and hope throughout the year. Amen.