December 25, 2023 “Christmas Morning”
Philosopher, Theologian, Poet, Prophet, Agitator, Deacon, Elder:
When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with their flocks,
the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal the broken,
to feed the hungry,
to release the prisoner,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among the people,
to make music in the heart.”
I was 10 or 11 serving as an acolyte at my first Midnight Christmas Eve service. I had practiced faithfully with the senior acolyte David. The service started at 11:30 to ensure that Eucharist was celebrated after midnight… truth be told, I still miss that. I was a torch bearer and It was my first time to ring the Sanctus bell synchronized as Father Scott genuflected celebrating the Eucharistic Prayer. I remember the slow solemn gestures during the prayer of humble access, kneeling around the altar, the private cohort of men and boys that practiced this holy liturgy. I was anxious, and yet subdued by the magic of the rich incense, the freshly laundered red cassocks and white surplus.
To be sure, a thankful joy that we have transformed our worship: no longer celebrants facing away from the community, a full inclusion of women and men regardless of identification or orientation, movement away from a deeply penitential and atonement mode to follow the way of love in Jesus. And yes, we use more inclusive contemporary language, fewer thee and thou. As I engage with our young acolytes it brings tears of joy filled remembrance.
Christmas, a time of remembrance and transformation.
SIMEON: From the beginning until now God spoke through His prophets. The Word aroused the uncomprehending depths of their flesh to a witnessing fury, and their witness was this: that the Word should be made Flesh. Yet their witness could only be received as long as it was vaguely misunderstood, and the prophecy could not therefore be fulfilled. For it could only be fulfilled when it was no longer possible to receive, because it was clearly understood as absurd.
The Word could not be made Flesh until men had reached a state of absolute contradiction between clarity and despair in which they would have no choice but either to accept absolutely or to reject absolutely, yet in their choice there should be no element of luck, for they would be fully conscious of what they were accepting or rejecting.
Auden, For the Time Being
Wherefore we have seen him, not in some prophetic vision of what might be, but with the eyes of our own weakness as to what actually is, we are bold to say that we have seen our salvation.
We celebrate this gift of love manifested in this infant Jesus, a love from The Creator we are called to extend to others. The incarnation of God’s Love, Jesus, manifested as one of us. We Remember in our own life the transformative power of love and how loving and caring for this infant Jesus brings us closer to others and to God.
Mary and Joseph traveled with great peril such a long distance, away from home and family to conform to the power of the empire. We commemorate the birth of Jesus in a shed, a manger surrounded by shepherds, angles, animals, and all of creation. Imagine How their story provides us inspiration to care for the immigrant, stranger, homeless, and those that are abandoned.
We know about the experiences of refugees and immigrants at our borders this Holy Night. We have too silently watched 6200 children forcefully separated from their families, locked in cages at Tornillo, many still not reconnected with families, lost in a legal quagmire. It is an easy parallel between the forthcoming Holy Family’s escape, seeking refuge, and asylum in Egypt from Herod’s rage as immigrant refugees.
We offer assistance to immigrant families dropped from bus’s into our community from other states with nothing other than what they can carry. The Way of Jesus challenges us to step into the pain of homelessness, safety, insecurity, starvation faced by immigrant families from the lens of our baptismal commitment calling us to compassion, hospitality, and advocacy for the rights of migrants.
Imagine the humble manger where Jesus was born. The manger, a feeding trough for animals, an unlikely cradle for the King of Kings. Jesus, the incarnate Child of God, entered the world vulnerable and dependent.
We remember the stable, where for a moment in our lives, everything becomes you and nothing as an it, or a them. We crave, we hunger for Grace to inhibit our hearts, our own self-reflection, even if for a moment.
We are invited to journey into the heart of humility to discover the profound call to servanthood. The scene of Jesus’ birth, not in privilege or worldly splendor but in the rough simplicity of a manger, provides a powerful reminder of the humility with which The Holy One entered the world. Jesus, God Incarnate, who could have entered the world with royal fanfare, chose a path of humility, setting an example for His followers.
This call to servanthood is woven into the fabric of Jesus’ teachings. unequivocally, “The greatest among you shall be your servant” (Matthew 23:11). The manger is a symbol of Christ’s humility but also an illustrative call for we disciples to embrace humility in our interactions with others. The way of Jesus lies not in the pursuit of power, recognition, or worldly success, but in a life devoted to serving others.
We serve others in the daily, often unnoticed acts of kindness, compassion, and selflessness. Caring for the needs of those overlooked in society echoes the humility of the manger, where Jesus entered the world unnoticed by many.
Jesus’ birth challenges us to recognize the divine in each other, particularly in the marginalized, the oppressed, and the forgotten. Opening our hearts and hands, we become instruments of God’s Holy Gift of Love, echoing the very essence of Christ’s humble arrival in Bethlehem.
How might we explore the divine in each person and the transformative power of embracing in love the sacredness of every human being and all of creation.
Let this simple story of Jesus birth, the Holy Gift of peace and love which passes all human understanding, inspire us to approach our relationships, communities, and all of creation with a joyful spirit of selfless service. In doing so, we participate in the ongoing story of God’s love, manifested through the loving actions of God’s people, mirroring the humility displayed in the birth of the infant Jesus in a manger so long ago. God gifts the world with love so that the greatest possibilities of beauty, goodness and love can be actualized. The story of Jesus birth shapes these possibilities, and our response as members accomplishes them.
“I have seen the Spirit moving behind the gathering clouds, with wings the color of rainbows. I have watched the light of creation split the sky, as angels pound the drums of heaven. What is holy is not what is tame, what is divine is as wild as a desert rain. Love is not a timid breeze, but a storm of change, sweeping the comfortable before it like leaves, blowing the dust off our ordered lives, challenging us to dare the elements of our own vision. What is holy is not what is tame, so when you stand to pray, stand facing the wind.”
“Love all that you can today, as far as you can, as widely and wildly as you can, without boundaries or borders, giving out your love for all that you see in beauty and nature around you, loving unrestrained the simple life that lives forever around you, the flowers in a field, the sparrows darting by, the sky and the wind as surely as if they were your own, loving every passing person, not stopping to count the reasons, but loving as if your loving made the whole planet breathe. Love all that you can today, for in such love is the secret beginning of what will never end.”
— Sanctuary of the Spirit by Steven Charleston