Year A; Christmas Day; 12.25.2019

John 1:1-14

 

On Christmas Eve last night we heard the story of the birth of Jesus from Luke’s gospel. The story has the feel of a specific place in history: a mighty Roman emperor with a name, Augustus, a specific governor, Quirinius in a specific territory, Syria. There is a specific family traveling from a specific town, Nazareth to another specific town of the father’s ancestry, Bethlehem. We even know a detail like “no vacancy” in that town that forced the family to stay the night in a stable where the holy child Jesus was born.

We know that shepherds were the first to hear the “good news of great joy for all the people.” And that the messengers made a loud in-breaking from heaven to earth to make the announcement.

And now, today, Christmas Day, the deep meaning of that announcement comes to us in the joyful majesty from John’s Gospel. The statements of good news have had so much impact on me through the years, that I can quote them from memory – my  memory has never been great, so to be able to recite these three things mean that they have come to mean something to me over time.

So, I remember these promises from God:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was from God.”

“The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.”

“And the Word became flesh and dwelled among us.”

If ever you doubt God, just read these few verses and weep for joy!

Last year, I preached about light shining in the darkness, the light of God, and that darkness did not overcome it. We can count on that. A few weeks later, a parishioner who had experienced a terrible loss of a young loved one a few weeks earlier and a bad diagnosis of another loved one, heard the promise of God’s light. She found a hand printed bracelet with Johns’ gospel verse about the light shining in the darkness and bought some to share with her friends and family. She gave one to me in gratitude for the words of hope.

I wear it always. It says,

“The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”

I now am giving it to loved ones who could use the encouragement.

A former parishioner from my New Jersey parish shared his truth with me. I have shared it with you before. He is a psychiatrist and had suffered terrible loss in his life – a murdered father and a brother who died of AIDS. He had suffered several episodes of major depression. He said, “Carolyn, I learned in those terrible times to count on the light coming back into my life. I learned that it always does. I learned to bear the illness until the light came because it always does.”

What a rich vocation I have to learn so many things from parishioners! My life is enriched by friendships, wisdom, sharing and love. As I wish you all a light-filled Christmas, I want to share with you one more gift I received last week from another parishioner. She had been to a Christmas concert and had given me the program with several of the poems marked as ones that had resonated with her.

I loved them all and want to share one with you. It’s by Thomas H. Troeger. He is a retired Episcopal priest, scholar, preacher, internationally known author and poet who lives in Falmouth.

 

This poem is entitled, “Angel and Star” by Thomas H. Troeger

 

“Angel and star,

music and light:

gifts for the child

born in the night.

 

Sing with the choir,

greeting the birth.

Deepen their song,

live it on earth.

 

Shine with the star,

send out its ray.

In the deep dark

brighten the way.

 

Sing with the choir,

gladden the night.

Shine with the star,

point to the light.”

 

Merry Christmas!