Dancing with the Trinity

Pastor Will’s Christmas Eve Homily, 2017

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will forever be. AMEN

Way back on Dec. 3rd we kicked off the church season of Advent with this verse from the prophet Isaiah,

“O (God), that you would tear open the heavens and come down!”

I really connect with this prayer and plea.

In our world, with all that is happening in, with and around us,

there are times I pray and plea, “God, if you are there, I need you to tear open the heavens and get down here!”

I’m sure in your own lives you may have prayed this prayer as well.

“God if you are real, if you are there, I need you to show up!”

This evening, on a silent (or maybe not so silent) and holy night,

we see in the story of Christmas that God answered this prayer and plea, but in a way we couldn’t have imagined.

Did God show up as a powerful, maybe vengeful God, bulldozing all in God’s way?

Did God show up on full display for everyone to see, leaving no room for doubt who this mighty divine being is?

That is how I would do it….  But thank God, I’m NOT God.

Christmas reveals that God does indeed hear our plea, that God does indeed listen to the longings of our hearts and the pleas of this world, that God listens to our authentic and honest prayers.

And yet Christmas reveals that God does things in ways we couldn’t possibly expect or predict.

How did God show up? How did God come near?

In a vulnerable dependent newborn baby,

through an unwed teenage mother,

and placed in an animal feeding box,

surrounded by the least likely cast of characters.

And how did God announce this good news?

To the mighty and powerful, to those with the most twitter followers?

No… rather to “unclean” lower class shepherds outside the walls of a busy and noisy city.

 

This is such a familiar story and beloved story,

we may have heard it many times,

and yet the reason it endures is because it resonates with our deepest longings and the trajectory of our lives.

But still, I can’t help it, with all that is going on in the world, I can’t help but ask and wonder….

Does Christmas matter?

Do I matter?

Can Christmas make a difference? Can I make a difference?

Over the last few years our congregation has been involved in what I believe to be a healthy conversation between Faith and Science. Holy Trinity is a safe place to ask and engage questions we all have when it comes the scientific discovery and how it relates to the mystery of faith.

With this ongoing conversation between faith and science we have discovered there are a lot a great questions, and there are some questions that keep popping up and they are not going anywhere, and nor should they.

One lingering question in Faith and Science is one that reflects on the vastness and magnitude of the universe, and the more we learn about our universe the smaller earth and humans become.

And so the question is, “With the universe so big, and us so small… Do we have any significance? Do we matter?

Is there any real purpose in the universe and in our lives?”

That is a big, real, and legit question!

Former member of Holy Trinity and astrophysicist Matthew Goodson, in his study of the cosmos with its billions of galaxies, shared with me on a number of occasions.

“Will, you have no comprehension how small you are.” (Wow! Thanks Dr. Goodson.)

And yet there is this recurring theme in the scriptures of God continuously identifying with the small, the imperfect,

the lowly and seemingly insignificant. And not only does God identify with the small, the weak and the vulnerable… God chooses to work through them.

God calls and chooses Abraham and Sara, Moses and David, and the prophets… they constantly protest they are too old, too young, not good enough or smart enough, too small, not well spoken enough, too insignificant.

Even when Jesus teaches about the nature of God’s Kingdom he uses images of small lost coins, small plants, and small seeds as an example of the power and mystery of faith.

And now we gather here and huddle around a most unlikely story.

And now specifically at Christmas we see that God chooses to become small and seemingly insignificant in the birth of Christ.

You see God’s love and grace is not determined by how big you are or whatever status you have or don’t have.

Dr. Heidi Russell, a Catholic theologian who spoke at Holy Trinity in November, shares in one of her books on faith and science, “God doesn’t love us because we are significant. We are significant because God loves us.”

Because the God of the universe took on our “matter” and became flesh and blood for us, we matter!

God’s love and grace embodied in the person of Jesus shows us that God is in solidarity with the flesh and blood of this world, that God stands with and understands the least, the lowest, and the meek.

And so we continue to pray…

“Oh God, if you would tear open the heavens and come down!”

And God did… to Mary and to all who long for the world to be turned upside down where the lowly are lifted up and the mighty are brought down.

“Oh God, if you would tear open the heavens and come down!”

And God did… as a baby placed in a manger.

“Oh God, if you would tear open the heavens and come down!”

And God did… to the shepherds minding their own business.

“Oh God, if you would tear open the heavens and come down!”

And God still does…in a piece of bread, in a sip of wine where Christ promises to be present.

“Oh God, if you would tear open the heavens and come down!”

And God does… through us, the community of faith, the Body of Christ in the world.

 

You see, this story goes deeper than a birthday party for someone we admire.

This story goes deep into the quantum level of our very being.

 

The mighty transcendent Divine creator enters into the realm of space and time, putting on flesh and blood for the sake of our world.

God breaks into our story, God breaks into our world in the most impossible and unimaginable way.

Yes indeed, Christmas should and does fill us with warmth, rekindling the joy of family, friends and community.

But there should also be an element of Christmas that startles us, humbles us, knocks us back a bit.

The Christmas story is a political story. A faith story. A story that encompasses every aspect of our lives.

We may expect and want a God to break in riding a chariot sounding the trumpets, and yet there is a baby sleeping, so we are called to be quiet and still pondering a God who identifies and takes on our weakness and vulnerability.

We often reduce the Christian faith, and Christmas, into an escape from this world, but really it brings us down to earth, to engage with it, to confess and come to terms with our smallness and to embrace it.

I believe Christmas does matter because there is a God who fully understands what it means to be human… to live in the world, to wrestle with hunger and thirst, grief and loss, joy and purpose.

As God becomes vulnerable and weak for the sake of the world, I now have permission to be honest with, and to live into my own vulnerability and my own weakness.  And I can claim with faith that I do indeed matter.

And now that I matter, I have work to do. I have a calling.

Christmas should call and challenge us to not ignore the small, the vulnerable, and the seemingly insignificant.

Christmas should call and challenge us on how we pay attention to where and how God shows up, with how we welcome the stranger and those different than us.

Since matter matters, we are called and challenged to take care of this world and to be good stewards of the environment and all of creation.

And with Mary, Christmas calls us and challenges us to examine again what we treasure in our hearts.

There is an abundance of fear and hatred in our world…

(just check out the Star Wars message boards)

And it may seem that we are so small and unable to do anything about it, yet God choose to be born among us, God became small for the sake of the world, and God calls us to be the hands and feet of Christ, the Body of Christ in the world.

 

We matter… your matter matters.

 

And so may you make room for the One who enters into our world even if we are minding our own business.

As you light your candles this evening, may the light of Christ dispel the darkness in your life and may the light of Christ be born anew in your journey of faith.

As you return to your daily routines may you continue to hear the angels say “do not be afraid” and may you proclaim “glory to God in the highest, and peace to all.”

AMEN