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Christmas Sermon By Bishop Marsh

 

Homily for Christmas Day
St. Matthias Anglican Church
Mystic, Connecticut

Let us pray:

        My Brothers and Sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the Feast of the Incarnation. It is a day, we remember, that God became one with us; physically, spiritually, emotionally – completely human. Completely at one with us, Jesus is born. He had always been divine. As St. John's gospel reminds us: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. All things were made by Him.” Yes, God is indeed eternal. He has created us in His own image, yet He remains beyond time.

        But  then, within the very human calculation of time, God entered the temporal world. He lived with us for such a brief period of time, then left us. He lived as a human being, indistinguishable from us; complete in all human ways. And on this day, we celebrate that most miraculous of all events – the birth of a child.

        In the ancient world, such an event would be considered unremarkable. Just another baby born to a Judean family in a very remote outpost of the Roman Empire. Born as he was in a stable, it would be very unlikely that he would survive. And if he dies, it is no matter; children die every day in the empire. What is so remarkable if this one dies as well. We know, of course, that Jesus does not die. He grows, becomes a man and is eventually put to death on a cross. It is the Roman Empire. Punishments are severe.

        But that is still years in the future. Today, we stand before a simple manger in a place called Bethlehem. The sights and sounds are strange. The people are dressed much differently from the people we know. The language is very different; people speak Aramaic, a version of Hebrew. We may hear some Latin spoken as well, especially if Roman soldiers or government officials are somewhere nearby.  Because most sanitary laws have not been invented, our noses are assaulted by strange and pungent odors. We see people and animals. We recognize them, but everything else is very different. Except for one thing.

        Yes, it is the child. The child draws our attention. It is the focus upon which all else seems to recede, to disappear. What is it about this child that is so unique? We look at this child in the arms of his mother. They sit in a simple stable. They embrace.

Services on Christmas Day are very special ones. They tend to be quieter and less intense than those on Christmas Eve. There is also a different crowd that attends a Christmas Day service.

        It takes a special effort to attend Eucharist on Christmas Day. We are all here because of our love for Jesus. And we want to be with Him on this, the first full day of His human life.

        There is something about this day that we cannot quite grasp. It is a mystery that will follow us all our days. Yes, we celebrate the love of family and friends on this day. We exchange gifts. We speak to each other somewhat differently, understanding that something has changed in our lives.

        Although it happened two thousand years ago, we need this moment today. We need to stand in a quiet corner of Bethlehem and look into the face of a newborn child. We need to see him once again in all his frailty and weakness and know that he has, on this day, given himself fully to a world that neither knows nor cares for his presence. But this is a world that He loves beyond all our imagining, a world He has come to save.

        And we, who know the story of Jesus from his birth to His death – and beyond – can only wonder that this tiny child has taken on such a great and dangerous mission.

        We stand at Bethlehem on this particular day and give thanks for the presence of God; God who has come to us at this time in our lives – and will be with us always.

Amen.

 

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