Monday, December 26, 2011

Jesus Came for the Desperate and for the Frightened

The audio links for three Christ Mass sermons (Christmas Eve, Midnight, and Christmas Dawn) are here, here, and here.  The transcript of the first is here:

St. Luke 2:1-14

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Ghost.

Dearly beloved in the Lord,

Consider the first people to whom the Lord appeared on the night of his nativity.  There were two humble groups of people.  The first group was the couple, Mary and Joseph.  The other group were simple shepherds.  A consideration of these groups and the fact that these were the ones whom the Lord chose in his mercy first to reveal himself provides abiding comfort and joy to all who find themselves in similar circumstances. For those circumstances are hardly the kind of circumstances to wish for on Christmas Eve when family and loved ones are near, with the warm and cozy feeling you get when everyone is nearby. 

It was frantic for Mary and Joseph.  They did not want to have to go from Nazareth all the way down south in the Bethlehem to be taxed, because they knew that her time of delivering the child was very near at hand.  But there’s no such thing as an exemption from the order of Caesar Augustus.  If he says go, they must go.  So they went; and probably because they had to go slowly, due to the fact that she was so expectant, they were late.  And everyone else who was of the house and lineage of David would have arrived before them, and that’s why there was no room in the inn.  And there was no one they knew. No relatives, no friends, no family.  No room in the inn. No place to go. And the time came when she should be delivered.  How cruel! How dreadful a time this must have been!  Just put yourself in the minds of Mary and Joseph on that night.  Of all times for this to happen!

So they had to take emergency measures, which for them meant finding a cave where cattle lately fed, in the cold and damp and dark of the night.  And there and then was the birth of the Savior of the world. It was to Mary and Joseph in the midst of chaos and all things gone wrong that the Savior came.  The son of Mary was born then and there

And now consider the shepherds, the humble peasants living in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  The angel of the lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid, which means they were terrified.  Wouldn’t you be, if the glory of the Lord shone round about you? And so there they were, in the same cold night, in the same place, terrified out of their minds.  It was to them also that the Savior of the world appeared. 

And so, beloved, get the truth here of Christmas Eve.  He comes to those who need him the most desperately, those who are in the most desperate of circumstances, those whose lives are the most torn apart, whether it be by hardship, calamity, grief, sorrow, fear. All the things that are capable tearing your lives into pieces mounted up against Mary and Joseph and the shepherds on that night and made it appear to their eyes as though all was lost. To them the Savior came, to rescue them who could clearly by no means have rescued themselves. They were sunk, they were lost, they were goners.  No help for them.  No room in the inn. No comfort for troubled shepherds.  To them, as it were, out of nowhere, the Savior of the world comes.

And this shall be a sign unto you in the midst of your troubled lives, no matter how troubled and saddened and stricken they may be.  Never lose heart. This is why Jesus says to his disciples that men should always pray and never to lose heart.  Because he was born in a day when, of all times, one would have thought, it would have been appropriate to begin to lose heart.  On the contrary, the timing was perfect; the night was just right. It was just the way God wanted it, that the Savior should be wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger, a feeding tough for sheep, or goats, donkeys, or oxen. This shall be a sign unto you: this is how it works; this is how he covers his glory.

This is how he comes also to you, to lay to rest for good whatever fears you might have like the shepherds, or whatever worries or fretting you might entertain like Mary and Joseph. He was in charge of that night from before its beginning, as we now know, as we now celebrate year after year.  It was perfect. We know that now.  But if you were there the first time, the first Christmas, you would not have seen in advance, you would have had to trust in the darkness that God cannot lie.  So now learn from the blessed Christmas Gospel that he does not lie to his people.  And when the night is darkest, and when the day is most troubled, and when death tears at your heart the most sourly, and when you are most sorely tempted to despair, remember this holy Gospel.  He came to them to comfort them in the midst of their troubles, and to comfort you.  For this is a sign also unto you. He is wrapped, he is covered, he is shrouded. His glory cannot be seen except for a brief moment in the Bethlehem countryside.

So tonight he also covers and shrouds his glory, in the simple words of this Gospel, and most especially in this blessed Sacrament, the Christ Mass, you can’t see his glory. You can’t see that he is Immanuel—God with us—here and now, but you know it.  Beloved, you know this.  You’ve been raised with this.  Hold it dear and never let it go.  The message of Christmas is that God is with us in the night, in dark, in the cold, in the cave, in the manger, in the Christ child over which the angel at just the perfect time sang, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Ghost.

No comments: