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2035 Charlton Road
Sunfish Lake, MN 55118

651-455-9449

God Calls us to be Christ's loving arms in the world spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ through our worship, education, outreach, and ministry. Whoever you are, wherever you are on your faith journey, Saint Anne's welcomes you. 

Sermons

Christmas Day - Fr. Theo Park - December 25, 2017

Carolyn Swiszcz

Have you ever noticed that when you get together with your family 

and start telling stories about when you were growing up, 

or what happened years ago, 

the same events sound very different as different people tell the story? 

Depending on who's describing it, 

the guy who used to live across the street was a scrooge or a saint; 

or moving from one town to another was either a disaster, a wonderful escape, 

or a thing indifferent, hardly noticed: same event, different points of view.

Try thinking about this very human business of memory and story telling 

in light of the wonderful poem we have just heard. 

This is the Christmas Story, the third time the Bible tells it. 

It is the same story we heard last night; 

the story of the manger and the Shepherds and the Angels – 

and the same story Matthew tells in his Gospel, with Joseph's dreams and the wise men; but the point of view is different, and so the Fourth Gospel sounds strange 

to ears more accustomed to descriptions of crowded inns and angel choirs. 

That's because different folks in the family are telling the same story.

You see the author of Luke, who wrote the familiar story we heard last night, 

was a bit of an historian, very concerned with getting the dates and rulers right, 

and locating everything in time and space. 

He was also likely not Jewish, 

and therefore very concerned about the role of people who, like him, 

were considered outsiders to the covenant promises of God. 

So he is more concerned with shepherds – who were social outcasts – than about kings. And Luke tells the story from the perspective of Mary – a radical move by itself, 

since women were even lower on the social ladder than shepherds.

The community that raised up the Gospel of Matthew is more traditional. 

This author was certainly a Jew and may have been a minor religious functionary. 

He was very concerned with making it clear 

that Jesus fulfilled all of the Old Testament prophecies as Messiah, 

that he was the Anointed One of God and expected King of the Jews. 

So shepherds paying homage didn't interest him as much as royal wise men; 

and he cared more about creating parallels between Moses and Jesus.

Also, because he was writing for a traditional, conservative audience, 

the story of the birth is told from Joseph's point of view, not Mary’s.

Then there is the Fourth Gospel. 

In one way or another, this community knew about the stories in Matthew and Luke, 

and they assume that the listener knows about them, too. 

But the community of John were theologians and mystics. 

Since they already knew the "historical" details of Jesus' birth, 

they write of its meaning, and they write from their theology, 

and from the holy imagination of their prayers. 

But it is the same story – 

all three traditions are talking about the same birth – 

all three are saying the same thing.

The Fourth Gospel does start the story earlier – 

we are reminded that Christmas really begins just before where Genesis begins – 

before the beginning with God in creation. 

Using language evocative of Genesis, 

the community begins by talking about the logos of God. 

We translate this as the “word” of God, but really the Greek means the creative impulse,

that which orders and gives form and meaning, God creating, revealing, and redeeming. 

So we hear that this active principle was with God, and that it was God. 

And then we hear this gospel’s version of the Christmas story – 

in nine words (whether in Greek or in English):

"And the creative essence of God became flesh, and dwelt among us." 

The energy that was with God in creation, 

the energy that has always been God at work in history and human life, 

this energy became a person, became flesh – 

as completely human as you and me. 

Not God with a "people-suit" disguise on; 

not a really good person who God rewarded and made special; 

not a super angel God created early and saved up for Bethlehem.

But a person, who contained and revealed the creative essence of God. 

Soaring imagery for the most down-to-earth thing that ever happened. 

But still the Christmas story, still the story that Luke tells, that Matthew tells: 

the story of the birth of Jesus.

In addition to telling the same story, 

Matthew, Luke, and John share one special way of telling it – 

there is one image, one symbol, and only one, 

that they all use to talk about Christmas. 

(Can you think of what it is?)

They all talk about light -- the light of the star guiding the searching world, 

the light of God’s glory that shone around the shepherds, 

the light that brings enlightenment to every human person. 

They all continue Isaiah's vision of light shining on those who live in darkness.

Where the creative energy of God is, people who understand talk about light. 

They have to – there is no better image for what is going on. 

The light shines in the darkness – so the prologue proclaims. 

And somehow we understand this 

and we understand that this truth cannot be fully expressed in any other words.

In large part, we probably understand because we know about darkness -

we know what it is like to live in and with darkness. 

What John, and Luke and Matthew all say about Christmas 

is that with this event a light begins to shine: 

suddenly, quietly, but absolutely certainly. 

And by that light we can begin to see the world as it was intended to be. 

By that light we can begin to see who we are and who we are created to be. 

For in our tradition it is the person of Jesus who what it truly means to be a human being. 

In him we see that our lives are made whole as we surrender them in love and service; 

in him we see that really being alive means risking everything for – and because of – 

the love of God and the Kin-dom of God. 

In him we see that hope need never be abandoned – never – 

and that we contain possibilities beyond our imagining.

Also, by that light that has come into the world 

we begin to see God really clearly for the first time. 

"No one has ever seen God," the community of John reminds us. 

But God is made known to us in Jesus, bringer of enlightenment. 

All that we thought about God, all that we had figured out, 

all that we were sure we knew about God – all of that is put to the test in Jesus. 

Who God is, in relationship to us, is fully revealed in Jesus. 

Not in one saying or one parable, or one miracle – 

but in all of him – in his life, his teaching, his death and resurrection – 

we finally have the light to see God.

The light of Christ, the word made flesh, comes among us at Christmas – 

and we rejoice to behold its appearing. 

God has made known God's love to us in Christ. 

That first Christmas, the stable stank, and the light shone – 

and it continues to shine – and continues to allow us to see, 

calling us to show a world living in darkness what we have seen. 

For by that light we have been given power to become children of God – 

and to take our places with the light. 

The light shines in the darkness, 

and the darkness did not overcome it.