Thursday, December 24, 2015

Security Blankets and the Coming of Christ: a sermon for Christmas Day 2015

“Security Blankets and the Coming of Christ”
Christmas Day 2015
St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church, Richmond, VA

Into this world, this demented inn,
in which there is absolutely no room for him at all,
Christ has come uninvited.

But because he cannot be at home in it,
because he is out of place in it,
and yet he must be in it,
his place is with those others for whom there is no room.

His place is with those who do not belong,
who are rejected by power because they are regarded as weak,
those who are discredited,
who are denied the status of persons,

With those for whom there is no room,
Christ is present in this world.

-Thomas Merton (from Raids on the Unspeakable)

Today is Christmas Day. Christ has come. He entered into our life by being born, crying out with his first breath. He embraces all it is to be human. He points us to the Divine by the choices he made. The miracle of the Incarnation, Christ coming in the flesh, is not so much that Jesus points us to God. It is that God points us to Jesus. That is my way. That is my truth. That is my life.

Merton reminds us that in the world, this demented inn, where there absolutely no room for him at all, Christ has come uninvited.

The other day at a store, I was standing in an aisle, waiting for people to clear a way ahead. I was not moving, just standing there in the aisle, and being as big as I am I am hard to miss. A woman walked right toward me, did not look at me once, and pushed her and her cart between me and the shelving a foot away. No excuse me. Not even a desperate pleading look. A shove, and a cart being her means of intrusion. I felt for her, the crush of whatever it was was eating her so much she could not even acknowledge my humanity. But sometimes the sick need to have the doctor come to them, because they are not even aware they are sick.

And that is what Christ did. He came to the sick, those who knew it, and those who did not. He came for those were outcast and no way of being let in, and those who were incast, so entrenched in the sinful systems of this world that they cannot even acknowledge the humanity of others and in doing so miss the humanity, what is most precious, in themselves.

Into this world, this demented inn,
in which there is absolutely no room for him at all,
Christ has come uninvited.

I heard an interesting piece of trivia this year. I am shocked I had never noticed it before. This being the 50th anniversary, A Charlie Brown Christmas has received a bit more interest and attention. In it, Linus stops the production of the Christmas show rehearsal to tell Charlie Brown the real meaning of Christmas, and he quotes Luke 2.

8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field , keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And, lo , the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid . 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold , I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes , lying in a manger. 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying , 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

“That’s the meaning of Christmas, Charlie Brown.” Linus, being a cartoon character, is defined in simple ways. He is a believer, trusting or naive, depending on your point of view. He also is comforted by his security blanket. He holds tight to his protection from his insecurities, and most of us cannot think of Linus without it.

But if you go back to watch the video, and I did to make sure a couple of times, while he is quoting Luke, a most amazing thing happens. As soon as he says “Fear not!” his hand disappears from the screen and it returns without the blanket. The boy who is so timid, so fearful, goes center stage and let’s go of his fears, or at least his comfort from his fears. You see, the one who can stand with Linus, the one who can stand beside Merton in this demented inn, the one who can stand beside me in my weakness and insecurities and you in yours has come into the world. “Fear not: for, behold , I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”

We as Episcopalians are a part of the Anglican Communion, and the leader of the Anglican Communion is the Archbishop of Canterbury. Archbishop Justin Welby, in his Christmas message, says this to us this year: “As Christians we are called to be people who take that first step, who take the risk of kindness because we believe the other person is a gift to us from God, just as we can be a gift to them. We’re called to be people who don’t accept narratives that seek to divide us as communities – wherever we hear them – because we have a better narrative: that God poured out his love for us by sending his son to be with us in a world of fear and danger. We have the capacity to share that risk-taking love with whoever we discover is our neighbour – not just this Christmas, but always.”

And in that light, the better narrative that Archbishop Welby speaks of, in that narrative Christ’s light came into the world, the light that the darkness cannot even comprehend arrived in this our demented inn, and we are given a peace, a peace that passes all understanding. We are given the Christ, this precious God-in-man Jesus. Uninvited, but oh, so welcome.

Merry Christmas.

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Blessings, Rock