Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas Sermon

Christmas, 2006
(The Rev. David K. Fly)

Here's one of the things I love most about Christmas: Watching the 1951 version of Alastair Sim in Dickens' A Christmas Carol. I like it so much that I own a copy of it, and Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without curling up next to the fire and watching old Ebenezer Scrooge and Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim and the ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, and Yet To Come as they conspire to change Scrooge's life forever.

First comes the long, dark, night when Ebenezer is led to confront his past—his hopes and dreams and how he left them behind as he grew ever more cynical and alone. Christmas Present opens his eyes to see the sadness his miserliness has created, but also shows the goodness that lives in the hearts of others, a goodness he once knew in his own heart. And, then, of course, there is Christmas Yet To Come, when he sees the end of his life—the inevitable outcome of a life without a heart.

And here's my favorite scene: when Scrooge wakes up from his dream—or is it a dream? There is a knock on his bedroom door, and he runs to open it. There stands his housekeeper with his breakfast tea. And Scrooge asks her: "Tell me, what day is it?"

"Why, it's Christmas Day, sir," says the housekeeper, looking at him warily.

And Scrooge mumbles to himself, "Christmas Day. Christmas Day. Then, I haven't missed it!" And he begins to dance with his housekeeper, who thinks that he must be mad. And it's obvious that a change has come over Ebenezer Scrooge—that the person he was yesterday is no longer the person he is today.

On Christmas mornings for many years, as I awoke from the fog of the midnight service, wanting only to roll back over and snooze some more, but knowing I had to get up and do another service, I thought of that scene in A Christmas Carol. And I sometimes thought to myself, "What day is it? It's Christmas Day." And I remembered those words of Scrooge and the joy in his voice and in his face when he said, "Then I haven't missed it!" And I knew that my role was to hurry to the church, get up in the pulpit and tell everyone there, "And you haven't missed it either!"

For to us a child has been born. To us a gift has been given. Because of Jesus, we no longer see God at a distance. God has invaded our reality with a purpose—a purpose to change us and redeem us from the ghosts of our past. God has worked his way into the fabric of this world to let us know that dreams can come true—to put flesh on such abstractions as hope and faith and love and mercy. God, in Jesus, has chosen to be with us, to share our flesh, to shoulder our burdens, to be born in us and to die for us. God's purpose from the beginning of the world has been to love us and to teach us to love others and we haven't missed the opportunity to know God. If God can be born into this world once, he can be born again and again in the hearts of his children.

Again on this Christmas morning I am aware that we still live with many of the nightmares of Ebenezer Scrooge. You may remember from the film that at the end of the visit of the Ghost of Christmas Present, the Spirit opens his coat and sitting at his feet are two pretty sorry-looking children. Scrooge asks who they are and the Spirit replies, "The boy is ignorance and the girl is want." Dickens may have written his story in 1843, but the darkness of greed, violence, and prejudice still threaten to overcome the light. But we are called to be sons and daughters of that light and to keep it shining in the midst of darkness. Each of us has the capacity to heal the sick, to feed the hungry, to make peace, to house the homeless, to bring joy and happiness to the hearts of others. It's Christmas Day, and we haven't missed it!

Remember what the housekeeper says to Scrooge as he attempts to dance with her? "Are you quite yourself, sir?" And Scrooge considers her question for a moment and says, "I don't know. I don't think so. I hope not!"

I'd love for that to be our response to Christmas morning. Are you quite yourself this morning? I hope not! I hope you've heard the word from the manger. The poet Abner Dean put it this way:

Hear the Word
the one from the manger
it means just this:
you can dance with a stranger!

So may we be a little mad this morning. May we run out and buy the fattest turkey in the store and feed the hungry. May we love our enemies. May we forgive those who have wronged us. May we laugh and be a little silly with one another about the good news we've received. Because it is good news and Christ continues to be born in us and in our world 'til the end of time. We haven't missed it!



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