Christ is Born! Christmas Day Sermon

 

“The light shines in the darkness,

and the darkness did not overcome it.”

(pause)

I see the light,

Shining in the darkness

When my children were born.

As parents,

I am sure we have all felt that sense of peace

Because of their life,

And the presence of the Holy Spirit

And God’s sacred breath

Echoed in that first cry

(pause)

It is a sign too,

Yes, our lives

A sign of resistance

Resistance toward that which lurks

In the darkness

Bent on destroying God’s Creation

Destroying US

And mocking the Creator God.

Our lives are a testimony.

(pause)

I see the Light

Shining in the darkness

When we as people of faith

Joyfully come together

Extending hospitality

Sharing God’s Peace

Welcoming those who feel as if they are lost

Alone

Fearful.

Our faith is the resistance

Against this darkness

(pause)

I see the Light

Shining in the darkness

When we as people

In this place

Stand as witnesses

Declaring

The Good News

And then going out

To be one of many LIGHTS

To shout into that darkness

“In the beginning was the Word,

and the Word was with God,

and the Word was God.”

(pause)

The shepherds were witnesses to this

No longer would they be fearful,

Because of the lowness of their station,

Because of the darkness of violence

For they had indeed seen that

Transformative

HOPE!

Because the Creator God loved them too,

And sent Angels

To comfort them

(pause)

The people,

Who crowded that cave,

That room

To see this Babe

Whose Birth

Was like any other,

But whose presence

Seemed to vibrate within their very being

They were witnesses

To this

LIGHT

Because the Creator God

Loved God’s people

And sent this Babe,

In the midst of them

In the midst of the darkness

So that the darkness

No longer had any POWER!

(pause)

We, beloved

We too,

Who come into these darkened sacred spaces

Lifting our own voices in song

We, who are led here to the Table,

Because of the promises

Of

Transformative

Hope

Fed here-

Loved HERE

We don’t have to be afraid of the darkness anymore

Because of the Birth of the ONE

Whose Birth

SHATTERS

The darkness

FOREVER,

Jesus Christ,

Our Savior

(pause)

But we must be mindful,

We cannot keep this LIGHT

For ourselves

We cannot be so insular

So weary worn with

Pain

Suffering

Of this world

That we hoard the LIGHT

THE WORD

Merely for our own healing,

Our own self sustainability

Especially because of the LIGHT

Because of the WORD

WE ARE FREE

Free to worship without fear

Without restraint

To share the Good News

That Christ is BORN!

Especially when it seems nowadays,

The darkness

Seems to be winning,

Right?

There is frightening talk,

Of flexing muscles

With weapons of war

That brings no peace.

There is destructive behavior

Of attempting to extinguish others humanity

All in the name of safety

And security

Of a select few

This is how the darkness lies to our hearts

There is openly,

Unashamedly

Worshiping

At the golden calf

Of greed

Regardless of who is hurt

Or whom is left behind

This is how the darkness blinds us

(pause)

I asked the children during my children’s sermon

A couple of Sundays ago

Where in the world,

Is God’s Peace

Needed the most?

And many of you proclaimed

“EVERYWHERE”

Everywhere needs to be reminded

All things came into being through him,

and without him not one thing came into being.”

ALL THINGS

Came into LIFE

THROUGH GOD,

THROUGH JESUS CHRIST

Not through any military might

Or Human force

Not through some random explosion-

But,

What do you think,

Made that explosion,

Right?

Not even through

A cosmic accident

But,

What do you think

Made the cosmos,

Right?

ALL THINGS

Were born

Because of simply

God’s LOVE for Creation

Because of God’s LOVE!

What Good News!

The Good News of Jesus Christ is,

Jesus Christ was Born

To be the WORD

A WORD of HOPE,

PEACE

JOY

And

LOVE.

Simply put-

We celebrate the BIRTH

Of the ONE

Who will do EXTRAORDINARY THINGS

For US, beloved

So that none of us,

EVER have to fear

The darkness

Because regardless

Jesus Christ is the LIGHT

And will always BE THE LIGHT

To guide us

To comfort us

And to bring US

Into everlasting LIGHT!

(pause)

The theologian

Howard Thurman

Shares these words

From his poem

“The Work of Christmas”

When the song of the angels is stilled,

when the star in the sky is gone,

when the kings and princes are home,

when the shepherds are back with their flocks,

the work of Christmas begins:

to find the lost,

to heal the broken,

to feed the hungry,

to release the prisoner,

to rebuild the nations,

to bring peace among the people,

to make music in the heart.

(pause)

Thanks Be to God.

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The Last Place to Find Christ-Christmas Eve Service

Grace and Peace to you, beloved

On this night of nights,

When Life itself was transformed

And God, whom we thought was hidden

Revealed Godself

In the form,

Of a babe,

Christ, the Lord

Amen.

(pause)

There are places in this world,

Where people are huddled,

Against bombed out buildings

And rubble strewn streets

Waiting for that transformative Hope

(pause)

There are people,

Huddled in the darkness,

Because it is the only place

That they can come

To lament

To pray

To comfort one another

Waiting,

Still waiting

For a glimmer of that

Transformative LIGHT

Piercing the emptiness of this world

(pause)

We are too,

Gathered in the darkness

Waiting for that transformative Birth

This night,

(pause)

That night

When Jesus Christ was born

Born where,

The people needed Him most!

Not in spectacular marble halls,

Laid in the finest linen

Surrounded by splendor,

Warmth

Prestige

And Majesty

Adored in exclusion

By a royal elite

But,

Jesus was born,

In the midst

Of the wilderness

Isolated,

Among the downtrodden

Oppressed people

Out in the indifference

Beyond city gates

Jesus Christ was born,

Where the people needed to hear

To SEE

The Good News!

(pause)

“In that region there were shepherds

living in the fields,

keeping watch over their flock by night”

(pause)

We,

As people of faith,

Have glossed over this verse,

Imagining these shepherds

Blissfully

Admiring the beauty of the moon,

The companionship and the comradery of one another,

And a seemingly peaceful night.

And yes,

There is nothing wrong,

With immersing ourselves in the familiar

Spending this night of nights,

Comforted by carols,

Hymns,

Pausing for reflection

Among the candles

Allowing the Word of God

To speak a Word to us,

Of that transformative HOPE

That is in the Bread and the Wine,

The Body and Blood,

Of Jesus Christ,

This Good News

(pause)

But for a moment,

This night

As we are waiting,

We dig deeper,

Is it interesting to know,

That being a shepherd,

Among these ancient societies

Was not a noble profession?

In fact,

Being a shepherd,

Amounted to the same as perhaps

A migrant worker is seen today:

Dead end,

Poor position

Stuck at the bottom

Gathering,

Waiting,

Still waiting

for

A sign

Of

HOPE

That

The Creator God had not forgotten them,

And that God stands with them,

Through their trials,

Tribulations

While taking jobs

That citizens despised

Jobs that they consider beneath them,

Jobs that although vital

To how the wider community moves

Jobs that have ugly labels associated with them,

Jobs that only lowlifes

Liars,

Thieves

Could muster.

These same labels were associated with the word

Shephard,

(pause)

Yet,

How curious

That those who were considered

The working poor,

Were despised

For taking these “dead-end” jobs,

Because for some reason,

The well-ordered society,

Didn’t think they

Were deserving

Of a living wage?

(pause)

Shepherds were lumped in along

With the tax collectors,

With people considered to be sinners,

Were considered to be unclean

They didn’t keep the Sabbath holy,

Although their work almost was from sunrise,

To beyond sunset

It is perplexing to say in the least

How these shepherds were treated

Even as their work,

Were essential

To this

Ancient economy

And so,

The shepherds gathered,

In the stillness

Obscured from those

Who cast judgement

Discounting their humanity

Gathering to discuss

The inequality heaped upon them by the self-righteous

A way of liberation for their lives

And suddenly,

HOPE!

The Good News doesn’t come to

The religious

The self-righteous

But to the outsider

The forgotten

The desperate

God comes to where God is needed the MOST

In the midst of their wilderness

In the midst of our wilderness

In those painful places,

Where we must admit,

As a broken people

We too, are still waiting

For HOPE

For the coming

Of the Kingdom

Of God!

(pause)

And this,

Is that Good News!

“Do not be afraid; for see—

I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people”

ALL the people,

The common folk,

The Gentiles

The poor

The lepers

The migrants

The undocumented

The peoples of Aleppo

Of Palestine

Of Crimea

Of peoples living in downtrodden neighborhoods,

In Englewood

And Pilsen

And Dixmoor,

Robbins

And

Harvey

Peoples who have been waiting for HOPE

For over 5 centuries

To finally have their humanity acknowledged

Affirmed

Peoples who have been waiting,

For their lands,

Their ways

Their sacredness

To be freed

Back into their hands

(pause)

Yes,

The Good News is indeed for all

It is joy to those who suffer

And yes,

We are reminded,

That the Good News places those

Who are insistent on suppressing

Oppressing

That the Good News of Jesus Christ

Brings them into a space of uncomfortableness

If they do not heed the call,

To repent

(pause)

“to you is born this day

in the city of David a Savior,

who is the Messiah,

the Lord”

A SAVIOR!

The Good News for us, beloved

Is that Jesus Christ,

Is indeed

OUR SAVIOR

THE SAVIOR

Jesus was born,

To FREE US

From Bondage!

Bondage to Sin

Bondage from oppression

And evil

That binds us to this world

(pause)

Salvation is merely not just a ticket

To heaven,

Salvation means,

LIBERATION

Jesus Christ is

LIBERATION

Therefore even as we struggle

Daily,

Because of this night,

Our lives are forever,

FREE

So go proclaim this Good News!

Christ is BORN!

Thanks Be to God.

#BeChristinChristmas-4th Sunday of Advent

The end of the year,

Usually is a culmination of Holy festivals

Throughout our global neighborhood

Some which we are familiar

Hanukkah

And

Kwanzaa

And some which perhaps,

We are not familiar

Winter Solstice

And

Bodhi Day,

(pause)

As followers of Christ,

Celebrating both Advent

And

Christmas,

We are called to remember what is important

In this Holy season,

We are called to keep the meaning of Christ’s Holy

And mysterious Birth

In everything that we are immersed in

(pause)

But some of our fellow sisters and brothers in Christ,

Think this only amounts to,

Complaining and protesting viciously,

About the fact that Starbucks didn’t put

“Merry Christmas”

On their red holiday cups

Or griping when many retail workers,

Say “Happy Holidays”

And that we are not more demanding,

That everyone should say

“Merry Christmas”

Regardless of who they are

(pause)

What does it mean, truly

To Keep the Christ

In Christmas?

(pause)

Perhaps

The definition needs to be confessed

And proclaimed

Is that the only way to keep Christ in Christmas,

Is by keeping CHRIST

IN US.

(pause)

Keeping Christ

In Christmas

Means,

Showing someone kindness

Through random acts,

With no reward received back.

(Tell the story, simple about how Arif and a number of his friends had piled into the doorway after school on Friday, with plans to see Rogue One. Now, the young boy, my neighbor’s son had gotten permission to go from his mother but as she was at work at 3pm in the afternoon, he didn’t know how he would be able to pay for his ticket. This is where motherhood becomes universal, as I told Jared that I would make sure, he could get a ticket to join his friends for an afternoon of fun).

What story can you relate in your journey,

Where someone showed you kindness,

Especially in this holiday season,

Where stress is always a factor

Or maybe

It was YOU

Who brought joy and hope to someone’s life

That reminder

They were not alone.

(pause)

Showing someone kindness means too,

Opening up our sacred spaces

Where we live,

Where we worship

To those who have nothing,

Especially when others in power

Immersed in greed

Decide that those on the outskirts,

The outcasts

That their humanity

Means nothing.

Are we willing

To exude Christ’s grace?

(pause)

Keeping Christ in Christmas

Means,

Embracing those on the margins-

The undocumented

The refugee

Those who are fleeing a life of terror

Of Emptiness

Of certain Death

Simply so that they can take a full breath

Simply so that they can experience laughter

And freedom

And its funny,

We, as a people in this nation

Are so enraged about the issue of the undocumented,

Right?

We see them as a threat!

They come into our communities

Crowding our space

Coming from unknown places,

That unknown factor

We don’t know anything about them

Their families

Their lineage

Their history

(pause)

Interesting,

Sounds like Joseph and Mary

(pause)

Jesus’s parents,

And we are so quick to forget this,

Jesus’s parents

Were UNDOCUMENTED

Were fleeing Herod and his wrath,

His unjust laws

His persecution of their people!

We are so quick to lift up and adore and admire

Joseph and Mary,

We set out nativity scenes

And yet,

We turn our backs upon those refugees

Which by the way,

Come from the same peoples

We persecute today,

Fleeing oppressive regimes

Fleeing situations

That they themselves cannot be responsible for

Facing soldiers

Weaponry

Bent on oppressive destruction

Intrusion in those people’s homes,

Where they are vulnerable

Fragile.

We turn our backs upon them,

And the stress

The tragedy

The burdens that they carry,

Both physically

And emotionally

(pause)

Joseph was carrying such a burden.

Besides being born into

And shouldering poverty,

And making do,

Joseph, a righteous man,

Had to deal with the fact

That his bride to be,

Was ALREADY PREGNANT!

How would he keep up appearances?

Should he adhere to the law?

Which offered no grace

No reprieve

No forgiveness

Should he remain with her,

To be shamed possibly

By his community?

(pause)

We are so quick,

To lift up Mary and Joseph,

These devoted parents

Of the One,

Whose Birth

Has the power

To

TRANSFORM

Our

Reality,

Bringing in

Ushering in

A new horizon,

A new Kingdom

A new HOPE

(pause)

But we forget,

That Mary and Joseph

Were

TEENAGERS,

And yet,

We as humanity,

As people of faith even, sometimes

We condemn our young teenage mothers

And fathers

Labeling them only with their sin,

Forgetting we are all imperfect,

Instead of embracing them with our wisdom,

Our knowledge

And being present to guide

Mentor

Advise

Advocate

So that these children that they bear,

Grow up to be healthy,

Safe

Loved.

Just as Jesus Christ’s life was sacred,

So should every child’s life be as such,

Regardless to their beginnings.

(pause)

We forget,

That when we turn away

The undocumented,

Who are fleeing violence

The refugees

Who are fleeing war

The unexperienced

Who yes, make immature choices

We are in essence,

Turning away Joseph and Mary,

Rejecting God

Because see,

Because of this Birth,

Jesus Christ was born,

So that ALL would be deemed EQUAL

Because ALL were already LOVED

By the Creator God

(pause)

Keeping the Christ in Christmas,

Means

Sharing Good News

To a weary people.

Jesus’s name means

God Saves!

The angel who came before Joseph,

Shared with him Good News

In a time where he needed to hear it

In a moment when he was uncertain

But the angel proclaimed

that Mary,

“Shall bear a son,

And you are to name Him Jesus,

For He will save His people

From their sins.”

Emmanuel,

God is with US!

(pause)

Creator God,

Did not breathe sacred and holy LIFE

Within us

For us

To Disregard,

Disavow

One another.

Just as Joseph,

Claimed something precious

That was not his own,

We should claim

Adopt

Embrace

One another

Even if we are not the same

The same Blood

Culture

Tribe

Language

It is because of Jesus Christ,

The One whose Birth we await

The One to come

(pause)

Being Christ in Christmas

Means BREATHING LIFE

Into something once thought dead

Discarded

Useless

Worthless

A ministry,

An idea

A project

A neighbor

A relationship

A FIGHT

Towards

Righteousness

Truth

And

Justice

Thanks Be to God

 

 

 

 

The Question of Jesus

They were waiting,

Anticipating

This transformative birth

An emergence of liberation,

A shattering of chains

No longer ashamed

Of who they were

And whose they belonged to.

(pause)

They were waiting

For the presence of the One

Who would shift the atmosphere

And flooding into their lives

FINALLY

The Kingdom of God

(pause)

We are still waiting,

(slight pause)

And yet we embrace this time

Of thoughtful reflection

Meditation

Of prayers of joy

Hope

And

Towards

Peace.

We know what is coming

Who is coming

Jesus Christ.

(pause)

It’s all so clear to us, right?

We are sometimes so rooted in our faith,

That we can’t even fathom

Questioning about Jesus.

(pause)

We shouldn’t be too surprised

The questions,

The doubting

Coming from those who are stumbling for truth

The truth and the reality of the presence of Jesus Christ.

They are still waiting

(pause)

Not questions from our Jewish siblings,

Who are still waiting,

For the One

(pause)

Not from our Muslim siblings,

Who honor Jesus

As one of a most respected

Holy

And

Beloved

Teacher

But,

(pause)

From those who struggle

How any difference had been made

Because of this miraculous birth?

(pause)

And these questions aren’t from mere aversion

To religion or faith-

But from the depths of humanity,

Agony

And

Sorrow

(tell of the stories of the people, the first peoples, who are bound by their duty practicing stewardship of those resources from the Creator, The Great Spirit, Has given to them; For them to protect the land, The water, The buffalo, One another and yet, From the stories of seminarians, Some who were trained as trauma counselors, And Pastors, Some who are veterans, about the environment at the camps, About how they, our Native siblings, and others gathered in peace, But 24/7 helicopters and spotlights scrutinized and focused on the camps Even as they gather for interfaith prayer. And the peaceful protests Like the one in the Bismarck Shopping Mall A group of people gathering, sitting and praying even attempting to have conversations with those police officers and met with brute force and violence with no provocation.)

Would any of us be surprised then,

That these officers identify them as faithful church going folk

But this,

Is this what Jesus calls us to?

“Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?”

This question is a cry for many,

A cry of those who are shocked and pained

At how hellish this world has become

That the right to live our lives

As the Creator calls us

That liberation is out of our hands,

That instead we are pushed against the proverbial wall

Fighting,

Clawing our way out

For mere survival

Each and every day,

Which is in no way living.

(pause)

This same world

who confesses with its lips

Of its religiosity

And shuts out the prophetic

Healing Word of Jesus Christ,

That commands to love one another

Regardless of whom we love,

Or where our journey has brought us,

Or our status

Or how even we worship the Creator God

(pause)

This question about Jesus

Comes after we, as people of faith,

Maybe would confess that

We too,

Have wondered,

After experiencing and witnessing

All of the beautiful,

Mysterious

Expression of how humanity communes,

Communicates with God,

If this is the path for us.

(pause)

And we definitely can confess,

That this, is uncomfortable for us to speak of

Because many of us will proclaim our belief

In Jesus Christ

Came from being born in the FAITH!

And yet,

If we are honest,

We travel back within those places,

Excavating deep

Where we have buried the moments,

Of wanting to walk away,

Gotten angry with Jesus,

Shutting out the Light of God

Especially when it has been too hard,

Life has been too hard

Too painful to breathe.

We will never confess publicly

The times,

We are the ones asking Jesus,

Are you the one who is to come,

or are we to wait for another?”

This is our lament,

Especially when have given up,

Felt trapped by a world who doesn’t care

(tell the story of the most recent pastoral visit of a woman who came to my attention through other pastoral colleague a year ago who had needed a pastor to visit, homebound and wracked under illness. This year she contacted me asking me to come once more, after her attempts to engage a local church denomination had failed. She had been a member of this denomination for 30 plus years-and had been extremely active until her health issues became overwhelming.)

She was in a place,

Where she didn’t pray to God anymore,

She was in a place,

Where she was asking Jesus the same question

“Are you the one who is to come,

or are we to wait for another?”

She needed reassurance,

That God had not abandoned her,

She had the need to see Jesus

(pause)

Our brother John however,

Never had to raise the question of Jesus, right?

He had been in the presence of Jesus,

And perhaps that emboldened John,

Who seemingly didn’t care how he rattled the authority

Who was rattled at the message he preached,

Of Repentance,

Of Changing one’s self

Of turning towards God

Of submitting themselves at Jesus’s feet,

To follow Him

And yet,

The Empire

The Rabbinic leaders

The Pharisees and Sadducees

Revolted against God

Were angered by John’s message of change

And suddenly, John

Found himself imprisoned

And perhaps in that midnight hour,

Wondered too,

If he could trust this Jesus

“Are you the one who is to come,

or are we to wait for another?”

(pause)

This is the cry of freedom fighters,

Of protestors,

Of people such as Dr. King,

And others pushing forward human and civil rights

When we call out for restoration

Healing

Hope

Peace,

Justice

For places such as Palestine, Cuba, South Africa and Haiti

Detroit, Ferguson, and right here at home

And time and again,

Instead of conversation around a table,

We are cruelly pushed to the ground

Beaten and degraded by those,

Who claim to also, follow Jesus

But they are amiss,

That the inequality they practice,

Is not what Jesus Christ preached

Is not what it means to be a follower of Christ

(pause)

This is the cry, too

of those incarcerated;

Those who are judged and condemned by their sin,

Who are thrown away without resources

Whose humanity is erased,

When we on the outside refer to them as nothing more than animals

They have been left behind,

Marked as lepers,

Forgotten

In that coldness of a jail cell,

Or solitary confinement

I am sure they too wonder,

Where is Jesus?

Who is here for me?

(pause)

But we are amiss,

We fail to remember,

That on the Cross-

JESUS FORGAVE

Good News, Right?

Jesus Christ whom shattered boundaries

and flipped tables

and broke the law

So that He imparted

and gave freely,

Grace and love.

Jesus Christ,

The One to Come

With His Birth,

THERE IS HOPE!

Jesus brings the Good News to John,

To those who are homebound,

Those fighting the good fight

And those who have lost their way,

And to us,

Who are waiting…

The blind receive their sight,

The lame walk

The lepers are cleansed,

The deaf hear,

THE DEAD ARE RAISED

AND THE POOR HAVE GOOD NEWS…”

The Good News of Jesus Christ is,

YES

Jesus Christ is the One,

Sent by the Creator God,

Who LOVES ALL,

Who comes into this world as we all must,

Through love

Through joy

Giving us hope,

That not only that this isn’t all there is

BUT

That the KINGDOM OF GOD is here!

NOW!

And because we follow Jesus Christ,

We do have the freedom,

To go into those places,

Of lonliness

Of sorrow

Of fear,

And answer that question,

YES

Yes,

Jesus Christ IS the ONE.

Thanks be to God

 (art created by A’Driane Nieves)