The Feast of the Nativity, December 25, 2021

The Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Chris
Christmas Day – December 25, 2021
The Rev. R. Allan McCaslin

Readings: Isaiah 52:7-10; Psalm 98; Hebrews 1:1-4; Luke 2:15-20

From the Gospel according to Luke, “When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem...’” I speak to you in the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

     A very Merry Christmas to you all! One of things I so enjoy about our simple gatherings here for prayer and reflection on Christmas morning is that, for me, now that hubbub of the season is drawing to a close, I can begin to revel in the quiet beauty of this moment in time. I think this morning’s quiet is an accurate reflection of the events that transpired at that first Christmas. I picture Joseph, Mary, and the baby quietly huddled in that stable. Perhaps Jesus uttered a newborn’s cry every so often and there’d be the muffled sounds of cattle hooves pressing against straw and hay, but quiet seems to permeate this scene. Shepherds whom, St, Luke tells us, came at the behest of a glorious company of angels singing and praising God come to this stable in utter silence and awe. They come to see this miraculous event for themselves.

Typically, the Lections for Christmas morning include a reading from the Gospel according to John and more specifically, it focuses our attention on that incredible phrase, “and the word became flesh and lived among us.” That text has been the hallmark of my Christmas Day sermons for many years now. But this year, that same gospel lesson is proclaimed on the First Sunday after Christmas – which is tomorrow. So, rather than preach twice on the same text, I invite you to join with me in reflecting on the response of the Shepherds as described by Luke and, perhaps, consider their response as an example of how we might live the Christmas story today and every day.

     Luke tells us that after the angels had disappeared, after their song had become a faint echo, the shepherds decided to check things out for themselves. They decided to go and see if what had been said to them was actually true. And when they came upon Mary and Joseph and the newborn Christ, Luke tells us, they shared their experience on that hillside. It must have been quite the tale because Luke says all who heard them were amazed.

But, for me, this is the more important aspect of the story. After sharing all that they had seen and heard, Luke says the Shepherds, “returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen.” See Christmas, whether on that first occasion over two thousand years ago, or today, requires a response from us, from God’s people. While Luke tells us that Mary pondered their words in her heart, the shepherds returned to their every day lives, but returned a changed people. They returned “glorifying and praising God.”  They returned as evangelists sharing the good news of God in Christ. And we, too, are challenged to do the same. We, who carry the name of Christ having received it as our own at baptism, are continuously called to glorify and praise God. Praise and glorify God not only with our lips and our words, but in and through our actions, our priorities, and our lives.

See, encountering the Christ changes people’s hearts; changes our very souls; changes who we are and what we value to the very core of our being. Changes us so deeply that we, too, see this Word made Flesh, this child born to redeem the world. We see him in friend and stranger, in the hungry and needy, in the person next to us or in the next pew.

This is the great news of Christmas: The Word made flesh at Bethlehem, that Word who came to redeem, that child proclaimed by angels to have been born among us as one of us, and for us, still lives among us and promises if we will seek him, we will, indeed, find him. 

     And so, in these quiet moments of this hushed Christmas morning, I invite you to reflect upon how your experience of the Christ has touched your life and consider once again what it means to truly celebrate his birth; to truly return glorifying and praising God this day, and always. Amen.