Saturday, February 15, 2020

6th Sunday after the Epiphany_2020

Epiphany 6A_2020 February 20, 2020 I can’t hear this passage from Deuteronomy without thinking about a former colleague of mine-the Rev. Donnell Flowers. Rev Flowers was an African American Baptist preacher who I worked with at the Stewpot Soup Kitchen, where I worked in inner city Jackson in the three years between college and seminary. Reverend Flowers was a straight-talking, no-nonsense kind of man who had lived a hard life himself and who was the director of the men’s homeless shelter at Stewpot. Rev. Flowers would quote this passage from Deuteronomy regularly—“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him.” Many of the people who came through Stewpot and the Men’s shelter especially were battling the demons of addiction to either alcohol or drugs or both. Before the beginning of the weekend, Rev. Flowers would lay it out before them in his customary no-nonsense fashion. To choose life was to stay safe and sober through the weekend; to choose death was to succumb to the demons of addiction and sometimes would even result in physical death. This passage for today is interesting because it is Moses’ valedictory address to the people of Israel. They have escaped slavery in Egypt through the deliverance of the Lord. They have wandered in the wilderness in search of the promised land, suffering their share of hardships and complaints and bad decisions. They have received the law at Sinai-the 10 commandments which help to mark them as God’s chosen people. And now they are about to enter the promised land, but Moses is not allowed to go with them. Our reading for today is his parting words to them. And what’s interesting to me in this passage is that Moses’s “you” in this speech isn’t singular; it’s plural.” He’s not singling out individuals and telling them that their individual choices will lead to life and prosperity or death and adversity for each individual. Throughout this whole speech, Moses is saying “y’all.” (Or even more emphatic “all y’all”): “I call heaven and earth to witness against y’all today that I have set before y’all life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that y’all and all y’all’s descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him.” It’s not about the impact that individual choices make on individuals lives. It’s about how our collective choices shape our society for good and for ill. And it’s also about how our individual choices impact our communities. Our gospel reading for today is the third portion out of four of Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount. In today’s portion, Jesus is tackling the law, which is not unrelated to what Moses is also talking about. There are a number of different ways that scholars have interpreted Jesus’s words—from we can never live up to the law, so Jesus’s teachings are showing that we must rely solely on God’s grace; to Jesus asking us to take the law more seriously, to realize that our choices between life and death are fulfilled by whether we choose to live into God’s law or not. I recently read a third option: that Jesus is inviting us to go beyond the letter of the law to the spirit of the law, not just checking off boxes (no murder today, check!) but considering the fortunes of our neighbors in our choices and seeking the path of reconciliation and life for all when at all possible. Another preacher suggested that we consider thinking “about what kind of community we want to inhabit. In what ways do the laws we know and observe help us not just stay out of trouble but actually care for one another? And in what ways are we tempted to honor the law -- satisfying it legally -- rather than honoring our neighbor? What are the laws today that we need to intensify to do justice to the kind of relationships that God calls us to as children of the kingdom?”i This week, I read a poem that I think gets to the heart of all of this. It is titled clothesline," by Marilyn Maciel. i you us them those people wouldn’t it be lovely if one could live in a constant state of we? some of the most commonplace words can be some of the biggest dividers they what if there was no they? what if there was only us? if words could be seen as they floated out of our mouths would we feel no shame as they passed beyond our lips? if we were to string our words on a communal clothesline would we feel proud as our thoughts flapped in the breeze?ii Your invitation this week is to reflect upon the question, “What kind of community do we want to inhabit?” What are the actions we can take to “choose life” for all people and not just for ourselves? “What are the laws today that we need to change or to intensify to do justice to the kind of relationships that God calls us to as children of the kingdom?” i. http://www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?post=1521 (David Lose) ii. "clothesline," poem by Marilyn Maciel. Published in Patti Digh, "Life Is a Verb: 37 Days To Wake Up, Be Mindful, And Live Intentionally." (Rowman & Littlefield, 2008), 42.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

5th Sunday after the Epiphany-Year A

5th Sunday after the Epiphany-Year A February 9, 2020 This past week, I stole a magazine from the Candler Hospital waiting room. Now, before you go reporting me to the periodical police, hear me out! I was getting onto the elevator on the 6th floor after having visited parishioners in the hospital, and I looked down and noticed it on the table. It was an copy of O Magazine and the headline was “What Would You Stand Up For?: It’s your time to rise and be the light you want to see.” As I got onto the elevator, I thought, “That sounds like it might connect with the readings for this Sunday.” So I googled O Magazine and the headline to figure out how to legally obtain said periodical, and I learned, on that elevator ride down, that the magazine was from April 2018, and I could buy if from a seller through Amazon for $4. I got off the elevator and hesitated a moment; turned and got back on the elevator, rode it to the 6th floor; jumped out and snatched the magazine and hopped back on the elevator to ride it down. (It just goes to show you the lengths a preacher will go for a good sermon illustration!) After I got the pilfered periodical home safely (you should have seen me trying to leave Candler hospital as “naturally” as possible), I read the article that had led to my petty larceny. In the article, journalists had asked different, everyday people who were making an impact for good in the world the question: “what would you stand up for?” And then they reported the answers. Most of the people were fighting for causes that they had experienced first-hand, working to make the world safer, more just. It was inspiring to read the stories of their transformations from difficulty or challenge to epiphany, new ways of understanding the world and their own empowerment to make a difference. So, what would you stand up for? It’s your time to rise and be the light you want to see…. Our Old Testament reading for today is a reading from the book of Isaiah. Isaiah is a long book that scholars think was written by at least three different people during three different time periods. The first portion of Isaiah-what scholars call First Isaiah- takes place when Israel is headed for trouble, the enemies are at the gates and the kingdom is about to fall to foreign invaders. The second portion—Second Isaiah—is written to the people of Israel who have been taken into captivity by the foreign invaders into Babylon. They are trying to figure out how to be the people of God removed from their land which had been promised by God, trying to figure out how to continue to be God’s chosen people when it seems God has forsaken them. The portion for today—Third Isaiah-is what is happening after the people in exile have been allowed to return to Israel. They have come home and find their homeland is in ruins: the temple is destroyed; there is no infrastructure; they have to completely rebuild the trappings of both their common life and their worship. In today’s passage, the prophet is writing to them that they are spending too much energy on the trappings of worship; they are trying to influence God in their fasting, and they are quarreling with one another and mistreating their workers and the most vulnerable among them. The prophet reminds them of what God’s priorities are and therefore, what their priorities should be: “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.” The gospel reading for today is the second portion of Jesus’s famous teaching known as the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus has started with the beatitudes, and he is now teaching about discipleship—how to maintain our “saltiness.” It’s an invitation to think about the question “what are the actions that we take on the road of following Jesus”? For us, as followers of Jesus, we don’t have to rely on O Magazine to invite us to imagine what we are most passionate about, what we would stand up for in order to let our light shine in the world. Jesus is clear in his re-iteration of the teachings of the Old Testament what our mission should be, what we need to be doing as his disciples to maintain our saltiness. It is “to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke. …to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin…” If we do these things, God promises that our light, too, will shine forth like the dawn and healing will spring up among and through us. And don’t we think the world needs us to do this now more than ever? Your invitation this week is to sit with this call to discipleship from Isaiah, and to spend some time in discernment around what your action should be. And then act like a disciple of Jesus this week. Do something to fight injustice, to break the yoke of someone who is oppressed, feed someone who is hungry, or support the work of others who are already doing this. What would you stand up for? It’s your time to rise and be the light you want to see….

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Feast of the Presentation of our Lord: Candelmas 2020

The Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord February 2, 2020 Today is the Feast of the Presentation of our Lord—one of the “top ten feasts” in our church calendar. Today, on this 40th day after Jesus’s birth, we remember how Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple for his dedication to the Lord-to fulfill the law of Moses. During this rite, Mary also finished the purification rite which she was required to do after having given birth to a son. As they are in the temple to offer the appropriate prayers and sacrifices for this ritual, the Holy Family encounter two elderly people—Simeon and Anna. And both of these people see the manifestation of God in the Christ child and they talk about it. Simeon has been promised by God that he will see the Lord’s Messiah before he dies. As he encounters Mary, Joseph, and Jesus in the temple, Simeon takes the child into his arms and he proclaims that he may now die in peace because he has seen God’s promise fulfilled. Simeon’s words are an ancient and well-loved song that we call the Nunc Dimittis (which is Latin for Now Depart), and we use these words in our liturgies for the end of the day—Evening Prayer and Compline. Over the years, this feast day has also been known as Candelmas. Candelmas, or the feast of candles, is a mid-way point; a mid-way point between Christmas and Lent and also a mid-way point between the shortest day of the year and the beginning of spring. As early as the 7th century, Christians would celebrate the hope of the return of the light which Simeon’s song conveys with lighted processions as a looking forward to new life and spring. “One tradition that grew up around Candlemas was that you could predict how harsh the second half of winter was going to be by looking at the weather on that day. An old Scottish saying says, ‘If Candlemas day is bright and clear, there'll be two winters in the year.’”i Does that sound like any modern commemoration that we also keep on February 2nd? So, today as we remember this past year and prepare for this new year of 2020 as a church in our annual parish meeting, we also participate in this ancient celebration of hope. We give thanks for our connection and rootedness to our past. And we celebrate the new life that God is calling forth in and among us. This past week, I came across a story from the artist Brian Andreas that I had shared years before. It reads: “If there is any secret to this life I live, this is it: the sound of what cannot be seen sings within everything that can. And there is nothing more to it than that.” It reminds me of Simeon, of his task of the many years he spent waiting and watching for signs of the fulfillment of the Lord’s promise to him. It reminds me of how this is our task as well, to keep watch for the fulfillment of God’s promise of new life, of light that conquers the darkness in the world around us, and it reminds me of how we are called to point those signs of fulfilled promise out to each other. This week, I have been especially fortunate to talk to a number of you who have already been doing this work of listening and watching, looking for signs, and I have been blessed by the ways that you have shared that with me. “If there is any secret to this life I live, this is it: the sound of what cannot be seen sings within everything that can. And there is nothing more to it than that.” Your invitation this week is to pay attention, to listen for the sound of what cannot be seen which sings out within everything that can, and to share that with others. i. http://www.stpaulswrj.org/st-pauls-blog/2014/4/27/b3x9oi55ji60ake0imcs8xtv4p57h6

Sunday, January 26, 2020

3rd Sun after Epiphany Year A

3rd Sunday after the Epiphany- Year A January 26, 2020 Our gospel reading for today begins: “When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea…” At this point in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus has been baptized by John in the Jordan River; he has been driven into the wilderness to face temptations, and he has just come out of the wilderness to begin his ministry when our reading for today picks up and he hears the news about John’s arrest. So what does Jesus do? He moves. He had been raised in Nazareth, a different region in Galilee, and Matthew tells us that he makes his home in Capernaum by the sea. Last year when we made our trip to the Holy Land, our tour group visited Capernaum. It was the end of the day, and we had spent the whole first day on a bus driving around Galilee, following the edge of the Sea of Galilee. We had seen the ruins of a huge Roman complex right in the heart of Galilee; we had visited the purported sights of some of Jesus’s miracles and teachings, and with less than an hour left of daylight, we pulled up in Capernaum. As we followed the crowds, I stopped at the entrance to take a picture of the sign: “Caphernaum the town of Jesus.” I wandered around an excavated synagogue and peered underneath a modern church which had been built over the ruins that were thought to be the home of Simon Peter’s mother in law. I walked past the large bronze statue of Peter to look out over the Sea of Galilee, all close together within the space of one of our squares in downtown Savannah. As I wandered around this place where Jesus had chosen to make his home, I thought about what it means to make a place home. Matthew suggests that Jesus chooses to make his home in Capernaum in fulfillment of the prophecy. But we all know that there is much more that goes into making a place home. Home is our comfortable place, where we are known and safe. It’s a place whose landscape and surroundings are familiar. Home is a place where we have friends and family and pets others who care about us, and home is a place that is layered with memories and experiences. It is the place where we can be most fully ourselves. (I know certain people who say that the first thing they do when they get home is take off certain articles of clothing!) This is why when we face disruptions in the places that we consider to be home, then these disruptions can be the most unsettling. However, in life as in this gospel reading, we see God calling, God working in and through the disruptions. Jesus heeds God’s call to make his home elsewhere as a result of the disruption of his cousin’s imprisonment. The disciples heed Jesus’s call to follow him, in the midst of their orderly, homely lives—doing the work of their families, called from what they have always known to lives of disruption in following Jesus. Those of us who have ever been in churches that are suffering from conflicts can relate to Paul’s appeal to the conflicted church in Corinth. When church feels like home and disruptions happen there, it is hard to hear God’s call in the midst of the clamoring factions. So Paul reminds them of their common call to preach the good news of the cross of Jesus Christ. He reminds them how God works through the ultimate disruption to bring about salvation for all and how we are invited to be a part of that. Our collect for today reminds us that each and every one of us is called by God, and we ask God for the grace to “answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation, that we and the whole world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works.” For this week, I invite you to think about your call and to think about the call of this church in terms of home and disruption. Where do you feel most at home right now physically, mentally, and spiritually? Then look at the ways that God is disrupting you in your life? It can be in those places or it can be elsewhere? Another way of asking this question is “what’s keeping you up at night?” Then pray about the ways that God might be calling you to a new way of being in and through the disruptions. In January of 2001, I met with the Bishop and he told me he saw in me a call to the priesthood that had also been seen by my community. He told me he was sending me to seminary that fall, and we talked about some practicalities. Before we finished our time together, his canon to the ordinary, who had been sitting there with a hymnal open on his lap the whole time, told me he wanted to share with me the words to his favorite hymn. It’s hymn 661—“they cast their nets in Galilee” and it was written by William Alexander Percy, a fellow Mississippian who had known his own share of disruptions and call in his life. In my 19 years of trying to faithfully follow God’s call in my life, these words have affirmed and upheld and haunted me: They cast their nets in Galilee Just off the hills of brown Such happy simple fisherfolk Before the Lord came down Contented peaceful fishermen Before they ever knew The peace of God That fill’d their hearts Brimful and broke them too. Young John who trimmed the flapping sail, Homeless, in Patmos died. Peter, who hauled the teeming net, Head-down was crucified. The peace of God, it is no peace, But strife closed in the sod, Yet, let us pray for but one thing– The marvelous peace of God.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

1st Sunday after Epiphany-Baptism of our Lord 2020

Epiphany 1A_2020 bapt letter January 12, 2020 A letter to Holst Herring upon the occasion of his baptism. Dear Holst, Today, in our church we remember and celebrate Jesus’s baptism in the Jordan River by his cousin John the Baptist. We hear the story of how Jesus comes to John and asks to be baptized, but John protests. Finally, Jesus convinces him, and as Jesus comes up dripping out of the water, the Holy Spirit lands on him like a dove and the voice of God thunders from the heavens, “This is my son the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” Our Psalm for today reminds us of the might and the power of God, whose voice overpowers the four elements: earth, fire, wind, and water. Our epistle reading for today is a sermon by the apostle Peter in the Acts of the Apostles, and in this sermon, Peter tells the story of all that he has seen and experienced as a disciple of Jesus: “You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ--he is Lord of all. That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” Holst, today you are being baptized into that story, into the body of Christ through his death and resurrection. Today, your parents and godparents (and all of us gathered here) are recognizing that you have been named and claimed as God’s beloved since your very creation. In your baptism, your parents and godparents are accepting that belovedness on your behalf, and they are promising that they will raise you in a way that teaches you how to live into that belovedness. Because you see, Holst, today isn’t just a special occasion, a chance to pull out the fancy clothes and have a party (although we do celebrate with you this new life in Jesus Christ which you are taking on today). Just as Jesus’s baptism is the beginning of his ministry, so today is the beginning for you as well. It is the beginning of your discipleship which means living your life in accordance with the teachings of Jesus, living your life in a way that befits God’s beloved. This means seeking and serving Christ in all persons; it means loving your neighbors as yourself. It means respecting the dignity of every human being, no matter how different they are from you, and striving for justice and peace among all people. It is wonderful and difficult and life-giving and life-changing work upon which you and your parents embark this day, and it is much too difficult to do alone. But the good news is that you don’t have to. Just as your parents and godparents have made promises to God on your behalf, so has this church, this gathered community made a promise, too. Our promise is that you will never have to do this work of discipleship alone. We promise to support and uphold you in it, to help your parents teach you the story of our faith, to help you remember when you forget, to speak God’s peace to you when you are afraid, to celebrate with you when you rejoice, to remind you that God forgives you when you falter and fail, and to sit with you when you mourn. It is the work of all disciples together to help spread the good news of God’s love—that is divinely all powerful and humanly vulnerable, a love that is stronger than death-- to everyone we come into contact with through our words sometimes, but mostly through our actions-in the way that we love, in the way we ask for forgiveness when we hurt someone or are wrong, in the ways we see that other people are as beloved by God as you are. May you never forget the truth of your belovedness, and from this day forward, may you live that truth out in the way that you love others in this world. Your sister in Christ, Melanie+

Sunday, January 5, 2020

The 2nd Sunday after Christmas Year B_2019

Christmas 2B January 5, 2020 A letter to Sutton Lucius upon the occasion of his baptism. Dear Sutton, On this day of your baptism, our gospel reading is about a time when Jesus was a child, and his father Joseph listened to the warning of an angel in a dream and took Jesus and Mary away from their home country into a foreign land where they would be safe. But there’s more to this story that has been left out, and even though it seems like a strange thing to talk about today, upon the occasion of your baptism, it is an important part of the story. The story in Matthew begins with the visit to Jesus and his family from wise men from the East who follow a star the long way from their homes to Jerusalem, where Kind Herod lives. When the wise men approach King Herod to ask about this new king who has been born, Herod and the people around him become enraged. But Herod is sneaky, and so he acts like a friend to the wise men, and he tells them that the prophets say the king will be born in Bethlehem. They should go look for him there, and when they find him, they should come back and tell Herod where he can be found so he can also go and worship him. The wise men leave, and the star they have been following leads them all the way to Bethlehem to Jesus’s home, where they meet him and his parents and give him gifts and great respect. But an angel comes to the wise men in a dream and warns them not to return to Jerusalem to Herod, because he wants to harm the child, so they go home by a different road. After the wise men leave, an angel appears to Joseph in a dream and tells him that he needs to gather his family and flee Bethlehem to the foreign land of Egypt where they will be safe from King Herod, who wants to do away with his newly perceived kingly rival. Brave Joseph, who has learned to listen to his dreams does just this, and they remain safely in Egypt out of harm’s way. But the part that is left out of our reading today, the sad, hard part that seems strange to talk about on this happy day, is what happens back in Bethlehem after the Holy Family escape. When Herod realizes that the wise men have not returned to tell him where to find Jesus and his family, he becomes enraged. And he gives orders to send his soldiers to Bethlehem to kill all the boys who are 2 years old and younger. And they do. In the meantime, the Holy Family remain safe in Egypt until Joseph receives another message from an angel in a dream, telling them that Herod is dead and that is safe to return to their homeland, and they return and settle in the district of Galilee in a town called Nazareth. What does this story of light and dark, of safety and horror, have to say to us on this day, the day of your baptism, sweet baby Sutton? In baptism, we remember that the same Jesus who has known the fullness of our humanity including sorrow, danger, uncertainty and also joy, safety, and familial love gave himself up to death on the cross because of love for you and me and every person you will ever know. And this same Jesus, because of God’s love which is stronger and bigger, and gentler and tenderer, and fiercer and kinder than anything we can ever know, came out on the other side of the worst possible thing—that is death. And he shows us that no matter what bad decisions we make, no matter what corrupt rulers or people around us may do, no matter what griefs we may suffer, God is always with us. There is absolutely nothing that we nor anyone else can do that can separate us from God’s love in the person of Jesus Christ as it has been bestowed upon you at your creation and received by your parents and godparents on your behalf on this day and sealed by the Holy Spirit in your baptism. From this day forward, you are marked as Christ’s own forever, and there is absolutely nothing that can change that. So today, sweet Sutton, and for all the days forward, it is the job of this church, this gathered community and all who come after us, to help you remember this “hope to which [God] has called you;” to help you look for unexpected messengers of God’s love in your life; to help you grow into the person God has created you and calls you to be. And it is our job to help you remember that no matter what happens, nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate you from the love of God. God is with you, this day and every day. Always. Your sister in Christ, Melanie+

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Christmas Eve 2019

Christmas Eve 2019 Yesterday, when I was driving back and forth to the grocery store, I noticed a new political sign on Ferguson Ave. Have you seen it? It says, “Jesus 2020: Because only Jesus can save this nation.” (Let me interrupt this sermon for a Disclaimer: I know absolutely nothing about this phenomenon of the Jesus 2020 signs; I even googled it to see what it’s all about but couldn’t find much of anything beyond a Twitter hashtag. So, please, don’t hear me endorsing any particular candidate for any future elections. But also, know, that I’m not one to waste a good sermon illustration, so there you go. ) As I was driving home, I wondered about the person who placed the sign there. I wondered what he or she hoped to accomplish. I wondered what that sign even means: “Jesus 2020: Because only Jesus can save this nation.” And I wondered what if that were to come to pass, what that would even look like. (Something tells me that we probably wouldn’t actually like the look of things if Jesus became president. I know most of the time Jesus’s priorities are not always my own priorities, and I suspect I would be as uncomfortable as the good religious people in Jesus’s day were if he were to return and rule here and now.) But even with all my wild wonderings about that random road sign, I get it; don’t you? Because there’s at least a little part of me that wants Jesus to come and save us from ourselves. And this is not a new longing. “The people who walked in darkness/ have seen a great light;/those who lived in a land of deep darkness--/ on them light has shined.” During a time of great political unrest, Isaiah names this longing for the people of Israel. They are a land deeply divided, at great risk from their political opponents which will eventually result in their homeland being overthrown and many of them being taken into captivity in a foreign land. Isaiah has let them know that it is Israel’s unfaithfulness to God that has gotten them to this point, and yet, they still long for God to step in and save them from themselves in the form of a righteous ruler from David’s line. In the time of Jesus’s birth, Israel finds itself once again in trouble. This time they are occupied by a foreign power, the Roman Empire. They are in the process of being counted in the great bureaucratic machine that is the Roman Census. They long for God to break into the world and to save them, to restore them to independence. And God does break in-in the form of a helpless child born to two ordinary parents. This birth is announced by angelic messengers to an unsavory lot of shepherds—an untrustworthy bunch if you can ever find one and certainly not a group you would trust with an important, world-changing message. The angels tell the shepherds: “Do not be afraid; for see-- I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” And this child who is born in this most ordinary and unlikely place is the full reconciliation of God’s divinity and our humanity—both fully human and fully divine. He shows the world that God’s realm is not made up of the powerful but of the lowly; that God’s passion is not for the mighty but for the down-trodden. He shows us that God doesn’t swoop in to save us from the messes that we have created, like a brave knight rescuing the princess from the tower. Rather, God joins us in the mess and stays there with us shining the light of God’s countenance in the dark for us to help us find the way. Whether we are immersed in the muck of our own bad decisions or misfortunes or whether we are throwing up our hands at the unprecedented division and deep distress of our nation, it is tempting to long for “Jesus 2020”. Jesus, take the wheel, we need you to come in and save us. But this night shows us that is not how God works. That is not who Jesus is. Jesus is God with us, always and forever. This Savior has already been born to us, on this day thousands of years ago. And through the grace of God, Jesus shows us the way and invites us to join him in being agents of God’s mercy, forgiveness, and reconciliation in our own lives, in the lives of our families, in the life of our nation, and in this needy and heart-broken world. God is with us. And God has given us everything we need through the gift of Jesus Christ, the Savior of all creation. That is the truth and the glory of this night. In closing, I’ll leave you with a poem by the theologian, poet, and mystic Howard Thurman that talks about the work of Christmas to which our Savior calls us this day and every day. The Work of Christmas by Howard Thurman 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 flock, 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 others, To make music in the heart.