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Christmas Day December 25, 2016 - The Rev. Canon Janet Campbell
Christmas Day Proper III 
Isaiah 52:7-10; Psalm 98:1-6; Hebrews 1:1-12; John 1:1-14
Christ Episcopal Church
Tacoma, Washington
Sunday, December 25, 2016
The Rev. Canon Janet B. Campbell
All during the Advent season
          of waiting for Christ,
we have, of course, been hurrying
          to be in time for Christmas . . .
as Mary and Joseph
hurried from Nazareth
to Bethlehem
to be in time for a tax census,
to outrace the coming
          of their first child,
                   due at any moment.
God help them
if the child should come
somewhere along
the lonely and dangerous journey . . .
And so they hurried,
as fast as their little donkey
could travel.

The little town of Bethlehem
was overcrowded
with travelers
brought there by the census . . .
and as the birth pains came,
Mary and Joseph took shelter
in a stable behind an inn,
because all the rooms
          were already taken.
There began
the hard work of the birth,
Mary lying on the straw-covered floor,
Joseph kneeling at her side
          in encouragement.
There might have been
some women of the town helping
(the kindness of strangers),
or maybe Mary and Joseph were alone
among the inquisitive animals.

Last night we heard all about it,
in the Gospel written by Luke,
kind of a noisy Gospel,
full of excitement . . .
a multitude of angels
          chorusing in the nighttime sky,
shepherds calling to one another
          in fear and astonishment,
sheep baaing,
cattle lowing,
a donkey braying . . .
and in the inn across from the stable,
other tired travelers
unwinding from their journey
laughing and shouting for more food, more drink,
filling the night air
with their noise . . .
and then . . .
the thin cry of a child
          newly entered this world.
How do you tell a Mystery
with words?

This was the way
Luke imagined it,
how it must have been,
he thought . . .
this wondrous event
when God
came to earth
as a very real baby
wondrously and really born into the world,
in the lantern-light of a stable.
And now,
after all the excitement,
it’s the morning after.
Mary and Joseph,
having had not-very-much sleep at all,
wake in the hushed chill of dawn
to the hungry cries of their baby.
And as she nurses him,
just like any new parents
          they drink in the beauty of this tiny face,
                   these perfect little hands and feet,
                   those tiny toes.

And Mary and Joseph
remember the bedlam of the night just past,
shepherds barging in,
          the cold clinging to their ragged garments,
stumbling all over each other
in their eagerness to see the child,
blurting out a story
of angels who filled the starry night
          with the wind of their wings
          and with song,
startling the sheep
into a wooly canter . . .
And Mary and Joseph
remember their own startling angelic visitations
just nine months past,
announcing to Mary her unexpected pregnancy,
calming Joseph’s questions and fears.
And they look at one another
and wonder,
in the silence,
What child is this?

That’s our question, too, isn’t it,
on this morning after . . .
we who have come
from last night’s Christmas Eve revels
with too much Christmas food and drink
and too little sleep
to peer into a stable
on this
Christmas morning . . .
Just what does
this two-thousand-year-old story
of angels and shepherds and
a newborn baby
have to say to our
twenty-first century lives?
In the quiet space of this
Christmas morning liturgy,
we hear its meaning
from the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews,
and the Gospel writer John.

“Long ago,”
says the author of Hebrews,
“God spoke to our ancestors
in many and various ways by the prophets,
but in these last days,
God has spoken to us by a Son . . .”
“In the beginning was the Word,”
says John,
“and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.”
“In these last days,
God has spoken to us by a Son.”
“All things came into being through him,
and without him,
not one thing came into being.”
“In these last days,
God has spoken to us by a Son.”
“God’s Word was made flesh,
and lived among us,
and we have seen his glory,
the glory as of a father’s only son,
full of grace and truth.”
“In these last days,
God has spoken to us by a Son.”

We dwell this morning
in the quiet wonderment
of the Mystery of God’s word made flesh.
The child born of Mary
is the living and active and powerful Word of God,
the Word which, in its very speaking,
makes happen
those things which are being told.
God said in the beginning,
“Let there be light . . .”
and it was so.
And God said
“Let there be life . . .”
and it was so.
From the story of the world’s creation,
we get the sense
of the Hebrew idea of
a word that is also an event, a happening.
And God said,
“Let there be Incarnation:
let me dwell among my children . . .
let me study their ways:
let me learn to crawl, and to walk
          and to talk,
let me know
what it is to be hungry,
          and thirsty,
and to feel sorrow and joy, 
Let their tears and troubles be mine also . . .
and let me understand what it means
to suffer as they do.”
And it was so.
This powerful Word,
who brings light and life
into being,
          who came into the world
                   one long ago Christmas morn
                             a squalling baby in a manger . . .  

This is
the very Word who leaps forth today
          from the pages of the Gospel book,
the very Word who comes to us today
          in Bread and Wine, Body and Blood,
the very Word who already dwells in us
          and among us,
the very Word that has been waiting
          all Advent
          to have a word with us
in the silence of this Christmas morning.
And that Word is Love.
God has spoken to us
by a Son
and what God has spoken
is Love.
We have had
many things to say ourselves,
we children of God,
since that gift
was first spoken in Christ –

our words do not have the power
to bring worlds into being
but our words do have the power
to incite violence,
create division, 
provoke cruelty,
nurture hatred, 
the power
to mislead, hurt, punish, alienate, oppress . . . 
Love has been spoken to us,
and we have replied
careless words,
ruthless words,
loveless words.
And yet,
Love does not give up on us,
does not let go of us,
continues to speak to us,
pouring itself out
Mercy, Compassion, Forgiveness, Healing.

God giving God’s self over
to human being:
the blood, sweat and tears of it,
the wild laughter and ecstatic joy of it,
the plain, humdrum daily-ness of it,
the hopes and disappointments of it,
the earnestness and carelessness of it,
the gentleness and the violence and the fears of it.
God giving God’s self over
to human being
in order that we may give ourselves over
to Godly being . . .
This is the Mystery
          promised from the beginning of creation,
The Mystery born into the world
          twenty centuries ago in Bethlehem,
the Mystery
in which we live and move
          and have our being today,
in the bedlam of this 21st Century.

Love is the child who wakes
in our hearts
this Christmas morn
          hungry for us,
desiring to drink the milk of our love.
Love is the child
for whom we hunger
this Christmas morn,
who offers us his own life,
his body and blood
          in the feast of his holy Christmas meal.
As we eat and drink
of love
we become the love we receive.
The Mystery is this:
we are God’s powerful words
made flesh in the world . . .
words of hope, encouragement, kindness,
words of inclusion, unity, dignity, respect,
words of truth, and justice, and peace, and joy.
Over against hate speech,
we are God’s love speech.

Let us take, then, of love, and eat and be filled.
And let us drink of love and be satisfied.
And, beloved,
let us love one another
and the whole of God’s Creation
as God has loved us . . .
for God is Love.