Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Day Sermon - 10 AM

from the Hymnal #79
O little town of Bethlehem how still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight
Philip Brooks (Episcopal Bishop) wrote this in 1868 after visiting the Holy Land, he gave it to his organist who set it to music for the Sunday School. It has become one of our beloved hymns but his best verses are often not sung. So let us sing the third verse:
How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His heaven.
No ear may his His coming, but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him still, the dear Christ enters in.
It remind us how silently God enters our world, not with fanfare, not with paparazzi, but in a manger, in a small town among peasants living under Roman occupation. And even when we can’t hear it, we have our call to seek him out, for where meek souls receive him still, Christ enters in. Let us sing the fourth verse…
Where children pure and happy pray to the blessed Child,
Where misery cries out to Thee, Son of the Mother mild;
Where Charity stands watching and Faith holds wide the door,
The dark night wakes, the glory breaks, and Christmas comes once more.
This understanding that nothing will hold back Christmas, for the dark night will wake, the glory will break and Christmas will come once more even in misery and sin. It reminds me of a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow…

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till, ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The Carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said;
‘For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!’

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
‘God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!’

Christmas will always break forth even in the darkest of times and right will prevail. And when Christ does come into our midst, it is up to us to receive him. Let us sing the last verse:
O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray!
Cast out our sin and enter in, Be born in us to-day.
We hear the Christmas angels, The great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, Our Lord Emmanuel!
Today, we celebrate Christ’s birth in Bethlehem and in our hearts. May we make Jesus’ birth real in our lives by what we say and do this Christmas and always. Let us pray:
God of all hope and joy, open our hearts in welcome that your Son Jesus Christ at his coming may find in us a dwelling prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen (NZ Prayer Book)

No comments: