Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Christmas Eve Reflection (or at least a draft)

(This reflection uses lyrics from When a Child is born and A Spaceman Came Traveling)

A Child is Born
2017 Christmas Eve Reflection

A ray of hope flickers in the sky
A shiny star lights up way up high
All across the land dawns a brand new morn
This comes to pass when a child is born

Carl Sandburg once said: “A baby is God's opinion that the world should go on...A baby, whether it does anything to you, represents life.” From that I understand that the birth of a child is a cause for hope.

We could use a solid dose of hope in the world these days. We are, as have been many other people over the centuries since Isaiah first uttered the words, the people walk in darkness, the people who live in a time of deep darkness. This past year the news has been full of stories about heightening tensions on the Korean peninsula, about the #MeToo movement, about mass shootings in churches and at country music festivals, about First Nations issues across Canada. While things are changing, here in Alberta we are still living with the results of an oil price crash. The world is full of darkness.

Can we see the ray of hope flickering in the sky? Can we see the dawn coming? Can we see the great light that Isaiah promises to those who live and walk in deep darkness?

It is Christmas, and a child is born. And the birth of a child means life. And the birth of a child means hope. The birth of this child means Good News, which shall be for all people. Hope comes to pass, when a child is born.

A silent wish sails the seven seas
The winds of change whisper in the trees
And the walls of doubt crumble, tossed and torn
This comes to pass when a child is born

Every child that is born has the potential to change the world. Every child that is born does change the world for some number of people. Birth means change. Just ask any parent.

Several years ago the United Church issued an ad campaign. This was one of the magazine ads. Probably my favourite one. [put ad on screen] If you can’t read the hospital bracelet it reads “WARNING: some re-assembly of priorities and beliefs may be required”. Birth means change.

Over the centuries many a young woman who found herself pregnant at the wrong time has gone off to visit family, often as an excuse to get out of town for a while. Before Jesus was born Mary did just that. She went to visit her older cousin Elizabeth, who was also pregnant. Luke tells us that during that visit Mary proclaimed that the child she was carrying would turn the world upside down. He would bring down the powerful and raise up the lowly. He would fill the hungry with good things and send the rich away.

Some re-assembly of priorities and beliefs may be required.

Tonight we tell the story of a child being born. And since birth brings change, since every child born has the potential to change the world tonight we pen ourselves to the possibility of change. In that change the walls of the world as we know them may be tossed and torn, they may crumble to reveal some new structure. This comes to pass, when a child is born.

A rosy hue settles all around
You've got the feel you're on solid ground
For a spell or two, no-one seems forlorn
This comes to pass when a child is born

WE gather in the glow of starlight and the triumphant chords of angel song. WE know that things are changing. And yet there is confidence. There is the feeling that we are on a firm foundation. Because the birth we celebrate this night is the Word made Flesh, Emmanuel, God-with-Us. We hear the angel declare “peace on earth goodwill to all” and even for a brief moment we believe it might be true.

Decades ago Chris DeBurgh released a song called “A Spaceman Came Traveling”. It really is a Christmas song, though an odd sort of Christmas song. It talks of a birth and a visitor from beyond this world. And the visitor says: “I bring a message for mankind to hear," And suddenly the sweetest music filled the air... And it went La La...Peace and goodwill to all men, and love for the child...”

De Burgh goes on to say:
This lovely music went trembling through the ground,
And many were wakened on hearing that sound,
And travellers on the road, the village they found,
By the light of that ship in the sky, which shone all round...

Luke tells us that when the shepherds heard the angel message they went to see the baby that they had been told about. Then they went around town telling everybody these wonderful tidings of Good News, which shall be for all people. As he tells the rest of the story over 2 books Luke will show us how the peace and goodwill pronounced on Christmas night will travel around Galilee and Judea and then from Jerusalem to the rest of the Roman empire. When we embrace the promise God offers in a baby in a manger then there is no reason for anyone to be forlorn.

Peace and good will to all. This come to pass when a Child is born.

From a historical perspective the birth of Jesus of Nazareth happened a long time ago in a land far away... Angel song and adoring shepherds make for a nice story. But we don’t live in the story. We live in the present in a land close at hand.

What about this year. What about this year with our darkness? Where is the birth for this year? Well, on of my favourite Advent hymns says: “Tomorrow Christ is coming as yesterday he came. A child is born this moment we do not know his name...Our God becomes incarnate in every human birth, created in God’s image we must make peace on earth, God will fulfill Love’s purpose”

WE celebrate Christmas because we believe that the child in the manger, Jesus, the Word Made Flesh, is still with us today. We celebrate Christ’s birth because we know that God is still active in the world. And so we have hope. And so we have a challenge.

For unto us a child is born. For unto us a son is given (somehow whenever I read those words a part of my brain starts playing the chorus from Handel’s Messiah). And the child will change the world. Tonight somewhere a child is being born.

In the middle of the song When a Child is born a speaking voice says:
the world is waiting,
Waiting for one child
Black, white, yellow, no-one knows
But a child that will grow up and turn tears to laughter,
Hate to love, war to peace and everyone to everyone's neighbour
And misery and suffering will be words to be forgotten, forever

In Chris De Burgh’s song the traveler leaves. But as he does that he gives hope:
This song will begin once again, to a baby's cry..."
And it goes La La... Peace and goodwill to all men, and
Love for the child...
Oh the whole world is waiting, waiting to hear the song again,
There are thousands standing on the edge of the world,
And a star is moving somewhere, the time is nearly here,
This song will begin once again, to a baby's cry...
Each Christmas we await, we listen for the song to begin again. Each Christmas the promise of peace and goodwill is made again. Each Christmas, each time we hear the announcement that the Messiah is born, the full Kingdom of God comes closer.

Every child that is born can change the world. Every one of us was once that child that was born, with the chance to help change the world. This Christmas I challenge all of us to work for peace, to change the world, to join in the song, for the sake of the child that is born tonight, and tomorrow, and next month and...

It's all a dream, an illusion now
It must come true, sometime soon somehow
All across the land, dawns a brand new morn
This comes to pass when a child is born

This comes to pass, because The Child is born. Glory to God in the highest. And on Earth; Peace, Goodwill towards all.

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