Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Eve Sermon 2015

In those days,
in those long warn out days,
in a long worn out world
—a world clunking along like an old clock, gears grinding along, but without purpose or consistency.

          In those old days, there was a certain kind of peace.
          The peace of Emperor Caesar Augustus
—Caesar the Revered One.
          Revered, because he was the one who climbed out of the Roman Civil War
—he scrambled over the bodies of:
Mark Antony and Cleopatra.
          He’d survived all that, and imposed a steel rule over that what remained. He held the Empire together through Roman Peace
—also known as Peace by Superior Fire Power.
          Caesar Augustus’ peace was essentially a blackmailing of Rome and all she’d conquered.
A strange kidnapping… a letter slid under glass to a bank teller stating, “Stick close to me and no one gets hurt.”
          A rule based on fear, not consent.

          And for that absence of war
—for filling the power vacuum left by Julius Caesar’s death
he was declared Son of the Divine.
          In those days, it was etched on rock, “Praise Augustus a Savior who has made war to cease and who shall put everything in peaceful order.”
          And in these old days it is important that we don’t judge those old days.
After all, filling power vacuums with non-violent, or at least non-chaotic, forces…
The absence of war, even if it’s not peace…
Security even if it means a certain amount of tyranny…
It is easy to want to settle for that…
But, we know even instinctually, that it is a fear driven kind of peace…
For that matter, sometimes just getting through another day feels like an acceptable end in and of itself…
But such a limited life may not even deserve the name.

          In those days, Augustus brought the kind of peace that fears so fully that it sends heavily pregnant women across borders…
Fear that forces a woman to deliver her child while traveling…
Fear that finds a father unable to provide even a guest room for his wife…
Not even a crib for his newborn child.

          And out there,
outside the gates of Bethlehem,
a people often left outside the gates…
          A people associated with animals and the outdoors
—a people who saw everything and everyone coming into the gates, and so were great gossips, to be believed but not to be associated with
          The Shepherds
          Now, what is a Shepherd? Well, I always remember the bumper sticker on my parents cooler—it said:
 “If you can’t trust a Biker, who can you trust?”
That’s kinda what we’re talking about here:
“If you can’t trust a Shepherd, who can you trust?”

          Those shepherds got to be witness to the greatest bit of gossip the world has ever known—the first to hear the gospel!
The first to hear a new thing in this old world,
The first to be a bridge between those old days to this day, this new day!
          Angels come to them…
Think about that!
 Angels! What are they doing out there?
          The Angels of heaven arrive on earth—imagine the weirdness of that
Their arrival indicates that heaven is down, the universe has upended itself, and this is an invasion!
          It’s like a scene from a movie
—the camera focuses tightly on an angel’s wing and the sky
—the stars all up there, only to flip around and rightsize at the last moment, revealing the angel is not flying, up there in the sky, but instead standing, right here, right here on earth!
The holy is not up there, but right here, right here on earth!
          In the book “Ender’s Game” the characters play an elaborate laser tag/capture the flag game in zero-gravity,
and the main character realizes spatial orientation doesn’t matter in zero-gravity,
that if you re-think where you are in the room, and see your opponent’s goal as down then the game, instead of being about dodging and hiding, is about falling well, landing in your enemy’s goal.
          So too, the orientation of earth has shifted, heaven is on earth, God has arrived here
—everything else is just an elaborate falling into His arms.

          Yes, with the arrival of angels heaven has come down, and the tired promises of those days are eclipsed with the true promises of this day!
          No more the worn out promises of safety by blackmail, a Caesar crowned atop the bodies of those he brutalized and beat, the peace he keeps by keeping a lid on it all.

          Instead the one who is Savior, Messiah, Lord…
is a baby bound in bands of cloth,
set in a slop trough.
          A tiny child
—a small human,
filled with God,
filled with all those proud promises made by Caesar,
but backed up by blessing instead of force.

          The host of angels is an army
—an angelic invasion of Caesar’s world,
our world
An invasion on behalf of this little child…
—an invasion like no other, (other than maybe The Beatles)
an invasion by a song,

an invasion that woos the world,
singing a better song than
all our false saviors,
all our controlling kings,
all our armies of interests and security and tyranny,
all that squared off against a song
Caesar’s song of fear…
Our song of fear…
Faces off against one of praise and pondering, and fear doesn’t have a chance!

No chance against:
--A song to shepherds outside the gates
--A song these shepherds sing to Mary and Joseph there a long way from Nazareth,
--A song there before little Jesus in the lowly manger.
--A song reverberating in Mary’s heart.
A song Jesus later sings to the crowds.
A song sung to Samaritans and Sabbath breakers,
Sung to the lost and the least.
A song sung for his whole life long
Sung there on the cross for us,
Wooing us at whatever the cost
And sung again on the other side of the grave.
Sung to you and to me,
…Sung by you and by me, as well
“Glory to God in the highest of heavens
And peace to God’s people here on earth!”