Christmas Eve, 7:00 Sermon

Date:  December 24, 2016, 7:00 pm

Title:  “If Only In Our Dreams”

Preaching:  The Rev. Donna M.L. Pritchard

Scripture:  Luke 2:1-20

            The year was 1943, and the world was in the midst of World War II when Bing Crosby first sang…

I’ll be home for Christmas; you can plan on me

            Please have snow and mistletoe and presents on the tree

            Christmas Eve will find me where the love light gleams

            I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams!

            Now here it is 2016, and the world is still riddled by war, plagued by violence, and unsettled by fear.  And I find myself wondering, if we were to write that song tonight, what would we be asking for this Christmas?  Where would your dreams take you tonight?  Would you simply be looking for snow and mistletoe and presents on the tree?  Or perhaps you are dreaming of a world at peace, a society free of injustice, or a planet protected from harm.  Do your dreams take you to a home for every family, and a family for every one?  If only in your dreams…

Some might suggest that there is little to celebrate tonight, the world being what it is, and so much of life being out of our control.  But just when that fatalistic thinking begins to appeal, I remember Woody Allen’s comic philosophy, that 80% of life is just showing up.

And then I think about Mary and Joseph, shepherds and angels and kings, the earliest Jesus followers, and you and me.  We have shown up for God tonight, we who are not perfect, we who may not even be fully awake.  We have shown up for God tonight, we who may prefer our dreams to our everyday reality.  We have shown up here tonight, because when we hear the angel announcing “Good news of great joy!”, we have to go see t his thing that has happened.

We have to show up for God’s amazing grace, because God shows up for us time and again, with grace which cannot be limited by a manger, any more than it can be proscribed by a grave.  We show up tonight because in Christmas God chooses to show up for us, with us, and even in us.

A couple of years ago someone sent me a Christmas card about God choosing to show up for us.  I liked it so much I kept it.  On the front of the card it says this:

In my dream, the angel shrugged and said, “If we fail this time, it will be a

            failure of imagination…”  And then she placed the world gently in the palm of my hand.

            Tonight we need our Christmas dreams.  And we need our wildest imaginations to see not only the brokenness of this world, but its incredible possibilities as well.  When you think about it, it is an impossible dream, that the birth of a baby to an unwed teen in the poverty of an insignificant town more than 2000 years ago should make any difference for us today.  And yet there, in a nutshell, is the promise of the Gospel, that God surprises us by showing up where we least expect to find God, shining the light of love into the darkest nooks and crannies of our lives.  God surprises us over and over again with infinite possibilities even in the midst of brokenness.

Waiting out at PDX for my daughter Kate to arrive home from Texas, I watched as passengers emerged out of the security area.  Over and over I heard the happy shouts of “There he is!” or “She’s coming!” or “Hooray! You made it!”  And I saw countless smiles of recognition and hugs of joy as families reunited and friends reconnected.  Watching the airport drama unfold, I thought to myself, if this were all that Christmas is about – if this was the sum total of our Christmas dreams – it might be enough.

But the truth is, Christmas goes far beyond that.  Christmas goes beyond the happy families reuniting to encompass families torn apart by resentment and anger and violence.  Christmas goes beyond those we envelope in welcome home hugs to include those we try our best to guard against, to keep at bay or to deny any entrance at all.  Christmas goes beyond loved ones to strangers, beyond neighbors to refugees, beyond friends all the way to enemies!  When we finally understand that, we begin to recognize God-with-us in a new a profound way.

Heather Murray Elkins offers this piece of advice for a night like tonight:

When you walk to the edge of all the light you can see,

            And are asked to take that first step into the darkness of the unknown…

            You must believe that one of two things will happen:

                        either there will be something solid for you to stand upon,

                        or you will be taught to fly.

This Christmas may you let your imagination run wild.  This Christmas, may you give in to your dreams.  This Christmas, may you step out, take wing, and at last, learn to fly.  Merry Christmas!  Amen.

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