Thursday, December 15, 2016

"Preaching Christmas Eve in the Wake of New Testament Scholarship" by Rev. Dawn Hutchings

..."Since the end of the first century, some 1900 years now, the story of the nativity has been told. Lately the church has become a little embarrassed by the way in which this story has been told. All sorts of experts have weighed in to tell us that it could never have happened the way we all remember it. Biblical scholars, historians, theologians, bishops, pastors, professors even scientists have cast doubt on the details of the story of the nativity. But even though we know how impossible some of the details may be, we cling to this powerful story.  Despite the wisdom of the experts, regardless of our doubts, this story still has the power to stop us in our tracks. No other story or image is more recognizable to people the world over than the Nativity scene of the birth of Jesus...

Tonight the images of a stable in Bethlehem, with Mary and Joseph gazing fondly at the baby Jesus, while the shepherds look on and the heavenly host sing their praises, these images are crystal clear to all of us. The story is part of us; it’s in our bones. And every year this story causes our lives to shift from the routine of winter, to the marvel of this night, when families are drawn together, and strangers greet one another with kindness and from near and far the hope of peace on earth is a dream shared by us all.

Yes, we embody the wonder of Christmas in the gifts given, the meals shared, the gathering of family and loved ones. But the greater wonder is that the God who is love incarnate comes down to be among us over and over again. Christ comes to show us how to share that love with a world in desperate need of it— to a world yearning for “peace on earth, good will among all people”.           
That shalom—that peace—that unfamiliar hush is the peace on earth I’m praying for this Christmas— the shalom that doesn’t just mean the peace that comes when we’re no longer at war but the shalom that means that all human beings live together at peace with one another and with God, and in right relationship with all of the rest of God’s wondrous creation.        
Shalom, the Hebrew word for what we might describe as “turning the human race into the human family” —the peace on earth that we, are called to be about as followers of Christ, not just at Christmas but all year long.  The truth is that peace is the only way we can truly give Glory to God.
Peace is the only way to insure that every child born into this world will have an opportunity to play, to learn and to grow. To accomplish peace on earth we will all have to go out into this Christmas night and into this New Year and put our faith into action. That means prayers and protests; speaking up and stepping out; offering whenever and wherever possible the Good News of God’s shalom and realizing the truth of the angels chorus. For we are the followers of the one whose birth they herald. Howard Thurman, a fellow follower of Christ, put it best declaring that:

            When the song of the Angel is stilled,

            When the Star in the sky is gone,

            When the kings and the princes are home,

            When the shepherds are back with their flock,

            The work of Christmas begins:

            To find the lost,

            To heal the broken,

            To feed the hungry,

            To release the prisoner,

            To rebuild the nations,

            To bring peace among brothers and sisters—

            To make music in the heart.        

            And to radiate the Light of Christ,

            every day, in every way,

            in all that we do and in all that we say.

            The work of Christmas lies before us.

So, dear friends, rejoice and be glad, for unto us a child has been born, a child who is Christ our Saviour. May Christ lead each of us as we go forth to make peace on earth and good will to all.   Amen."

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