Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Advent for The Parish of St. Timothy’s and St. Paul’s in the Diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island — 23 December 2018
To hear the audio:
One of the things I love the most about my student parish appointments is the opportunity that I have to learn about our Diocese and its churches. It’s an opportunity to deepen my relationship with the Church and its people and to further reflect on what God is calling God’s people to – you as members of Christ’s body, the Church; me as a member of the Body being lifted up by the people as one preparing for, God-willing, ordination.
In the last three months all of this has been affirmed here at St. Timothy’s and St. Paul’s. It’s a delight to be part of God’s unfolding here in this place. I experience it in each of you. It’s a true joy to be here with you, seeing our relationships deepen, living here with you, continuing to get to know you and experiencing together what God is doing in our lives.
One thing that is new to me that I’m really enjoying is your tradition of Christmas card sharing. I’ve not seen this done anywhere else the way that you do it here. With the collection box at the back of the church and the care that is given in the writing of the cards – I want you to know how welcome and at home this has made us feel.
It got me to thinking, how can I show you my appreciation? So, when it turned out that I was preaching today, I decided that this homily could be my Christmas card to you. So, know this. Please accept it from my heart to yours.
On this Fourth Sunday of Advent — in our worship, in the readings we have heard, and with Christmas Eve being tomorrow — I pray that the Spirit will stir in us something new, that our hope and faith may be renewed and that we might all find a deepened appreciation for God’s creation and God’s Love.
Where God’s creation is concerned, I’m reminded of what Astronaut James Irwin said as the Apollo 15 Lunar Module was moving further and further from the earth in 1971. Irwin said that: “The Earth reminded us of a Christmas tree ornament hanging in the blackness of space. As we got farther and farther away it diminished in size. Finally, it shrank to the size of a marble, the most beautiful marble you can imagine. That beautiful, warm, living object looked so fragile, so delicate, that if you touched it with a finger it would crumble and fall apart. Seeing this has to change a man, has to make a man appreciate the creation of God and the love of God.”
It’s just amazing, is it?
It’s amazing to think that God intervenes in this small speck of creation; this fragile earth, our island home – “so fragile, so delicate, that if you touched it with a finger it would crumble and fall apart,” to use Irwin’s words.
This is what is must feel like at this moment to be in Indonesia and yet another tsunami wave that has affected that area. We need to hold all in our prayers – for those who have died, for those who have been injured, for the grieving, for the search and rescue process happening at this very hour on the other side of the world, so fragile.
This fragile earth, this is the world that God chooses to enter into. And, God chooses us to enter through, if we will respond to God’s invitation to us.
Our amazement is the same amazement that the prophet Micah expresses when he says that out of tiny, insignificant Bethlehem will come one who will “stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth; and he shall be the one of peace.”
Micah’s words also express feelings of longing. Micah longs for a world that is not in tatters and spiritual disorder. Micah is writing to an audience that too easily turned God into a thing instead of a being. And, I think that Micah calls to us today, reminding us that God is a living presence in the world.
Can you hear him asking you to respond to God’s presence and voice in your life?
What difference does it make whether you say “yes” or “no” or “maybe” to God? What significance am I, you may be asking? Who am I that God would come to me and ask me to live as God’s child?
What if sleepy little Bethlehem asked that same question before rolling over and going back to sleep? What if there was no room at the stable?
What if Mary said ‘no’ – refusing the shocking news that the angel brought to her?
What if astronaut James Irwin kept what he saw to himself, rather than sharing his awe at the sight of the earth placed in the blackness of space the way that he did. In so doing, he spread the awe of God’s creation and Love to our world in need.
Do you believe that God can enter into relationship with God’s creation including planet earth — the tiny blue Christmas ornament, placed in space; if only God would try again and again to get the attention of his people – sending himself as one of us; entering as a baby boy born to a thirteen-year-old unwed mother engaged to a father not his own; into a tiny, insignificant town called Bethlehem; entering into us if we’ll receive him…if only…
The language we typically hear is this. God sent his Son to save us. I believe that this is true. But, it is hard for people today to hear…“save us from what?” They are already inundated with messages saying this or that will save them from you name it.
But, this amazing message…it’s the real deal.
So, we need to take Jesus’ salvation a step deeper so that it might be heard among all of the noise of the present situation. The real deal is that Christ’s salvation is a gift of grace that is borne out of God’s Love. God’s judgement is Love. Out of Love we are cleansed, purified, sanctified – for God’s purpose.
Yes. The truth of God’s saving grace is that God wants to save us. But, even more radical than that is to say that God wants to restore us…you and me and all of humanity, this fragile earth, our island home – for God’s purpose.
Why would God want to do this?
Because the driving force behind God’s grace is love. When we say yes to God’s Love found in Jesus’ presence; in Jesus’ coming — God’s restoration is already working in us.
Still, some may ask, does it make any difference at all whether we believe this or not?
Because God’s Love can do what nothing else will.
James Irwin would later say that “When it comes to God’s love, being on the moon had a profound spiritual impact upon my life. Before I entered space with the Apollo 15 mission in July of 1971, I was a lukewarm Christian, to say the least! I was even a silent Christian, but I feel the Lord sent me to the moon so I could return to the earth and share his Son, Jesus Christ. The entire space achievement is put in proper perspective when one realizes that God walking on the earth is more important than man walking on the moon.”
This, my sisters and brothers, is my Christmas card to you. The name of God’s Love is Jesus. He is the one that, when we receive him and live according to God’s hope for us, we in turn give this gift to others by the very way that we live. And, when we give this gift to others we receive in even deeper ways.
This is all because of Love — God’s for you so that you may Love God and one another.
This is because God walking on the earth will always be more important than man walking on the moon. “
In the Name of the One God, Holy and Undivided: +Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.