Tuesday, December 26, 2006

A Christmas Sermon

The following was preached by my rector, and impressed me sufficiently that I asked his permission to post it here.

A Sermon by Father Owen Williams, Christmas 2006 at Trinity Anglican Church, Rochester NH.

Have you noticed that over the past two weeks on television, both cable and broadcast channels, there has been an onslaught, a blitz, an overwhelming number of presentations of Jesus stuff. It is as if we said, “we want to put Christ back in Christmas.” and they, who ever they are, said, “We will give you Christ“. So, not only do we have the usual deluge of “Miracle on 34th Street” - It has been played daily the last two weeks and steadily all day today. – and repeats of multiple versions of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” and don’t forget that today starts the 24 hour marathon of “A Christmas Story” where you can hear over a hundred times, “You’ll shoot your eye out!”

Besides this usual fare of light, or should I say fluff, entertainment, we have had a barrage of documentaries about Jesus. “Yes,” they said, “we will give you your Christ. But our version, and we will dress him up in our fashion and make it appear to be fact.” They said, “We will tell you that this could be the real history. We will do our best to stir up doubts on Jesus, the Bible and the teachings of the Church.” And so we have more stories about whether or not Jesus was married, with sage sounding scholars saying why the Church might have kept this truth hidden. Then there are the gospels that were ‘removed from the Bible’ Like the Gospel of Judas. Or the story about how Christmas really began. Christian leaders usurping pagan festivals of the Roman empire in order to trick them into accepting a new religion. If you only knew the truth. That Christmas is a lie – Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th in the year one.

It is correct that Jesus of Nazareth probably wasn’t born in December or in the year one after his birth. And yes, Christians did adopt the date of a pagan feast. The same was done for Easter and All Saints Day. But this is hardly malevolent. If the desire is to make people think that Christianity is one huge ecclesiastical conspiracy the time is ripe. After all everything you see on the internet or cable news is true. And now that we have third generation families who haven’t ever gone to Church they don’t know any better. And if you tell half truths (which are actually falsehoods if you are using them to denigrate and detract), if you tell these pseudo truths often enough, uninformed people will believe the story being told.

But why would anyone do this?

Three reasons – Greed, Jealousy, and Pride.
Three of the Big Seven – The Seven deadly sins.

Greed – because this garbage makes money. It is amazing what people will watch or read and what advertisers or investors will pay to support bad or misleading research. It is sad to know that there is a market for things like “Jesus the Man, did he really exist?” Jesus and his tomb, Jesus and whatever can be imagined..

Jealousy – Christians have something that most others don’t. We have a God who reached out from eternity and came to be with us as one of us. With that act of incarnation – he made it possible to be the recipient of a special grace – to be adopted children and invited to live in God’s household. With that grace comes hope and a Godly peace. With repentant and regenerated souls, we do not have to worry – about anything. ( I know we still worry even with Jesus’ assurance Mt:6:34: “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”

The Jealousy is: If a person can’t have that kind of peace, that kind of assurance – they will try to take it away – or if they can’t have it, then no one will. This Begs the question. Why can’t they have this peace, this grace? It is freely offered. “Come all you who travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you.” In the Gospel of John Jesus answered and said to the Samaritan woman at the well. “If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.”

Why would one refuse?

Pride – And not one kind of pride but three:

Intellectual pride – “I don’t have to listen to people from the past, they are all ignorant and superstitious. Besides, I just published my fifth book on the subject so I must know more than all of you.”

Selfish pride – “I will not be told what to do or how to think. If you say I have to believe in this Jesus in order to be saved – well the cost is to high. If I have to repent, admit I was wrong No way! I DO HAVE MY PRIDE.”

The third type of pride is best described as Satanic pride. “If I have to accept Jesus as my Lord and Saviour - well the cost is too high. I am in charge of my own destiny. I will decide if I go to heaven or go to hell or attain a new level in some new age metaphysical reality.”

John Milton put it best In his poem Paradise Lost

“Here we may reign secure; and in my choice
To reign is worth ambition, though in hell:
Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven.”

This is what Christians are up against. A darkness which is ever trying to cover everything, a darkness that is best at hiding itself. A darkness that feeds on ignorance, falsehoods and doubts. And yet, it is able to succeed in putting out the light.

But tonight we are celebrating light.
Not the light of a star over a stable in Bethlehem.
A light coming from that manger.
A light that can never be overcome by the darkness
- can not be understood by it.
God from God – becoming man – Jesus Christ
– so that we might know the Grace and the Peace of God, both now and ever.

Posted by Ed Pacht on St' Stephen's Day.

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