Notes for a More Coherent Sermon—2nd Sunday after Christmas

Sunday, January 2, 2010
Meeting Room, 138 Pears Ave., Toronto
11:00 a.m.

FIRST LESSON: Isaiah 9: 2 – 7

The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil. For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian. For every battle of the warrior is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood; but this shall be with burning and fuel of fire. For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

GOSPEL OF THE DAY: Luke 2: 15 – 21

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, “Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.”
And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them. And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Sermon Proper Begins

A zoo is wonderful place—an opportunity to see examples of the diversity of creation that one rarely or never sees elsewhere. Late last week we visited the Toronto Zoo, spending time observing Komodo dragons, snow leopards, sea anenomies, emerald tree boas, African lung fish, pigmy marmosets, river otters and other exotic examples of life on earth. Some are rare, in danger of extinction due to human activity. Others are common, finding ways to adapt to the human impact on the world around us. But all the animals on display play a role in creation, are a part of the web of life we share in. Causing harm to the world causes harm to those that share in it and we are lessened, both as individuals and as humanity as whole when others on the planet become endangered or extinct. Our actions, as humanity, have resulted in the extinction of over 500 species—a very poor showing for the stewards of creation. Most of these extinctions have occurred since the birth of Christ. God’s concrete presence within creation has not yet resulted in a world focused on peace, justice and integrity of creation.

Today we gather to remember the circumcision and naming of Jesus, the formal welcoming of our divine brother into our family. We are being asked to acknowledge and celebrate his unique identity and to confirm that he shares in our communal inheritance. We are promising that we will be there to be a part of his life as he grows up and to ensure that his shared inheritance is there for him to partake in as he matures. Just as the communal vows in our baptism services bind us to sharing in the joyful work of helping to build a faithful community for, and the desire to live faithfully in, the baptised member of our community so to do the communal vows made when Jesus was named bind us to work to ensure that the Prince of Peace is welcomed among us and the world in which he is present is one where all life is truly valued. We should not be showing with pride to the infant messiah a battlefield or a jungle clear-cut, trying to dignify our communal failures with misleading stories of valour or economic miracles.

The natural world isn’t a gentle place—the komodo dragon is a dangerous predator; chimpanzees go to war; cuckoo birds through the eggs of other species out of their nests and replace them with their own. But nature is a balanced place—there is a cycle of life and death, of transformation and restoration that humanity can easily distort. Instead of the creation that was a gift to all, there is the ongoing danger that human actions will permanently damage the world we were given to care for on behalf of the infant we welcome into our midst today.

We have barely begun 2011 just as we have barely begun to comprehend the miracle of God among us. Whether the sky is grey or sunny, whether the shepherds are coming in or going back to their fields, the world around is changing in large and small ways. Not much is required of us as we are told in the words of Micah “ “What does the Lord require of you, Israel?” What are you supposed to do to live faithfully with your God? Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with your God. “ In doing so we will care for the creation that Jesus came into, will care for one another as children of God, will find a way to live in a positive relation with God.

Around us are opportunities to look at the world slightly differently—we can go to the zoo to be reminded of the diversity of life on earth; we can go to an art gallery to see the many ways creativity is given expression; we can go to a historical house to see how people’s daily lives differed from ours; we can spend some time talking to a panhandler sitting outside in all kinds of weather; we can visit City Hall during a council meeting to see how various angry and partisan voices can suddenly come to agreement. We have abundant opportunities to learn more about the world we are a part of, becoming as open as the infant Jesus had to be in order to take in everything to make sense of the newness of the world around him. We have many chances to see how we can care for those in Jesus’ family and to find ways of sustaining the physical world that Jesus has been a part of since the beginning. All we have to do is what Jesus must have done in the stable at Bethlehem—reach out in wonder and grasp what we find.

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