Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Solemnity of the Nativity of our Lord

Isaiah 52:7-10
Psalm 98
Titus 2:11-14
Luke 2:1-7

REFLECTION: “Never Be the Same Again”

Have you ever seen a Church who emphasized that you were welcome, no matter what? That made a point to say that ‘God loves you just the way you are”? I think that, if we are honest, we are at least aware of such Churches… and you know what; they’re right. God does love us, just as we are, and yes, just as we were on the darkest, most difficult day of our life. He loves us when we are near to him, and he loves us when we are far away. He loves us so much that, in the words of Saint John’s gospel, “He sent his only-begotten Son” that we might be saved. Talk about Good News!

Sadly, sometimes, we tune out the rest of the message. The Gospel becomes a simple affirmation of life, and we forget that there is something after “God loves you just the way you are”. For you see, while God does love us just as we are right now, he is always seeking that our encounters with Christ would change us, profoundly.
This deep passion of the Father’s is laid out for us in our reading this morning from the second chapter of Titus. “The grace of God has been revealed, brining salvation to all people” does not just stop there. The Father seeks a change in our lives: “And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures.” God wants to see change in our lives… change that draws us closer to him, which makes us ever more dependent upon him, and which liberates us from the standards, the ways, the wisdom of the world, and calls us to cling to him in each and every circumstance.
Brothers and sisters, Christ’s coming in the flesh is the ultimate manifestation of this message. In order that we might draw closer to God, God drew closer to us… in a way that profoundly changed the world. If, beloved, if we are walking in the Spirit of God, we will rarely know an encounter with Christ that will not leave us changed, bettered, strengthened, and uplifted.
Today, we encounter our Lord in the manger. He is tiny, fragile, delicate. He is completely dependent on his mother and his foster-father for everything. He who created the very atoms that make up the cosmos was unable to fend for himself. For a point in time, Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, the Creator Word and God of Majesty, was vulnerable… and his vulnerability led him to the cross, the grave, and, ultimately, the sky.

And so it is right, today, that we lift the Lord’s name on high, giving him thanks like never before for what he has done for us. But let our worship today not be limited to song, prayers, and sacrament… instead, let song, prayer, and sacrament play a transforming role in this Christmas day, so that you will leave this place utterly changed, strengthened, encouraged, and uplifted…

And then, come back some time soon, and do it again!

When our hearts are open to the Incarnate Word, we will never, NEVER, enter his presence – in our worship, in our prayers, in our Scripture reading, or even in our quiet cries – and not be changed… because the Christ has come to set us free from slavery to the world, its sinfulness, and its hopelessness… and has brought us to fullness of life and light in the Spirit.