A homily preached by Pastor Robert Schaefer
First & Spring Creek Lutheran Churches
The Nativity of Our Lord – December 25, 2004
Text: John 1:14
Friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
It’s Christmas Day again – December 25, and the snow is falling. It’s much brighter out now than the last time I was at church. The sky is bright and I can see without the aid of candlelight or streetlight. Last night seems like a distant memory already. It’s hard to believe how very different Christmas Eve and Christmas Day can be one from the other. They are so different, and each is full of its own special blessings.
My family has always been good at taking in the blessings of Christmas Eve. Our evening was planned around the candlelight service at Faith Lutheran over on Main Street. Most years it was the 4:30 service, but some years – when Jeff or I were on tap for some Christmas music – it might be the 11:00, or even both services. No matter which time we went, it was a joy to raise our voices in the beloved carols, my brother and me switching off the melody and harmony lines, making it up as we went along. We heard the marvelous stories, of shepherds and angels, babies and stars, and we marveled. Raising our candles during “Silent Night,” we received a few short minutes of heavenly peace with the virgin and child. Then, the greetings and handshakes at the door, and home again to be with our loved ones. The roast was ready, the lefse buttered, the table all set. We dined. Presents followed, and later on…that most wonderful time of all, sitting in the quiet darkness and brightness of the tree-lit living room, soaking in the happiness of the whole day. Christmas Eve’s blessings.
Christmas Day, on the other hand, has always felt strange to me. Not bad, but strange…unfamiliar, as if the world I knew has been changed, and I’m still trying to figure it all out. My friend Kristin had her first baby this fall, and as we talked on the phone this week, I could hear that tone in her voice – the one that tells you she knows the strangeness of a life suddenly transformed. There’s joy in her voice, lots of it, mixed in with perhaps the tiniest amount of apprehension and uncertainty at this brand-new chapter in her life. Her baby has given her world new challenges, new joys, new meanings, and she’s still taking it all in. Now that the chaos of bringing little Michael into this world has subsided for Kristin, she’s finally getting a chance to catch her breath, to take a step back, and to wonder at how her life will never be the same now that she has a new name – Mommy.
Christmas Day, I think, is like that…and that is its blessing. It’s the morning after the birth, when the world looks both just the same and completely different. The memories of angel song and shepherd hands are fresh still but fading in the early light, and the strange beauty of the night is changing into the beautiful strangeness of life in a world that is so much the same, and yet has been changed forever. The blessings of Christmas Day are so very different from the peaceful ones of Christmas Eve!
That first Christmas dawn, Mary and Joseph must have looked down in their feed-trough cradle and asked themselves whether all of the events of last night had really happened. They must have remembered the visions and revelations each had been given by God about this little baby, the wonderful things their eyes had seen and their ears had heard, and wondered whether this could all be just a dream. And then, the rituals of family took over, the common, ordinary actions that mark the live of father, mother and child. The baby cries. His mother offers her breast. Her husband stokes up the fire and finds fresh cloths for the infant. Life both goes on and is changed forever. That’s Christmas Day. That’s its blessing.
Today is an ordinary day, no different really from December 23 or December 26. You’ll do many of the same things you do every other day. You’ll remember the beauty of last night, but it will seem perhaps a little bit distant…something that’s so lovely that it can only be lived in that single moment, and then let go. But that moment has changed everything. Like Kristin and Mary and their new little families, every day for us is changed now. The Word of God has put on flesh and bone, has been born into our family, has come to be our savior, our brother, our friend.
May you live this Christmas and every day of your life in the joy and blessing of both the strange beauty of Christmas Eve and the beautiful strangeness of this new Christmas Day. Amen.