For days now, I’ve had an ear-worm. I suppose that it is more than fitting for a pastor to suffer from this particular ear-worm at this particular time of the year. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and it must be the struggle to get everything ready for the Holy Night that has put this particular ear-worm on an endless loop. Consider this an early Christmas gift, I won’t sing it. I’ll let you sing it in your own minds. Maybe then I can give you my ear-worm for Christmas. My ear-worm is the Christmas carol, O Holy Night. It’s not the whole Carol, just the one line of the Carol that repeats itself: “A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices”
“A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices.” Over and over again, I hear: “A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices.” T’is the season for being weary! Hands up all you who are weary! Apart from the fact that there is so much to be done, the news is full not of glad-tidings but of tales of woe. Everywhere we turn, the media is doing its level best to instill fear into our hearts, rather than tidies of comfort and joy. The world is weary of worrying about the strange fellow who occupies the Whitehouse, weary of populist, authoritarian, politicians like the fellow we have up here, prancing around Queens Park; weary of begging the powers that be to do something about climate change; weary of economic inequality; weary of corporate greed, weary of catastrophic fires, tsunamis, earthquakes, stock-market crashes, weary of war and rumors of war.
Sure, we can turn off our devices in the hope that we can avoid the bad tidings. But then, we have our own bad news to deal with, quarrelsome families, troublesome friends, sick or dying loved ones, the day to day grind of making a living, and our own personal angst and insecurities. To top it all off, if regular life isn’t wearisome enough, tomorrow is Christmas Eve. “A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices.”
“A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices.” Fall on your knees? If I fall on my knees, I’ll never be able to get up!!! In times like these, that it is as if our lives are in a constant state of chaos. I’ll let you in on a little secret, one of my favorite parts of Christmas is Silent Night. I positively long for Silent Night, because when we’re singing Silent Night, here at Holy Cross, my work is done. We don’t have a Christmas Day service, unless Christmas falls on a Sunday. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure, our Christmas Eve service always ends with the singing of Silent Night. We turn out all the lights, light candles and hold them high as we sing. Silent Night, holy night, all is calm…
….all is calm….all is calm…all is bright. Now there’s an ear-worm I’m happy to live with. But there’s a lot of chaos to be endured between here and Silent Night. As much as we try the sound of Christmas is not Silent Night. The sound of Christmas is far more discordant than that. Do me a favour, make some noise. I mean it. I’m going to count to three. When I get to three, I want you to create a cacophony of chaos. I want us to raise a little hell. Ready, One, two, three…………….
In order to get the true sound of Christmas, you would need to add to our cacophony, the sounds of traffic, car crashes, waves crashing, hungry children crying, poor parents weeping, homeless sisters and brothers shivering in the cold, bombs dropping, babies crying, the Earth suffering…and you will have but a taste of the sounds of chaos. Christmas, no matter how you understand Christmas, Christmas doesn’t much sound like silent night. The sound of Christmas is a cacophony of chaos. Christmas is the sound of messiness, the sound of unpredictability and confusion. So, is it any wonder that in the midst of all the chaos of living we should long for a Silent Night? The trouble is, the story of new birth is never a Silent Night. Life itself is chaotic, and if we’re waiting for the birth of Jesus to arrive in Heavenly peace, I doubt that we’ll ever understand the Christmas story.
Christmas is not about heavenly peace. About as close to Silent Night that Christmas ever gets is “shepherds quaking at the sight!” Christmas is a radical subversive parable that was written to challenge whatever peace we have made with the chaos in our lives, a parable carefully crafted to reject our impulse to pull the covers over our head and pretend that life isn’t happening the way it is happening.
Christmas sounds like chaos precisely because it is in the midst of chaos that we encounter the ONE who IS…that’s IS with a capital I and a capital S…the ONE who IS is not off in the heavens looking down on some angelic nativity scene. The ONE who IS is LOVE, and as LOVE the ONE who IS is to be found in all the muck and the mire, right smack dab in the midst of our chaos. For not only do we live, and move, and have our being, in the ONE who IS LOVE, this very ONE, this DIVINITY, this GOD if you must, works in, with, through, and beyond us, in all of our chaos constantly creating hope in the midst of despair, creating justice in the midst of injustice, offering compassion, kindness, and LOVE.
Have no fear little flock. For we are not alone in this chaos.Christmas is the celebration of new birth. Birth is chaotic, messy, frightening, painful, and anything but silent! The parable of Christmas is a raw story, a bare bones story without to many details, to which we have added details that embody our own desires for a Silent Night. Whatever our imaginings about that holy night may be, one thing we can know for sure is that there was nothing silent about Jesus’ birth. It was a birth like any other birth, with all the mess of blood, urine, mucus, pushing, screaming, and amniotic fluid. This birth had more than its fair share of fear and anxiety. Whatever Jesus’ birth was, it was not the Silent Night of our dreams. Jesus’ birth was just like your birth and my birth. Like every birth, Jesus birth was chaos filled with the cacophony that comes before something wonderful happens.
I suspect that Jesus’ young mother, Mary, was screaming, cursing, pushing, crying, bearing down, and sore afraid. As for the “little Lord Jesus no crying he makes,” well I don’t think so!
Christmas was not a silent night and therein lies our hope for the world. For a god who is a creator of angelic, surreal, nativity scenes, would be a god far removed from the chaotic reality of our lives. A god who is devoid of the messiness of life, isn’t any kind of god that I want to be a part of, let alone worship. I need to know that we are all part of something so much bigger than we can begin to imagine that isn’t some kind of distant creature, aloof, and separated from the reality of our lives. I want to be part of the Source of All that is, a deity, a force, a LOVE that is capable of working in, with, through, and beyond us to bring order out of the chaos.
I want to be part of the ONE who weeps with those who weep, suffers with those who suffer; a LOVE dances, sings, laughs and rejoices whenever and wherever love emerges in the chaos. I want to be part of a LOVE that is beyond my ability to comprehend and yet a LOVE that works in, with, and through those who love to seek for justice for the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized, a LOVE that works, in, with, through, and beyond us to heal the wounds of the afflicted. I want to be part of a LOVE that challenges us, and at the same time, a LOVE that allures us in ways that empower us to live fully, love extravagantly, and be all that we are created to be.
The Christmas story is the story of such a LOVE; love that emerges in the midst of chaos. LOVE that is born in a baby, for this is how LOVE is always born. This is how LOVE was born in you. At your birth LOVE came into the world and in you lie the hopes and dreams of all the Earth.
“A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices. A thrill of hope the wear world rejoices.” “Fall on your knees, fall on your knees” and LOVE will be there, the LOVE that lives in creation thanks to the blessing of LOVE embodied in a person. Oh, we will get our Silent Night and we will take our rest. But don’t be fooled into thinking that silent night is the sound of Christmas. Silent Night is just the prelude to the LOVE that is about to be born in you.
In, with, through, and beyond you the ONE who IS, is born over and over again. We are not alone in the chaos. The LOVE that IS the ONE flows in, with, through, and beyond us is the hope for the world, and nothing, not the chaos, not the noise, not the bad tidings, not the pain, not the hatred, not the loneliness, not the indifference, not the injustice, not the greed, not even death shall not overcome us.
The Divine Source of the Cosmos in which we live and move and have our being, is LOVE. Let the birth of Jesus remind us all what LOVE looks like in the flesh. Let the celebration of the birth of Jesus empower us to embody the LOVE that is hope for the world Let us celebrate the birth of LOVE by following LOVE out there into the chaos to bring” joy to the world.” Amen.
What an outstanding sermon and renewal of faith experience this sermon from Pastor Dawn Hutchings was for me and continues to be in my mind and heart. Pastor Dawn’s sermons, the music and worship services during this Advent season at Holy Cross have been one of the best Advent experiences of my life. Thank you Pastor Dawn Hutchings and congregation of Holy Cross, Newmarket for providing us with an uplifting and moving Advent season. You have have lifted up our spirits with hope, New Hope!
Pastor Jon Fogleman
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