Like All Myths, the Stories of Jesus’ Birth are True, for Myths Only Become Untrue When they are Presented as Facts – a sermon for the Fourth Sunday in Advent

refugee-nativity-erbile

Readings from the first chapter of Luke included the stories of the Angel Gabriel’s Annunciation to Mary, Mary’s Visitation to Elizabeth and Mary’s radical song – The Magnificat.   Listen to the sermon here

Last night my brother Alan and I were chatting online about Christmases past. We reminisced about the Secret Sam Attaché Case he got the year I had to settle for a Chatty Cathy Doll. My Brother’s toy transformed him into a secret agent allowing him to peer around corners with a Secret Sam periscope, and take photographs, while the case was closed. Alan’s toy transformed him into a spy capable of holding his own in the world of counterespionage, while I had to settle for Chatty Cathy Doll that could only say a few words when I pulled the string on the back of her neck. We both agreed that girls’ toys sucked. That is until the following Christmas when I talked my Dad into buying me my very own microscope and my brother and I spent the holidays looking at pond scum. We would head down to the pond and fill jars with the scummiest water we could find and then head home to look at the microscopic creatures that inhabited this strange little world. While we were chatting, my brother told me about a colleague whose son died quite suddenly last year. Suddenly, without warning the nostalgia of Christmas disappeared as we contemplated the horror of losing a child. For so many families this and every year Christmas is forever transformed from the simple joys of nostalgia to the painful experience of longing for simpler, gentler times, when all Christmas had to do was jingle a bell or two to bring out the child in us. Life is a complicated mystery. Life is full of unanswerable questions. Life is filled with all sorts of experiences and emotions. Yet, every year we look to our Christmas traditions, stories and rituals to open us to the possibility of all the joy and peace that life has to offer.

I ended our chat by sharing a treasured memory of good old simpler days, when my brother Alan and I would enjoy our very own Christmas Eve tradition of watching the old black and white version of A Christmas Carol; the one in which Alistair Sim plays Scrooge.  So, last night, I dozed off with Alistair Sim’s Scrooge dancing in my head and singing, “I don’t know anything. I never did know anything. But now I know that I don’t know. All on a Christmas morning.”

No ghosts visited me in the night, but just like Ebenezer Scrooge, I did dream dreams of Christmas’ long ago. You see, Scrooge wasn’t the only movie that my brother and I used to watch. Alan was particularly fond of science-fiction movies. Sometimes, when he would manage to convince me to watch one of these movies with him, I would complain after just a few minutes in, that the premise was just too unbelievable; I mean really nothing like that could ever actually happen. Alan would remind me that you don’t have to believe them; you just have to watch them, go with the story, see where it takes you.

When you really think about it, many of our best-loved stories never actually happened the way we tell them. Take Scrooge for example; does any one of us actually believe that Ebenezer was really visited by three ghosts?  We know that it is a story that never actually happened the way it has been told to us; and yet it has the power to take us somewhere, to move us as we watch the incredible transformation of old Scrooge and we too are moved to keep Christmas well. Continue reading

Like All Myths, the Stories of Jesus’ Birth are True for Myths Only Become Untrue When they are Presented as Facts – a sermon for the Fourth Sunday in Advent

refugee-nativity-erbile

Readings from the first chapter of Luke included the stories of the Angel Gabriel’s Annunciation to Mary, Mary’s Visitation to Elizabeth and Mary’s radical song – The Magnificat.   Listen to the sermon here

Magnificat for Ferguson, New York, and Canada’s Broken Justice Systems

stolen sisters pastorDawnAs I prepare the liturgy for the Third Sunday in Advent, various interpretations and musical settings of the Magnificat litter my office. Over and over again, the words placed on the lips of the young child Mary who was “great with child,” a child in whom our hopes and dreams for a new kin-dom of justice are embodied, sing in my imagination. In these past few days, I have observed my Canadian sisters and brothers as we look with horror and sadness as news of  what look to us like travesties of justice steam across the border. As Canadians we comfort ourselves with the delusion that the kind of racism which results in what appears to be a systemic contempt for the lives of young black men does not exist here in Canada. We shake our heads in disbelief as grand-juries refuse to indite police officers in Ferguson and New York trusting that our own justice system would do a better job of seeking justice. Some of us go as far as offering up a prayer of sorts giving thanks that we live up here and not down there. Up here we believe that we are above the kind of racism that results in systemic contempt for the lives of so many simply because of the colour of their skin. 

Mary’s song echoes in my brain and the tears begin to flow; tears of solidarity with the grieving, angry, laments being sounded by our American cousins as they cry out for justice, longing for the powerful to be brought down from their thrones and the lifting up of the lowly. Feeling my own anger and frustration at the callus disregard for the lives of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and little Tamir Rice, shot and killed by police who failed to determine that the gun Tamir was holding was a toy, I can’t help but wonder, “How long, O Lord.”

No sooner than my lament leaves my lips, I comfort myself with the thought that I don’t live down there in the U.S., and like so many Canadians, I am more than willing to leave the fate of my American cousins in God’s hands, for there is nothing I can do; thank God. I can happily go about my day, smug in my country’s belief that we are not like “them.” So, with Mary “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,” as images of Canadians, black, white, brown, and yellow dance in my head as equal before the law. Even as I sing to myself my favourite rendition of the Magnificat, images begin to creep into my head; images that cause the tears to return, images of stolen sisters, and the “Highway of Tears” bridges the gap between my delusions and reality. Continue reading