Posted on in Sermons by The Rev. David Marshall
Year B, Christmas Vigil
Tonight we are keeping a vigil. Here, in the darkest time of the year, we keep vigil; hoping and praying that God’s light will push back the darkness. We stay awake, pray, and sing through the dark hours of the night as we wait for Christmas.
As small children we eagerly await Christmas and the opening of presents. I can remember keeping a vigil of sorts on many a Christmas Eve as my excitement and anticipation kept me awake late into the night.
As adults, the significance of keeping vigil takes on a more serious tone. We keep watch through the darkness, hoping for light. And this past year has been darker than most. There was the tragic shooting at the high school in Marysville, the frightening and deadly Ebola epidemic, there are protests over the events in Ferguson and Staten Island, and war and violence in Syria, the Ukraine, and countless other spots around the globe. When you also consider the personal struggles we all face, this has indeed been a dark year.
And so we keep vigil, waiting for the only light that has power over the darkness of this world. This is not a foolish or vain thing we do tonight. I know that many people ask what difference the birth of a baby to a teenage girl, 2000 years ago in a small and insignificant town can possibly make to the darkness we face today. But let me assure you, the Christmas story has survived for 2000 years now, through darkness as great as any we experience today.
The reason the Christmas story has survived, and is still relevant today, is that the birth of this child reveals the truth of our nature. We are created in the image of God. We are created in the image of the Divine. Jesus reveals the truth and the renewing power of God’s divine image in humanity. The joy of Christmas is that any human heart can be transformed by God’s love.
That is why we love our dark Christmas stories, like Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Even in the dark miserly heart of Scrooge, the image of God is present. All that is needed is hope and faith to transform our fear into love, our selfishness into generosity, and our resentment into compassion.
The birth of Christ reveals the divine in all of us. But even more wonderful than that, the birth of Christ gives us hope and inspires generosity, compassion, and love. When we experience kindness, generosity, and love, we can see the divine in others. We begin to see hope. When we in turn express kindness, generosity, and love, we see and know the divine in ourselves.
That is the true gift of Christmas. God’s gift of his Son is the light in the darkness that allows us to see the image of God in one another and in ourselves.
The gift of Christmas is that you are made in the divine image of God. When confronted by corruption, violence, decay, loneliness and fear, remember that you have the capacity for kindness, generosity and love. When fear and scarcity rear up, remember that you were made in the divine image of God, so you have the capacity for love.
At Christmas, God gives us the gift of Jesus so that Jesus can give us the gift of the divine. Jesus gives us the gift of the divine so that we can become partners with him in turning back the darkness. Whether you find that darkness in yourself or in the world around you, fear not. You are created in the image of God and you have the capacity to let the light shine.
The Rev. David Marshall
St. Dunstan’s Church, Shoreline WA
December 24, 2014