24 & 25 December 2019
Isaiah 52, 7-10 + Psalm 98 + Hebrews 1, 1-6 + Luke 2, 1-20
St. Peter the Apostle & St. William Churches in Naples, FL
We are in this church tonight because we have heard them. We have heard the greatest truth of all, that God is with us. Yet still, there may be some here with us who have not heard that prophetic voice, whose days and lives are long and lonely, who have been abandoned by someone they loved, who live with secrets that if known will push them to the edge of an abyss by the judgements of others. Yet, we are a prophetic church. In spite of our personal failings and our institutional sins, we still must and do proclaim the truth: God is with us.
As a community of faith and prayer, we have moved through purple days lighting candles against a world that sometimes seems to prefer the darkness singing, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” which tells us to Rejoice but sounds like a dirge. For four weeks, we have listened the peculiar poets, the prophets. They pop up from time to time throughout the whole year, but in Advent they take center stage. There is John the Baptist announcing the “Spirit and Fire”. There is Isaiah awaiting the “great light.” These are voices that seem to flutter between warning and consolation, between the present and the future, cause and effect.
Today we live in a world in which prophecy has been swamped by prediction: the weather, elections, the stock market. Week after week we are told what the “polls” predict. But, John the Baptist never conducted a poll or a survey. Isaiah did not have a margin of plus or minus 3 percentage points. Prophets simply tell the truth.
When that truth finally sinks in all of life on earth will become one great Advent with the promise that the best is yet to come. Christmas is a call to reconnect ourselves, to accompany Jesus more deeply into the mystery of our shared humanity and our life with God. This is why guest rooms are full, airports are crowded, highways are jammed with people connecting again. Our hope does not rest upon a Biblical account of something that happened two thousand years ago. You can’t hope for something that has already happened. Our hope rests up on the promise that Christ will come again, and for those of us who choose to live with that hope, it brings excitement and joy as well as the strength to rise up from every catastrophe.
The real good news we have to proclaim goes way beyond what we sing about today and what we remember. The real good news is not that Christ was born in Bethlehem, but that Christ will come again. Our prayer today as we stand before the scenes that recall Christ’s birth should be: “Maranatha, Come, Lord Jesus.” Live with that hope, my friends. Let the promise that Christ will come again bring you a Joy that never fades. The story that draws us together tonight is that God is with us. But right now it is a story that has no ending. When the story finally ends, we shall be with God, and the plan in the heart of God will be fulfilled. Maranatha: Come, Lord Jesus.