The Very Rev. Tom Callard – December 24, 2019
The Homily give by Dean Callard at the 4 PM Children’s mass
The sermon from the 10PM Service
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but images of Christmas and the birth of Jesus whenever you see them, either in a creche like ours, or in a Christmas Pageant or on the cover of a Christmas Card, the image of the birth of Jesus is always shown with a group. That it’s never just Jesus. You never have just Mary on a Christmas card by herself, or just Joseph. And there’s never one shepherd there representing Christmas, or one of the wise men. Christmas is about a group. The baby is born for a group. Salvation comes to the whole.
And yet at the same time, Christmas is also very individualistic, for every member of the group had to weigh in his or her heart their options and say YES that they want to be there. Mary had to ponder things when the angel came to her and say YES that she would give birth to her Son. Joseph had to overcome his own doubts and say YES that he would accompany Mary. The shepherds had to overcome their fears and say YES the would go see the good news of great joy lying in that manger. And 3 kings had to overcome a few things so they could say YES to following that that star.
At any point any of that group could have said NO, we’re just going to stay back. Now, we’re just going to stay home, we’re just going to ignore the invitation from God and forget about Christmas.
But what they did is they weighed their choices and decided. And what you do when you make a choice, is you weigh benefits and risks and decide. I remember my mom once telling me that when she was debating whether or not to marry my dad, she put a line down the middle of a piece of paper and wrote on one side of the line the benefits of marrying Jeff Callard and on the other side the potential risks and downsides of marrying Jeff Callard.
Or it’s like you take one of those old fashioned scales they use in the market. You put something on one side and balance it with something on the other. That’s what you do in making choices. In this case you’ve got Jesus on one side along with the questions that Christmas invites us to ponder? Am I going to trust in Jesus? Am I going to believe in him with my heart? Am I going to endeavor to give my life to him and live a life he would be proud of? Am I going to say YES this night?
And there on the other side is our potential NO, maybe I’m not going to follow Jesus, I’m not going to believe this story, I’m going to stay home. Or our Maybe, maybe we don’t yet know what we’ll say in this choice?
Because if Jesus is on one side there on the other side weighing against him are all sorts of things. There is our doubt. And some of us here tonight have real doubt and may be hearing these voices which say It’s not real. God is not real. Do you ever hear those voices? I think we all do from time to time. And Jesus is a myth. And organized religion is just a sham. Maybe that’s on your scale, weighing in your choice.
Or maybe you have the baby Jesus on one side but on the other is fear, and fear sounds like this: it’s too much there for Jesus, too much darkness and too much despair and too much pain out in the world. So many bad things. And we’re aware that on one side is Jesus but on the other side is war and poverty and injustice and sickness and all that we face, and we all face a lot. And it keeps growing, our fear, and we are sure that the darkness out there will overcome the light. And so what can Jesus do about that?
Because what is Jesus after all, but a baby? What is Christmas but the celebration of a baby? And how does a baby measure against all that is on the other side of the scale? What can a baby bring to the world? At least when measuring our choices give us the adult Jesus we can see, who is well trusted Jesus who has a few miracles under his belt. For a baby is not complete, but is in process. And that requires a certain amount of hope.
I remember when my last baby, Jefferson, was born, looking at him a couple minutes after his birth, after they cleaned him off, after they wrapped him in his little swaddling clothes, after they did whatever they do with the umbilical cord, and they handed him back to me. And I remember looking at him and thinking: What’s your story? What will you be? What will you do in this life? You look so good and so cute and so strong. And I see such potential in you. But who knows? Looking at a baby, how do you know what will come? I mean he’s got my genes which means that all sorts of bad things could happen. But he’s got his mom’s genes, so maybe there’s some hope.
Because if you’ve only got a baby, all you’ve got is hope. I hope this will turn out well. I hope this is the right choice to make. I hope I can invest in him and put my time and energy into him, and dedicate my life to him, because I really can’t see it now. Isn’t it a lot to ask of a baby? And a lot to ask of us, for such hope.
But God had to come as a baby, and a baby has a certain quality. I heard a story recently from our Bishop, and forgive me if you’ve heard it before. It’s a true story about a group of people fleeing Nazi Germany as refugees. And they were trying to get away heading out of town on foot. And it was going slowly because among the group were children and some elderly folks and one woman carrying a baby.
And as group slowly made their way through towns they got to a point where one of the men of the group, the oldest, just stopped and he said: I can’t go on any longer. I just can’t do it. You guys go ahead without me. And the group continued on. Except one woman, the woman with the baby. She stopped. And she stayed with the man. And she said: you can’t stay here, you’ve got to keep going. But he said, No, I’m just too tired to go on. So she handed him her baby. And she turned and walked away. And she kept walking.
And the man said: what am I going to do now with this baby? I have to pick up this baby, and protect the baby. And so, taking the baby, he got up and went on and made his way toward freedom and life. In saving the baby, the baby was hi savior.
Because there’s power in a baby, in this young life, and such potential, such possibility, and it is a power to make us do incredible things, we can not imagine ourselves doing. And power to make changes and to touch hearts and to mold lives. For a baby is not just a symbol of hope, but a baby is love, pure love.
And if that baby is God, is fully God when he is born, that baby will change everything. For love can change it all. We just need to pick him up and walk with him. And allow him into our lives by taking him along with us, and by saying just this one word tonight: YES.
Two weeks ago, the Executive Committee of the Cathedral made what are called Cardboard Testimonials where you put on one side of a piece of cardboard something about your life, some situation or condition in which you have found yourself. And you put on the other the difference Jesus has made there. How Jesus has changed your condition, how saying YES has transformed you.
And so I put that I went from being anxious and fearful – to being secure and loved because of my YES. Others wrote they went from being always busy going and going – to finding spiritual time with God, because of their YES. And another went from being angry at injustice- to being empowered by prayer and love, because of their YES. Someone wrote that they went from being anxious at imagining that they were in charge – to finding peace when they know that it’s God in charge. And another that they went from being in the bondage of addiction to being in a state of grace.
I wonder, what would yours say? What does your life say? How has saying YES to Jesus and love made a difference? Or if you have not said YES, if you’ve said MAYBE or you’re still weighing between Jesus and doubt and Jesus and fear or Jesus and whatever’s on that other side, how do you imagine picking up that baby and walking with him might change you?
I know what the Bible says. That when Jesus was born the world went from being beset by darkness – to being gifted with light. And when Jesus was born the world went from being trapped by the power of soldiers and armies – to being freed by a prince of peace. And when Jesus was born the world went from having hatred and anger rule the day – to being lifted by the presence of love. And spears turned to pruning hooks. And crooked paths became straight. And lost and tortured souls found peace. Love can do that.
So why not put our YES into it, into the newly born love, who, even now, is making his way from here out there to the darkness and the places of sorrow and pain, all these places waiting to be changed by a word. All of our lives waiting to be changed. Beginning tonight, beginning right now, with our YES.
Thank you for being part of this group and part of this love. And thank you Jesus for being born just as you were. May we carry you with us tonight and forever. Just as you have carried us.