Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Eve 2012, Blessings Flow Far as the Curse is Found

Note: There were 28 memorial candles on our Communion Table, behind the Advent Wreath.

(Here follows the Homily at the beginning of our Service of Lessons and Carols.)

Good evening, and welcome, I’m glad you are here tonight. Whoever you are, wherever you come from, Christian or Jewish or something else or nothing, whatever, we welcome you to celebrate with us the Incarnation of Our Lord.

He comes to make his blessings flow far as the curse is found. (You know the line, from Joy to the World.) The blessing and the curse. The blessing overflows the curse. The light shines in the darkness. The goodness overcomes the evil. The goodness does not compare in measure to the evil. You cannot measure the light by the darkness that it shines into. You cannot reckon the blessing by the power of the curse. They are all unequal, they are not equivalents.

Evil has no being in itself, it’s only the corruption of the good. Darkness is not something in itself, it’s only the absence of light, and one small beam can break its power. The grip of evil can be loosened by very small actions of the good. One little blessing can break the compulsion of a curse.

We need to hear this news again, because we feel accursed right now, especially in these last eleven days since that slaughter of the innocents. We feel the evil in our world, the murder and the malice and the misery. The darkness weighs on us. We find ourselves weeping and grieving. All the resolve and positivity that we generated since November by our service to the victims of Sandy is overshadowed by the horror and the grief of Sandy Hook. The shadow of death is on our land. We are walking in its darkness.

In just a few minutes you will hear a voice read out, “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.” You will hear that within the story we repeat tonight, that story we need to hear again each year. It’s the story of the light in the darkness and the blessing over the curse. The light does not replace the darkness, it shines within it, indeed the darkness is its very medium, but it’s enough to show you how to go. The blessing does not displace the curse, but it is real enough that you can choose it. The blessing will not compel you. It is your choice.

We know of people who surrender to the darkness and the curse—out of fear, perhaps, or pride, or anger, or anger and fear together, as they reckon the compulsion of the curse and the thickness of the dark. But tonight we will dispel that darkness with just a little bit of light.

Jews and Christians claim that evil is not built into the world, that evil is unnatural in God’s world and that evil is in the world only as the result of human sin. So we begin the story with Adam and Eve because we believe that it is our disobedience which lets loose the evil in the world, which curses us, and which we are powerless to overcome. The story moves quickly to the blessing, in the voice of the angel, to Abraham, in the Akida, which we will hear in Hebrew once again.

The story propels the blessing with promises from Isaiah, of the child who shall be called Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, and of the blessing so close upon the curse, and yet immune to it, as the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’s den.

The story raises our hopes, and the music rises in us with the hope. The darkness deepens but the light gets more intense, and focused on the savior, who himself is light and is the source of the light: God-with-us. And then, upon the hillside, the angel counts us worthy, as crooked and grimy and guilty as we may be, to go and greet the savior of the world. A great God in a little space. A holy God in humble flesh, a body in which this God could be killed and cursed and die. That’s the part beyond the story for tonight, which the angels don’t yet see, but God does, and what God knows is that though this single life is very small, it cannot be extinguished. It is too good for that, too blessed. Such a little thing, this baby, and such vast power for hope and healing is concentrated in him. All the good hopes of God’s own self.

This little story is so important in these days. So I thank all these persons who have come to read it to you tonight. And I thank all the musicians who have come to help us feel the wonder and the joy that’s in this story for tonight, the soloists and players up there like some angels in the air. And I thank all of you for coming to share in the hearing of this story once again. You were right to come here tonight. And may God bless you one and all.

Copyright © 2012 by Daniel Meeter, All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

December 2: Advent 1: Adonai Tsidkeinu

This is Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, who my grandfather loved, even though he was a passionate socialist.

My sermon for Advent 1 was preached ex tempore. You can listen to it here: Adonai Tsidkeinu.

November 25: Proper 29: Desiring the Kingdom

This is Robert Royster. He's a pan-handler who belongs to the community of Old First. He longs for the Kingdom of God.

I had previously posted a sermon for November 25, but I ended up not preaching it. I preached something else (an expansion of the last point of the aforementioned posted sermon). I preached that ex tempore. You can listen to it or even download it by going to this link: Grace to You and Peace.

I  must give credit here to my sister-in-law, Rev. Dr. RenĂ©e Sue House, who reminded me of an important theme from a book by James K. A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom.

November 18, Proper 28: "Hold Fast": A 358th Anniversary Sermon,

This is one artist's rendering of our first church building from the 1680's. All we know for sure is that it was "a small and ugly little church standing in the middle of the road." It stood in the middle of Fulton Street, in front of what now is Macy's. The congregation was established in October, 1654, by order of Governor Pieter Stuyvesant, but we don't know exactly when the first service was held.

This sermon is not written. I preached it ex tempore, but it is on the Lectionary texts for the week: Daiel 12:1-3, Psalm 16, Hebrews10:11-25, Mark 13:1-8. And, I'm grateful to say, it was recorded. You can listen to it, or download it, by going to this website:
Let Us Hold Fast