Sermon for Christmas Day – The Rev. Dr. Elaine Ellis Thomas

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Isaiah 52:7-10/Psalm 98/Hebrews 1:1-14/John 1:1-14

He hadn’t stopped Christmas from coming! It came!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!

And the Grinch, with his grinch feet ice-cold in the snow,
Stood puzzling and puzzling. “How could it be so?

It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
It came without packages, boxes, or bags!”

He puzzled and puzzled till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before.

Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store.
Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more![1]

            I’m sure that I am not the only one who remembers those days as a kid, or maybe those days when my kids were kids, and that feeling of deflation once it was all over. Paper and boxes and bows strewn across the room and the longed-for treasure half put together or the special doll buried under the pair of pajamas I didn’t even want. The weeks of waiting and hoping to see what Santa would bring all done now. And there are, once again, 364 days until Christmas.

            I might be turning into a bit of a Grinch myself against the Christmas-industrial complex that begins before Halloween and continues only long enough to entice us back into the stores for that irresistible after-Christmas sale. I just want to go out and stand in the snow, gathered around the tree with those Whos down in Whoville who don’t seem to mind that the Grinch stole their Christmas

            Or maybe I’m more like Charlie Brown who cries in exasperation, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” and his friend Linus tells him just that.

            This – gathered here with you – this is what Christmas is all about for me. Even after Linus quotes the 2nd chapter of Luke and the infancy narrative, we are still left with the question, “so what?” What does it mean that a child was born in Bethlehem and an angel appeared to the shepherds on the hillside?

            The child was not an ordinary one. He was God’s self, come as our savior, not in power and might but in innocence and helplessness.

            The light shone in the darkness and our world has never been the same.            

            When we come to the manger, we can never be the same, either.

            What does it mean, truly though, that Christ was born? That incarnation happened? That God pitched a tent among us?

            Every time we gather here at this table and take the body of Christ into ourselves, we become incarnate, too. Weare the body, that body born of a human mother, living and breathing and teaching and preaching, and then breaking and dying. All for us. And if we are the body, then we become the body – the incarnation – to others. To the lonely and the sick and the hurting of this world.

            There are a number of unspoken rules in church circles that clergy have surrounding their life in ministry. For many, it has to do with ceremonial things or observances, matters of personal piety. I have a rule about using time off. It started when I was a church musician and has carried over into priesthood, and it is this: Christmas and Easter are not just a day, they are seasons, and taking time off during those seasons is just not what I do. Ever. Until now.

            Tim and I have good friends, a couple from Columbus, Ohio. Tim and Kurt have been friends since high school, and Kurt and his wife, Marni, are dear friends of ours. We have traveled together and gone to numerous Ohio State football games together. Marni is actually the only one of us who is a legitimate alumna of The Ohio State University.

            Several years ago, Marni developed cancer in her eye, and after numerous scary treatments was pronounced cancer free, until this year, when she wasn’t cancer free anymore. She has been through surgeries and more treatments that simply aren’t able to combat the cancer that has metastasized throughout her organs.

            Those of you who follow college football will know that once every 20 years or so, Ohio State’s archrival, Michigan, actually gets a win in Columbus, and this was one of those years. Kurt and Marni were there, and afterwards, she said to Kurt that she did not want her last Buckeyes game to be a loss to Michigan. Thankfully, the Buckeyes made it to the College Football Playoffs and will play in a national semifinal game in the Peach Bowl on New Year’s Eve in Atlanta. Now, they may well lose to Georgia, but at least it won’t be a loss to that team up north.

            Why am I telling you all of this? Because I am taking next Sunday off, the 1st Sunday after Christmas, so that Tim and I can surprise Marni by going to the game with them in Atlanta. It may be the last game we see with her.

            And this is what incarnation means. It means showing up for a friend who did not ask for it or expect it. But we have been through too much together not to show up for her.

            That’s what incarnation is. God showed up for us in human flesh. We take our human selves into the world and show up for those who need it. It isn’t always for a dying friend or even for someone we know. 

 But we are to be Christ to one another, strengthened by the bread we receive here and embodying God’s love to those who most need it.

Welcome Christmas. Bring your cheer,
Cheer to all Whos, far and near.

Christmas Day is in our grasp
So long as we have hands to grasp.

Christmas Day will always be
Just as long as we have we.

Welcome Christmas while we stand

Heart to heart and hand in hand.

Amen.

Peach Bowl, December 31, 2022

[1] https://genius.com/Dr-seuss-how-the-grinch-stole-christmas-annotated

allsaintsadminSermon for Christmas Day – The Rev. Dr. Elaine Ellis Thomas