Christmas, (Year A), December 24, 2013


Isaiah 9:2-7


The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness–
on them light has shined.
You have multiplied the nation,
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as people exult when dividing plunder.
For the yoke of their burden,
and the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For all the boots of the tramping warriors
and all the garments rolled in blood
shall be burned as fuel for the fire.
For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His authority shall grow continually,
and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time onward and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.



Psalm 96

1. Sing to the LORD a new song; *
sing to the LORD, all the whole earth.
2. Sing to the LORD and bless his Name; *
proclaim the good news of his salvation from day to day.
3. Declare his glory among the nations *
and his wonders among all peoples.
4. For great is the LORD and greatly to be praised; *
he is more to be feared than all gods.
5. As for all the gods of the nations, they are but idols; *
but it is the LORD who made the heavens.
6. Oh, the majesty and magnificence of his presence! *
Oh, the power and the splendor of his sanctuary!
7. Ascribe to the LORD, you families of the peoples; *
ascribe to the LORD honor and power.
8. Ascribe to the LORD the honor due his Name; *
bring offerings and come into his courts.
9. Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness; *
let the whole earth tremble before him.
10. Tell it out among the nations: “The LORD is King! *
he has made the world so firm that it cannot be moved;
he will judge the peoples with equity.”
11. Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad;
let the sea thunder and all that is in it; *
let the field be joyful and all that is therein.
12. Then shall all the trees of the wood shout for joy
before the LORD when he comes, *
when he comes to judge the earth.
13. He will judge the world with righteousness *
and the peoples with his truth.



The Epistle Titus (2:11-14)


For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.



The Gospel According to Luke (2:1-14(15-20))


In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.  In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see– I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”


[When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. ]






by the Rev. Michael Kreutzer


“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had Christmas every day?”  That is a sentiment that’s been expressed many times from a variety of people, and it seems to have a variety of meanings.  And the likelihood of it happening depends on our meaning.


Children, surrounded by Christmas presents, sometimes wish that there could be many more Christmases each year so that they could keep getting gifts.  More than a century ago, William Dean Howells wrote a delightful short story titled “Christmas Every Day,” in which a young girl makes that wish, and her wish comes true; but then she finds out what a disaster it would actually be.  Fortunately, the possibility of having a Christmas like this every day is beyond our control.


Adults, witnessing an increased sense of good-will, patience and generosity this time of year, muse on what it would be like if people could carry the Christmas spirit through the entire year.  That possibility is one that we can control, at least as far as our own attitudes and actions go; but obviously we can’t make that decision for everybody else in the world.


But there is another way of approaching the idea of “Christmas every day”: one that addresses the best, the heart, of what Christmas is all about, one that we can make a reality in our lives and in the life of our community.  And it has to do with what we are celebrating here tonight and with the living-out of this celebration.


What really is this Christmas celebration all about?  If you listen to some of the ways that this feast has been represented over the years in words and in song, you might get the impression that it is about God coming into a world where God, up to this point, has somehow been absent.  God in Jesus was coming into a corrupt and evil world to bring God’s goodness and light into the darkness, into a place where it had not been.  That’s a really strange concept, one that is contrary to the story told in the scriptures.  In reality, God has never been absent from the world.  God has been in the world all along – or, more accurately, the world has been in God all along, for God is the far greater reality.  Well then, if Christmas is not about God coming into the world, into a place where God had not already been, what is it about?


God has always been present in the world and in the lives of people.  Throughout the history of the human race, people have been able to experience God’s presence in a variety of ways: in the wonders of the universe, in the beauties of nature, and, for Israel, in God’s word spoken through the prophets and God’s care and protection shown in many ways.  But in Jesus of Nazareth, people came to experience the presence of God in their lives in a new way.  They came to experience God fully present in a fellow human being: in one whom they could see and hear and touch with their hands – as the opening of the First Letter of John describes it.  They could, at last, experience God in a direct and personal way.  Here in Jesus, God was speaking with them and feeding them and healing them and touching them and raising them up to a fuller life than they had ever known before.  In Jesus, they could see and feel and know the God of all creation.


What a marvelous gift – well, at least it was for that very small portion of the human race who were blessed to have had that experience.   That select group included maybe a few thousand people who happened to be living in Galilee and Judea in the first third of the first century of the Common Era.  That was great for them; but what about everybody else?  What about the vast majority of the human race who never had, not ever will have, that opportunity?  Are they simply left out?  Are they back to what is basically a pre-Christmas experience of God: as though Jesus had never been born?


That would be the case if Jesus had been in the world only in that one place and only for that brief period of thirty years or so.  But God’s work in Jesus, God’s entering into the world in a new way in Jesus, was only beginning on that first Christmas Day.  The event that we celebrate here this evening was only the introduction to the story.


It was in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, culminating in the gift of his Spirit, that that story really reached its fullness.  For, as the scriptures attest, it is in that Spirit that Jesus still lives today.  It is in that Spirit, enlivening the church, which is Christ’s body, that Jesus is now present to the world.  And it is in that living body of Christ, of which we are all members, that the people of the greater-Dayton area and of the world beyond it can still see and hear and touch and know, in a direct and personal way, the God of all creation.


Throughout this year, the 75th in the life of St. Mark’s Church, we have been celebrating the many places where St. Mark’s Church is throughout the week: the many and diverse ways in which the people of this parish serve the community in God’s name.  These works are not just nice and generous things that we do for others.  They are in fact ways in which we live as the body of Christ and in which we allow God to be present in the lives of those around us each and every day.  As the famous prologue to John’s gospel puts it, in Jesus the eternal Word of God became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  Today, that Word still takes on flesh: our flesh, so that God can continue to be present in a direct and personal way to the people living in this community at this time.


That makes Christmas, not just one day in the year, a feast commemorating one day in the long history of the world, but rather a constant and ongoing and ever-present reality.  When members of this church treat the poor and homeless with dignity and when they feed the hungry in God’s name, Christmas comes again.  When we sit down with children at CARE House or in our schools, caring for them with love and patience, Christmas comes again.  When we pause to listen to and hold the hands of the disabled and the elderly in the retirement communities and nursing facilities and homes of our area, Christmas comes again.  Wherever and whenever we carry on the work of Jesus, making God present in a direct and personal and thoroughly human way to those whom we are called to serve, Christmas comes again.


Seasons come and go.  The years come and go.  And yet, in the power of God’s Spirit and in the love of God’s people, Jesus continues to be present, in a direct and personal way, to the people of every place and every age through the love and service that we extend to them.  And it is in our continuing work of serving the world in God’s name, that the world can come to know that in fact, it really can be Christmas every day.