Christmas Eve Sermon Year B

Saturday, December 24, 2005

The Rev. Peter Faass, Rector

St. John the Baptist, Sanbornville

Is. 9:2-4, 6-7; Ps. 96; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-20

A recent popular commercial for a major credit card company, depicts a rampaging horde of Vikings,Visigoths or Huns - one isn’t quite sure which - running through a mall filled with holiday shoppers, and pillaging everything in sight. I actually had a similar experience this past Thursday evening in Newington, as I completed some last minute Christmas shopping at the mall. I barely got out alive with my packages, barbarian hordes at my heels!

The rampaging horde in the commercial represent the unrestrained interest rates that other credit cards levy on your purchases, and the havoc they wreak on your personal finances. The commercial ends with one of the barbarians asking the viewer, “What’s in your wallet?”

Tonight I want to ask you another question that is a play on “What’s in your wallet?” And that question is this, “What’s in your heart?” What’s in your heart this Christmas Eve?” This is a question which - after some careful reflection - will hopefully lead you to the only answer that will provide you with a truly holy and meaningful Christmas.

Because here’s the amazing truth of the Incarnation: Someone desires more than anything else to be born in your heart tonight. And that someone is Jesus Christ. But he can only do that if you have room in your heart for him.

Maybe you heart is filled with worry tonight. Worry over the safety of a son or a daughter, a niece or a nephew, a friend or neighbor, who is in Iraq or Afghanistan this Christmas Eve, fighting in the war. Worry for the soldiers family and friends as they struggle without a parent, a spouse, a partner. Worry over the loneliness that comes from being in a foreign land during the season of comfort and joy.

Maybe your heart is filled with anger tonight. Anger about an argument you had with someone over something you can no longer remember the cause of. Anger that has no rational source, but continues to thrive as it feeds off of your soul like some parasite. Anger that bars the door to love.

Maybe your heart is filled with anxiety tonight. Anxiety as you anticipate those credit card billing statements that will be in your mail box, as December gives way to January. Anxiety because escalating heating oil costs mean you might not be warm this winter. Anxiety because you have been diagnosed with a serious illness.

Maybe your heart is filled with disappointment tonight. Disappointment over a failed project, or not getting a hoped for promotion at work. Disappointment at not getting better grades in school, or over a failed love affair. Disappointment at not hearing about the Rector’s Challenge for a Debt-Free and Holy Christmas earlier this season- or worse yet, disappointment at having ignored that challenge.

Maybe your heart is filled with loneliness tonight. Loneliness because this is your first Christmas as a widow, or of being divorced or separated. Loneliness because your grown children have moved to far-off places and the closest you will get to them and your grandchildren tonight, is a photograph downloaded off the internet. Loneliness because your relationship with your significant other is empty and meaningless. Loneliness because you are alone.

Maybe your heart is filled with malice and vengeance tonight. Malice toward those who have committed wrongs - real or perceived - against you: slighted, slandered, plotted, ignored, insulted, gossiped and undermined you. Vengeance because you plan on making all of this wrong “right” by doing the same to them in return.

Or maybe your heart is filled with sadness tonight. Sadness over the fact that you feel like a failure. That your life is passing by and you are not the person you want to be. Sadness that there is so much pain, hate and death in the world. Sad because no one seems genuinely interested in addressing the issues that degrade human life. Sadness that addictions control everything you say and do: sadness because your addictions have come to define who you are.

Maybe your heart is filled with resentment tonight. Resentment that you didn’t get the Christmas bonus you thought you deserved, or any bonus at all. Resentment that someone else received praise for a job well done, while your efforts went unnoticed. Resentment that someone compelled you to come to Church tonight, even though you would rather be partying with your friends. Resentment that the preacher keeps asking you these difficult, painful questions on a night we are supposed to be gay and jolly.

What is in your heart this Christmas Eve?

One of our favorite Christmas carols proclaims:

“Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heaven and nature sing,”

But if our hearts are filled with all these feelings and emotions, how can we prepare room for Him who passionately desires to be born in our heart? 2,000 years ago the Inn in Bethlehem was filled so that Jesus could not get in. If our hearts are filled with anger, worry, anxiety, resentment, loneliness, then how can Jesus be born in them. . . because for us, the manger of our heart is the only place where Jesus can be born. Think about Mary and Joseph. Think about the shocking twists and turns of their lives, as God called them to their special roles. Their hearts were fertile territory for feelings and thoughts of betrayal, adultery, being used, abandonment, unwanted responsibility. They had every reason to let their hearts be filled with anger, despair, resentment, anxiety, sadness, fear, loneliness, malice and vengeance, based on what happened to them. Yet they did not.

Mary and Joseph put these emotions and feelings aside. They moved beyond them to see how God would work in their lives. They emptied their hearts so that God could be born in them.

In the Gospel of Luke the events of the nativity leave Mary “pondering all these things in her heart.” I suspect that what Mary came to understand, is that while she gave birth to a son that night, God became truly incarnate in her heart.

The Christian mystic Meister Eckhart once said that, “God is always needing to be born.” Will God find room in your heart to be born? Can you put aside all those feelings and emotions that overwhelm you . .. that consume you . . . so that Christ can be born in the manger of your human heart and heal you? Because it is only when Christ is born in us, that we will be healed from all the pain and sorrows that afflict us.

It’s Christmas Eve. Outside the door of your heart stands a weary Galilean man named Joseph, with his teenaged wife Mary, who is sitting on a donkey. She is pregnant, her water has broken and her labor pains have begun. As you open the door, they ask you if there is room in the manger of your heart, so that their child, the Holy One of God, can be born there. Is there room for Him?

Back to the top