Christmas Day 2017
Isaiah 9:2-7; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-20
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.
It’s strange to me that this quiet little Eucharist on Christmas morning has become my favorite of all our Christmas services. That’s strange to me because Christmas Eve is where all the action is. The Midnight Eucharist has always been the hallmark of St. John’s worship and it’s been a constant in my own life. I never remember a Christmas without the Midnight Eucharist. It’s big and glorious, the music is always perfect, you feel slightly superior to all the people who are in bed while you drive home at 1:00 on Christmas morning. And the earlier Eucharist on Christmas Eve is even bigger in many ways. Even more people, children all over the place. It’s raw and exciting. But this has become my favorite. It’s quiet and calm and maybe even a little lonely and it seems to set everything in perspective. It’s certainly not cost or time effective. There aren’t many of us here. It’s always a challenge to tend to the family Christmas time at the house and then make it back down here in time for this. But I’ve never resented it. In fact it has become a balm, a holy and quiet observation that winds everything up for good measure.
Come to think of it, this Eucharist is a wonderful symbol for much of the meaning of living. Life is full of periodic big events. But it’s really what happens next, after the big events, that brings the true meaning of living. Graduation is a big deal but it’s really what you do with what you’ve learned that is important. Weddings are big but it’s what you do in the relationship day to day that makes things work. Baptisms are grand but daily parenting is what counts. Every Eucharist is a big deal, we could say, but we come here to be empowered to return to what awaits out there.
The big things in life generally take care of themselves. It’s the little things that really make a difference. So said my parents as I grew up. I think what they meant was that the big things aren’t easily forgotten. We naturally get up for them and pull them off. But the little things are where it all comes together. Christmas itself can be a reminder of that. You can buy the big present but will you tend to the person you’ve bought the present for. The most dysfunctional families always seem to make a huge deal out of big events like Christmas or birthdays. The expectation is that everything will be perfect for that one day and maybe the secret hope is that the one special day will change all the abuse that has been going on. But what always happens is that, right after the special day, the family system goes right back to the abusive behavior. Sometimes the big events are just a big sham. But even when they’re not, what comes later is even more important.
Much of our work as Christians is to grow in our faith, to learn to trust God more, to yield our wills to God’s will, to live in hope rather than fear. Each of us yearns to be more faithful.
The Christmas celebration in a nutshell has more to do with God’s faithfulness than ours. God is so faithful that he comes to us in his only Son Jesus Christ even though we had wandered away and squandered his love for us. Nothing we have done chases God away. To a sinful and faithless world, in the fullness of time, God sends his only begotten Son to dwell among us.
And God’s faithfulness is not expressed primarily in big, showy ways. God’s faithfulness is expressed primarily in quiet constancy. When we are faithful, God is faithful. When we are unfaithful, God is even more faithful. When we are loving, God is faithful. When we are hateful, God is even more faithful. Day in and day out, God is faithful. When we notice God, God is faithful. When we don’t notice, God is even more faithful. When we are heroic, God is faithful. When we are schmucks, God is even more faithful.
Sometimes a quiet little Eucharist like this one on Christmas morning helps us know that quiet constancy even more fully. God is not only the grand peak way up high. God is also the very ground under our feet. The little things in life show God’s majesty in a wonderful way.