December 28, 2012


Grandview Park - Courtesy Sioux City Public Museum
Grandview Park - 1940s/50s
Courtesy Sioux City Public Museum

Sermon for Year C, Christmas Eve
By The Rev. Torey Lightcap
December 24, 2012
St. Thomas Episcopal Church

Hello, hello. Welcome. Merry Christmas!
Hola. Bienvenidos. Feliz Navidad.
Chào, chào đón. Giáng sinh vui vẻ.
Good evening, all.
God bless you for being here.

If you would, please turn back to the front cover of your bulletin …
Unless you’re visiting from out of town,
  I’ll bet that when you look at that photo, you instantly know where it was taken.
That is a truly iconic spot.

Well, the caption gives it away, doesn’t it?
It’s the bandshell at Grandview Park,
  Which is about a five-minute walk from my front porch,
  And looking about the same now as it was when the photo was taken 60, 70 years ago.
I can’t say for sure about the trees, whether they are there today,
  Although I do think there are significantly fewer benches now.
But let’s not get caught up in those details,
  Because otherwse, it’s a lot like the place where we all might have gathered yesterday,
  Or at least back in the summer, to hear a band concert or to watch a free movie,
  Or to spend all day just marinating in good music at Saturday in the Park
    Before the fireworks went up,
  Or just sitting quiet while the world slowly revolved and the sun sat.
It’s a lot like that place, because it is that place.
A place I find myself jogging or walking to every now and again,
  Getting to the top of that hill and raising my arms like Rocky Balboa.
A place I go past when I take my kids to play in the park on the other side of that hill.

What’s it like to stare into history and to see yourself reflected in it?
What’s it like to consider all the places and seats you’ve sat in over the years,
  Or the one place you keep sitting?
What’s it like to look into a photo that may have even been taken from before your birth,
  But to see yourself in it?
It seems still in the air, doesn’t it, when it snows in black-and-white photos like that;
  Can you see yourself standing on that stage with sweet quiet all around you in the cold,
  While the little strains and snatches of music that will be played in the years to come
    Bounce around inside that shell behind you?
Can you look at something from the past and fill it with memories
  Of people and music and ideas from today?
Of course you can! It’s your imagination! How else would you do it?
Look at the past and there you are;
  Imagine the future and there you are;
  Even if you’re not in it, the details of your life are. Just look close enough.
Every single act of imagination is a statement about who and what we are.

Jesus, we say, is born this night in such low estate, and I believe it.
I believe it’s a story and I believe it’s a fact, and I believe it’s even truer than any of that.
I believe it’s a mystery to be held and nurtured
  And populated with ourselves and our memories;
  And something that in its own way demands to be understood,
    Only without the need to solve it, like some kind of math problem –
    Squaring a circle.
This memory –
  This common thread of Jesus’ birth that runs through our culture
    And speaks to our culture
    And was never more relevant and urgent for our culture than at this very moment –
  This memory is pure poetry.
Perhaps it is that tonight God rightly commands not our understanding,
  But only our contemplation,
    Not our virtue, not our wisdom, not our piety, but only our worship;
  And that is a fine gift to give a king.

We make it our own gift, this worship.
We assemble a common memory within this place this night.
We know only that we come to goggle
  At the incarnation of God –
    An idea, a being, a source of being so incomprehensible –
    Who has become a little boy
      Who will become a man
        Who, for us, will live a brief, bright, burning life on earth
        And who, for us, will die, yes … yet live.
None of that, my friends, is a magic trick; it’s an act of pure love.

Walk up Grandview, crest the hill, come into the snow-scattered benches.
Sit and drink in the hushed quiet.
See the others of us come, choose our place.
The stage is lit tonight, only by moonlight reflecting from the whiteness of the ground.
It’s a place we’ve all been before, but tonight is special, tonight is different.
Tonight we pay a distinct kind of attention: an unusual, a more reverent tone.
Something – the best thing, the only thing – is happening, and we get to be there.

Whispers rippling from the front of the crowd,
  Murmurs from the back. Now, a shout.
Something is happening.

We all came here not quite knowing what to expect,
  And now Whatever It Is, has happened.

Tonight, a simple message – I love you – has been fashioned,
  Steered by the breath of stars and angels to its destination in our little town.
We greet the good Word as he comes forth.
He will be a gentle doctor of souls,
  A humble king, a suffering servant, a misunderstood prophet.
He will teach with his words and his life,
  And as he gathers his disciples,
    He will tell them, Come, follow me.
For now, he is as new as a person can be,
  And has no speech.
So it falls to us to sing it out:
  Gloria in Excelsis Deo:
  Come, Let Us Adore Him.

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