|Crab Supernova Explosion|
Sermon for Year A, The First Sunday After Christmas
By The Rev. Torey Lightcap
December 29, 2013
St. Thomas Episcopal Church
We Christians are a peculiar people who cling to a peculiar story,
And we are at this very moment celebrating Christmas,
Which is one of the highest of the most absurdly high points in that story.
Be glad, for you believers are different today. Set apart.
We claim today that the Word of God is the Word Made Flesh.
That the Son of God has come and dwelt among us.
That’s both lovely and strange, isn’t it?
If we didn’t already have it, we’d probably go and make it up because it’s just so beautiful.
This is the moment in that peculiar story when we find out
That no matter what knuckle-headed stunts we pull,
No matter how chronically unfaithful we are to God,
No matter how we slip up and have spotty permanent records --
God will always, recklessly, wastefully, tenderly love us and blot out our sins
As a mother brooding over her chicks will forget her children’s iniquities.
This is when we find out, again, that God will go to every conceivable length,
And way beyond even the stuff we can’t imagine,
Just to come to us.
So much does God love us.
It’s good news. Very, very good news.
John’s way of saying that,
In his Prologue to his Gospel,
Is so much more beautiful, engaging, mystical, and poetic
Than whatever I just said.
John reaches out to the furthest extremes of the universe and pulls it all together.
Some days it’s the just best statement about Jesus I know I’ll ever read,
And it makes me want to weep.
The poetry is sharp and powerful, you might even say disrupting,
While it is also -- and this is critical -- fundamentally true.
“He was in the world, and the world came into being through him;
Yet the world did not know him.
He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.
But to all who received him, who believed in his name,
He gave power to become children of God,
Who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.”
Very good news.
One of my seminary professors, Michael Floyd, used to say
That If it’s truly Good News, it should make people happy.
It should come as a word of relief and liberation from your burdens and cares.
It should arrive in the form of release
From all the world hurtles our way economically and spiritually and psychologically.
And because of that,
It should widen our eyes and quicken our pulse,
And it should put a crazy grin on our face from ear to ear.
It should be the thing you want to whisper to your closest lover
And shout to the whole passing world.
It should land in a soft spot in our hearts
And get to work on how we see the world
And transform everything until the reality
Of the mystery of divine grace, favor, and love
Becomes the only lens through which we can see the world.
Good News should make people happy.
Thank you, Michael. And I believe that, too.
News, they say, travels fast.
Good news should travel fast, too, but as long as it’s good,
It should also travel well.
It should be greeted in all quarters by happy voices
Who kick up Alleluias and Glorias and Come Let Us Adore Hims.
It should be on banners and web sites and business cards.
It should be the least shameful and most full-throated word
We would ever dare to give breath to.
The Good News of God in Christ is the reason we exist;
If we don’t want to tell it, then let’s go do something else instead.
As for me, I’m here, with you, in worship and adoration around the creche that’s also a throne.
So whether it is with this startling first-century poetry from John –
“In the beginning” and the Word that has no beginning and no end,
Jesus the Christ,
Coming to tabernacle on earth with all creation –
Or if it is here, with us, with us now,
It isn’t just another spectacle to see; it isn’t just another song to sing:
It’s Good News, the best there ever was,
And we get to behold, and then we get to turn around and go tell it.
Here’s the other thing.
We could all stand to widen out our lenses for seeing God at work.
It wouldn’t hurt us to think in the broader, more universal perspective
Just as John does in his Prologue.
It’s a common enough experience to look up at the night sky, the heavens practically on fire,
And to want to feel insignificantly small in the grand scheme of things.
It’s not unheard of, to crane your neck up at that infinite canvas of blackness,
Dotted with twinkling lights,
And to imagine that somehow you just don’t count.
But when you do look up, it’s important to remember that that’s us up there! --
And that the light going out from us is moving toward the light coming at us,
And all at the same speed.
An explanation? Sure.
All of us sitting here today are made from the exact same stuff
That makes up the stars in the sky,
Including of course the same star around which even our own little blue planet revolves.
Thirteen-point-seven billion years ago, when everything got started in the Big Bang,
Before any thing else but God and the Word That Was With God and the Animating Spirit,
A deep and invisible chemical process began cooking that made all things what they are now.
More recently, (!) four-and-a-half billion years ago,
Whole generations of dying stars called supernovas burned brightly for weeks after they died,
Telling the News,
Throwing off the very same atoms of carbon and oxygen and nitrogen and all the heavy elements
That we carry around -- that make us who we are.
What gave those stars life all those billions of years ago is precisely what also now gives us life.
Dying stars built our solar system and our planet, and then, much later, very slowly, they built us.
So we really are stardust -- it’s not just a song! --
Stardust, in the form of conscious, wondering, striving, loving, fighting, moral organisms.
Carl Sagan called us “starstuff pondering the stars.”
He wrote that humans are “organized assemblages of ten billion billion billion atoms
... [That are busy] considering the evolution of atoms.”
Any person and every person is a living, breathing star-remnant
With the capacity to look up at night and greet the ancestors.
And any person and every person today who is carrying the Good News about Jesus Christ
Is also carrying the universe around inside of himself.
Just give yourself permission to let those two ideas merge within,
And see what happens.
So there is the small view -- the finite, the limited --
And then there is the macro, the universal.
Last week we prayed asking that God
“Purify our conscience ... by ... daily visitation,
That ... Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself.”
Today we prayed that the “new light of [the] incarnate Word”
Today we prayed that the “new light of [the] incarnate Word”
Would be “enkindled in our hearts [and] shine forth in our lives
It all comes to the same.
You indeed are a suitable container for the Good News;
You indeed are a soft place for the Word to land and be implanted;
You indeed are the best vehicle God has for spreading the news.