|Calvary Episcopal Church, Rockdale
December 24, 2006
The Rev. Robert C. Granfeldt
December 24th! Amazing! Seems like we just celebrated Christmas about, what, three…, three and
a half months ago? Mary and I are learning that it’s true: time really does speed up as we get
older! Quite remarkable, really.
Anyway, here we are, again – the 24th of December. The 4th Sunday of Advent and in just about 7
hours it’ll be Christmas; or, to be precise – despite what the dictionaries say – the evening of
Christmas Day, which is what Christmas Eve really means, harking ‘way back to Biblical times when
it was considered that a new day began as the sun went down! So Christmas begins, today, at 4:41,
Eastern Standard Time – sunset - and ends tomorrow at 4:42 - sunset!
And a couple of hours later we’ll have our first Christmas service of worship, when the kids will be
here, and the excitement level will be up to here, and I’ll be looking out at a sea of smiling faces –
convinced that soon little bags of Christmas gold-coin chocolates will soon come winging out of
this pulpit! And they will – IF, of course, that funny old guy with the big, white beard, in the rd suit,
drops them off, again, as he usually does. But I make no promises! I just do as I’m told.
That Service, though, will not be an occasion for either very serious talk or thought. So as far as
serious talk for Christmas is concerned, I guess this is it! So here goes.
Every year, it seems, we hear more and more complaints from about what terrible things they
perceive are happening – actually, “being done” – to Christmas. For a long time they were all about
the “commercialization” of Christmas; we’re used to that. But more recently they’ve been about
some imaginary “attack on Christmas,” being sold to us, particularly, by some of our evangelical
But of course, “Christmas,” to begin with, is not really the name of the Holy Day that begins today at
4:41PM – that’s the Feast of the Nativity! And I’ve long been of the opinion that no one can do
anything TO the Feast of the Nativity except Christians, themselves – believers, whose call it is to
celebrate the coming of the Christ. Personally, I couldn’t care less about Department store Santas,
“Black Friday,” or Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer! Nor do I care whether the checkout
person at the Acme or at Best Buy wishes me a Merry Christmas, a Happy Chanukah, a wonderful
Kwanzaa, or just says, “Happy Holidays!”
What I do care about is the fact of the Incarnation of the Living Word of God in the person whose
birth we’re about to celebrate. And any time we allow that event to be less than it was, and is, and
ever shall be, it is WE who are doing violence to the occasion.
But we do it, so often innocently – no, naively – and in such unsuspecting ways.
On the NBC News at 6:30 last Friday Evening, the Anchor Man, Brian Williams, closed his last
weekday broadcast before Christmas by citing a letter he had received from a long-time viewer,
with a request. He asked Mr. Williams if, at his closing on the 22nd, he would “please sign off with a
reflection on Christmas the way we all remember it to be; you know, before e-mails and wars, when
families and the world were at peace, and for that one day we all were in harmony.”
I hope the problem, here, is obvious to all.
It’s that what the man was talking about was purely imaginary!
There’s never in the history of the world been a time “before wars.”
Never a time when families have all been at peace with one another – or when the world has been
Never a time when “we” were all in harmony!
And there’s never been a time when the world was any different on Christmas than it is at any
other time of the year – nor is there any reason to think it should be!
To think something like this is to confuse the Feast of the Incarnation with some notion of the
occasion we call Christmas; our understanding of reality with myth; the Incarnation of the Living
Lord in Jesus of Nazareth with the story of the Garden of Eden!
Myths are important in human life, in the human psyche. Myths reveal to us depths of our humanity
that we could never know otherwise – could never know, face to face, could never even imagine.
Myths teach us about one another, about ourselves, about the world we live in – not about the
“real” world, the world “out there,” but only about the world in here, the world where our spirit
lives, the world where our world meets God’s world, where our reality comes into contact with God’
But when we fall into the awful error of mistaking the world of myth for the world we live our lives
in, we rob the myth of its power to work in us, to direct us, to change us.
And we rob God of God’s primary means of communicating with us, of calling us and teaching us to
be what God would have us be!
No, the world can’t harm this Holy Day, or rob it of its meaning – whether it be through commerce or
through the so-called enemies of Christmas!
Only we can harm it for ourselves. Only we can destroy it for ourselves; destroy it by confusing the
realities, or in our misguided zeal to protect it by making of it something less than it really is:
whether by sentimentalizing it, or by making it represent a world that never was!
So let’s go ahead and join in – and enjoy – the world’s celebration of something it doesn’t
understand, the secular “Holiday Season!” There’s no real harm in it, no real danger – and it’s a lot
of fun! But let’s see it for what it IS and what it HAS BEEN – a time of secular fun and relaxation,
invented in its present form less than 200 years ago by that good Episcopalian, Clement Clark
Moore, and that not so good Anglican, Charles Dickens!
And let’s keep the Feast of the Nativity, too – the great celebration of the Incarnation of God in God’
s Christ, God’s anointed one; the celebration of a God audacious enough to choose to empty
himself of “godness,” so that he might enter into his own creation; the celebration of the deity so
in love with his children that he would become one of them – one of US – that WE might be deified;
of God becoming one with us so that we might become one with God. And nothing less!
In the name of the one whose birth we celebrate this night – the Incarnate One, that same Jesus
who is Christ the Lord! Amen.