Isaiah 9: 2 – 7
Titus 2: 11 – 14
Luke 2: 1 – 20
When I came to the community now slightly over thirty years ago, we had just begun the process of writing our new Rule of Life. The old Rule had been respectfully laid aside, and we were experimenting by reading portions of the Rules of Life of other communities. We wanted to hear other voices, as we practiced using our own voice, as we began to articulate our own vision for our community.
But just as we listened to other voices, and began to listen to our own voice, we would often hear the voice of our original Rule of Life in the background. How could we not hear it? We had, after all, been listening to it on a nearly daily basis for almost 100 years by that time. Over the decades it had seeped into our corporate, and individual souls and would emerge in conversations, and reflections about the new Rule of Life that we were working on. Even though we were no longer reading our old Rule when I came to the community, certain phrases became familiar to me, so much so that thirty years later, they still crop up every once in a while in my prayer, and conversation.
One such phrase comes from the original chapter on Poverty where we read if the Society in any place is poor. Look to God to do great things by it. God has chosen the poor, the weak things of the world to confound the mighty. Think of the blessed poverty of Bethlehem, Nazareth, Calvary. It is this image of the poverty of Bethlehem, Nazareth, Calvary which arrests my attention this Christmas.
Isaiah 62: 6-1
Titus 3: 4-7
Luke 2: 1-20
Perhaps this has happened to you. As a child, or even as an adult, you read a book and it quickly became one of your favourites. Maybe you read it several times. With each reading you developed a mental picture of what the people looked like. Maybe this mental image of yours included details such as the look and feel of the surroundings, the house, the room, the landscape. Perhaps you could even see what the characters wore or ate. Maybe your mental picture of the book was pretty detailed. Perhaps it was quite simple. In either case you had an image, a feel that brought the book alive for you, and you could literally see and smell it all.
And then you saw the movie. And boy were you disappointed. The people looked all wrong. The house was not as you imagined it. Important details were left out. Or things were put in the wrong order. And where on earth did that character come from? They weren’t in the book.
Isaiah 9:2-7 / Psalm 96:1-4, 11-12 / Titus 2:11-14 / Luke 2:1-20
Christmas is here again! It’s a dark night – it’s a very dark world right now. And yet, on this night, this holy night, joy bubbles up! Joy, that God has come into our world, and given to us a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. The joy that Isaiah announced to Israel: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” (Isaiah 9:2) The joy that the angels announced to the shepherds: “Behold I bring you good news of great joy for all people.” (Luke 2:10)
Christmas is here – this silent and holy night. We are all gathered here in this lovely church to be still – before a great and mighty wonder. “While all things were in quiet silence, and the night was in the midst of her course, thy Almighty Word leapt down from heaven, from thy royal throne.” (Wisdom 18:14) And we have come to adore Him.
Spread out before us is this beautiful crèche, lovingly made from olive wood by woodcarvers in Bethlehem. I love to just stand and gaze at it – with wide-eyed wonder, like a child. I love the flickering candles. It reminds me that it all happened in darkest night. Those shepherds were keeping watch over their flock by night. And that deepest darkness was suddenly shattered by an intense light. “The angel of the Lord stood among them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them.” (Luke 2:9)
This evening, during the serving of Holy Communion, we will be invited to sing the very familiar, “O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!” The words of this hymn were penned by the great Boston preacher, Phillips Brooks, in the 19th century, a very different world than we know today.i
In the beginning, for all of us, we were enwombed in darkness. And though some children, as they grow up – perhaps even some of us here – learned to be afraid of the dark and of “things that go bump in the night,” our experience of life begins in the safety and security of the darkness of our mother’s womb.