Christmas 2016 - Christ Church Rock Spring
'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there….”
St. Nicholas was a real person. A bishop in what is now modern day Turkey. A man of faith who cared. Nicholas cared for others the way God in Christ came down on Christmas morn to personally care for others – all others. So when St. Nicholas heard of three young maidens who were too poor to get married for lack of a proper dowry, he came to their aid. One story says he threw three bags of gold coins in the window for them. Another says he dropped the bags of gold coins down the chimney.
Then there’s the time Nicholas was on board a ship headed to the Holy Land. Nicholas had a dream that the ship would sail into a violent storm. The next morning he awoke as the ship was being tossed to and fro. A sailor climbed the mast to tie ropes to secure it when a wind blew him to his death on the deck. The sailors begged Nicholas to pray for their comrade and for them. As he prayed the storm subsided and the man was revived.
What is important to remember about St. Nicholas, or Santa Claus as he now is known, is that he was inspired by a story – a story that says into a world of darkness Love came down to live with us. God came down to live with us to show us the Light and the Way. The God who is Love came down to be closer with us; to give us faith, hope and charity – the Way of Light and Love.
Nicholas continued his pilgrimage to the Holy Land to see the place in Bethlehem where Love came down and moved into our neighborhood. Love became flesh and blood, like Father, like Son, to show us the Light and the Way. God became one of us – Immanuel: God with us.
So where do we find him, this child who is God? How do we recognize him? In 1998 I was attending a Stewardship conference in Syracuse, New York. I was leading some music in a room of about 60 people. At a table in the front of the room was a group of deaf Episcopalians. Someone was signing the proceedings for them. As we sang, Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God, they were all signing the song as we sang. One by one people behind them began to join in signing the Alleluias, until soon everyone in the room had left our world of hearing and entered into their world – the world of American Sign Language. Finally, the person signing for them urged them to turn around to see what was happening. The looks on their faces was the Light of Christ shining into our darkness. We were no longer singing about seeking the kingdom of God, we had entered into God's kingdom, God's world, God's rule of love for God and neighbor.
We need not look for faith, hope, light and love - we need only recognize that He is already here and submit ourselves to Him; to allow Him to give us a new life of Love and Light. For He is here. He is wherever there are people who are shut out of the usual structures of power. He is wherever people are lonely, in need of feeding, healing or a helping hand to reach out. He is wherever we enter into the lives of those who are broken in this world. God will accomplish God's purpose with us or without us. Come closer to the God who comes even now to be closer to us. To show us the way of Light and Love. God bless us, every one! Alleluia! Alleluia!