December 24: Vigil for the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ- Christmas Eve

The Rev. Joseph Peters-Mathews is the vicar of St. Hilda St. Patrick. The sermon for December 24, 2023 was preached in response to Luke 2:1-20 based on the manuscript below.

In the name of the Father,
and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Merry Christmas!
What a year we’ve had:
the pandemic phase of COVID is official over,
but COVID itself isn’t.
The war in Ukraine continues
as elections throughout the world
have yielded interesting results.
There’s unrest in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
and there was an attempted coup in Sierra Leone last month.
In early October Hamas attacked Israel,
killing 1,200 people and taking another 240 hostage.
Israel’s response has netted over 20,000 dead Gazans
in the ensuing two months.
That’s just a small summary
of global news!

We have our own local and national concerns, too.
Another presidential election
is less than a year away.
Our housing crisis is no closer to being solved,
and the opioid crisis is still ravaging our country.
In May the surgeon general’s office
issued an 82 page advisory called
“Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation.”
The more things change,
the more they stay the same.
For Isiah writing to Israelites in captivity
or Mary, Joseph, and shepherds
living under the oppressive thumb
of a far-off Roman government
instability is just par fo the course
of living as a human.
There are always opportunities for despair.
Not only opportunities,
but good reasons!

Through Advent
we talked about waiting for God,
looking forward to God’s coming reign
and all things being reconciled to one another.
Through Advent we talked about hope,
knowing that God has a plan.
Tonight we celebrate,
“The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;

those who lived in a land of deep darkness–
on them light has shined.”
“I am bringing you good news of great joy
for all the people:
to you is born this day in the city of David
a Savior, who is the Messiah,
the Lord.”
On this holy night,
hope is born.
In his book Abide in Peace,
Markus George Halley writes,
“The hope known in the Prophetic Tradition
of Judaism and interpreted
through the life and ministry of Jesus
is not the sole purchase
of Jewish and Christian People.
There is something fundamentally human
about this hope.
People from varying religious and moral traditions,
personal and cultural experiences
have given voice to the hope
that the world can be,
indeed will be,
a transformed place.”

The longing for the world to be a transformers place
is a human longing.
We understand that longing being met
in God giving up some of Godself
to take on human flesh.
Our longing for a new world
is met with God’s answer
in Jesus’ birth,
swaddled up tight,
and placed in a manger.
Knowing our loneliness epidemic,
knowing our wars and rumors of wars,
knowing oppresive systems and governments,
knowing the way sickness affects us —
and our choices around sickness
can impact others as well —
God is born in the flesh
to free us from sin, death, and the grave.
St. Athanasius said,
“For the Son of God became human
so that we might become God.”
God breaks into time
to change time
and change our lives.
God breaks into time
so that we can join God
in God’s dream for a reconciled world
and to join God
in working to bring that reconciliation about.

Tonight hope is born,
literally born,
in a vulnerable baby
born to save the world.
As the angels greet the shepherds
they tell them that they have good news
for all the people.
The hope God gives us in Jesus’ birth
is hope for the whole creation.
The salvation God brings about in Jesus’ birth
is the beginning of the reign of God drawing near,
when all things are made exceedingly well.

Tonight hope is born,
as we fight the loneliness epidemic
by gathering together
not merely as individuals
engaging in private piety around other people,
but one body of Christ.
We’re gathered together celebrating Jesus’ birth
hope being born through him
and gathering together to know him
in our gathering
and in bread and wine.
Tonight hope is born
as we pray to the Prince of Peace for that peace
which only he a can give.
Tonight hope is born
as we ask the Great Physician for the healing
of mind, body, spirit, soul, and human condition
that only God can give.
“I am bringing you good news of great joy
for all the people:
to you is born this day in the city of David
a Savior, who is the Messiah,
the Lord.”
Tonight hope is born. Amen.

Leave a Comment