CHRISTMAS EVE Sermon 2016 – BY PASTOR ANNE-GRETHE KROGH NIELSEN.
“Angels can fly because they can take themselves lightly.” ― G.K. Chesterton. Angels seem to fly often and low around Christmas Time. Maybe we as humans do have a hard time flying, because we contrary to angels to take ourselves so seriously and often put all the heavy burdens on our shoulders so it is impossible to fly.
I was an angle once. Very short and with hardly any glory – and I did not fly. I remember when I was a child in Denmark, we were putting on the Nativity Scene in our local church and I was chosen to be Gabriel – the mighty messenger. That might have been the very first time I stepped onto a pulpit, as I was to proclaim with a load angelic voice that Jesus was born to the world. - And so I did, but that is the very last thing I remember from that eve… As a young girl of 10 years, I was too young and weak to carry the load of the very beautiful but heavy wings that the part of Gabriel required… so right after my line, the weights of the wings forced me back, and fell from the pulpit and hit my head! Talk about a fallen angel! I since found my way to the pulpit again – but without wings! “Angels can fly because they can take themselves lightly.”
Once upon time another class in an elementary school was also putting on the nativity play and a little boy really really wanted to play the part of Joseph. But when the parts were handed out, his biggest rival in class was given that part and he was assigned to the boring Inn Keeper instead. The boy was bitter about that. So, during all the rehearsals he kept plotting in his mind what he might do the night of the performance to get even with his rival who was now Joseph. Finally, the night of the performance came, Mary and Joseph came walking across the stage and Joseph firmly knocked on the door of the Inn, and the Inn keeper opened the door and asked them gruffly what they wanted. Joseph answered: “We would like to have a room for the night!” - Suddenly the Inn Keeper threw the doors wide open and said with his happiest voice: “Great, welcome, welcome come on in, come on in and I’ll give you the best room in the house!” For a few seconds the poor little Joseph didn’t know what to do, and a long silence ensued. Finally, tough, thinking quickly on his feet, Joseph looked in past the Inn Keeper, first to the left and then to the right, the up and down, and then he said: “No wife of mine is going to stay in a dump like this. Come on, Mary, let’s go to the barn!”
And so, we are today listening to the story about the little child being born in the barn and wrapped in clothed and laid in the manger… because there was no room for them. We know and love the story of Christmas: the mother and the child, a warm image of love, faith, hope and family. The Christmas Gospel tells us that life is good and life is fine even if it begins in a barn.
Once upon a time…. Sometimes we forget what we should remember: that life is indeed right here and right now, joy is here and Christmas is here and now. Too often we are so occupied with the joys and sorrows of the past, that we forget the present moment. We remember all the good times, but certainly also all the mistakes, the fault and everything we ought to forget and let go. Too often we are co occupied with the future, that we forget the present moment. We make plans and calculations, we share our money, our time and our joy for some time soon, instead of sharing the joy in the moment. We save the joy for the days to come or we forget the joy of today living in the past.
The Christmas Gospel tells us that life is a precious gift given to us. That life is a precious strong gift entrusted to us. Life is be loved and to love. Life is to care and to be cared for. Life is the big and the small events. Life is to be found in the loving hands and the comforting embrace. – Sometimes we forget, what we should remember: that life is simple and yet great. That love is lovely, forgiving, embracing and necessary in our lives. This is the beginning of the Christmas Gospel. In the story about those days, long time ago in Bethlehem, when Mary found room in the stable and gave birth. Here it begins. Don’t forget.
We sing our old Christmas hymns with joy, and a new Danish Christmas Song has become a big hit this year in DK. “What makes Christmas so special?” the song is called and it asks: is it the stars, the Christmas tree, the abundance of gifts and food that makes Christmas so special? No, the song goes: the special thing about Christmas is when I realize and see that the little child in the manger is so much more than just a child in a manger. And we can only understand and see that, when we let time be time and are present in the moment. This child I the manger is so much more: ~ we mirror our own lives in the little child, our frailty, ~ we recognize our beloved children and grandchildren in the little child, ~ we understand the greatness in the humble truth: that light is stronger than darkness, love is stronger than hate and life is stronger than death. And we understand that this moment is much more important that all the days of the past or all the planned days of the future. “What makes Christmas so special?” we see the little child in the manger: ~ and remembers the joy of holding a child in our arms, ~ we realize how fast the days hastens by and that we need to live in the moment.
“Angels can fly because they can take themselves lightly.” Angels do fly these days to remind us just as they came to Bethlehem that night long time ago wit ha message of hope and peace and a calling to us as humans to be, to live and to chose.
The Italian author Luciano de Crescenzo said: “ We are each of us angels with only one wing, and we can only fly by embracing one another. “ It might sounds naïve or simple, but this is exactly what we realize at Christmas: that we embrace and are embraced, that we give and are given, that we truly can fly when we embrace, care and love one another. We are reminded of the importance of family and friends these days and thus we are also reminded to have eyes and ears and arms for those who might not be as blessed as we are. We gather today. In peace and in comfort and in joy. We see the little child in the manger – but I cannot look at this child without thinking about all the other children. The child in the manger reminds us not only about the cute peacefully sleeping children, we are reminded about all Gods’ Children on earth: the little child in the ruins of Aleppo, the crying child on the run, the fearful and tearful child in the aftermath of the Terror attack in Berlin. We cannot see the child in the manger without seeing all God’s children reflected: that is what makes this child and this Christmas so special: that we see and we know that we too have a responsibility, a compassion, and a calling. I just recently way a drawing of the Nativity scene as it would look without Jews, Arabs, and Refugees – and then there was only a cow, a donkey, and some sheep: no Jesus, no Mary or Joseph, no Shepherds, or Wise Men. When we truly look at the little child in the manger, we do see all God’s Children reflected in the calling for peace, love, and hope.
We are each of us angels with only one wing, and we can only fly by embracing one another.
Let us walk with each other to the child in the manger, just as the shepherds and lighthearted as the angels… and embrace each other, life, and faith. Let us wish each other a merry Christmas and a happy blessed new year with a strong persistently faith in light, in the child, in the joy, in the forgiveness and in God.
And let us try to fly as we embrace each other!
Merry Christmas! Amen.