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First Parish Universalist Church
790 Washington Street, P. O. Box 284, Stoughton, Massachusetts 02072 
(781) 344-6800
Worship: 10:30 AM
Children's Chapel:  10:30 AM
Church School: 10:45 AM
 

The Glorious Impossible

Rev. Jeffrey Symynkywicz, December 24, 2004

 

Madeline L’Engle has written:

“Very different from the simple shepherds were the wise men who came from three different parts of the globe, a long journey that must have taken them well over a year. They were serious scholars who studied the heavens and the movement of the heavenly bodies. They were both astronomers and astrologers, and we have not seen their like since astronomy and astrology were separated many centuries ago.

“The wise men were wise men indeed, men of great intellectual sophistication; but each one saw the birth of an unknown child as an event of unprecedented proportions, and each one left his home to make the long trip to Judea because of what he had read in the movement of the planets and the stars. They understood that the birth of a single child could affect the entire universe, just as physicists today understand that all creation is a single organism. Nothing happens in isolation. The crying of a baby sends sound waves to galaxies thousand of light years away.

“So these ancient astronomers believed that something was happening in Bethlehem that would change the world.”

Indeed, the crying of a baby sends sound waves to galaxies thousand of light years away.

But it takes those sound waves numberless years to reach their destination.

The crying of that baby in Bethlehem is sending sound waves, even now, to our age and time, and to our world.

But it has taken those sound waves more than two millennia to reach their goal.

They have passed through the enmity and strife of countless wars; through plague and pestilence and numberless disasters; they have wafted over tragedy and have transcended hatred and prejudice and unspeakable inhumanity. And now, could it be, that that infant’s holy cry is finally about to come to rest in our ears, and in our hearts, and in our deeper consciousness?

With every child that is born, our hope is born anew.

With every Christmas Eve, we remember again the true meaning of our being on this Earth.

Perhaps something is happening in the Bethlehems of our hearts that will finally change our world.

If we really remembered why we are here-- if we truly lived according to the Glorious Impossible of Christmas, it would turn this old world of ours on its head. (And given the present state of the world, that is probably where it deserves to be.)

As my esteemed predecessor in this pulpit, Gordon McKeeman, once wrote:

“It is not Christmas which is incredible, but the lives we lead [the rest of the year] which are unbelievable, unreal, untrue. The fear-wracked, anxiety-ridden, violent, tortured, frustrated selves with which we live present but a… [debased] parody of the divinity of humankind.”

Christmas reminds us of the divinity in our souls—and of the splendid and sacred possibilities which lie encoded in the human-divine alchemy each of us represents.

At the heart of Christmas, there lies a paradox, many paradoxes really:

A holy child born of a virgin mother… Three wise men traveling halfway around the world to visit a simple baby… An earth-shattering event taking place not in a mighty capital, but in a small and isolated country town… No high and mighty, rich and famous scions of society there to witness it—just simple shepherds, the poorest of the poor. The finger of God touching not a luxurious palace or a mighty fortress, but a simple stable, and transforming it into the center of a new heaven and a new earth…

And from these beautiful myths would come that solitary life of a humble carpenter from Nazareth whose very life would shine forth with the hope of the hopeless and the power of the powerless.

So may there be such a holy paradox at the heart of our own Christmas—some intimation that all the garishness and the commercialism and the noise and the bother, may, in truth, be leading us, in the fullness of time, away from the mall and the religion of materialism—away from the halls of conflict— away from the battlefields-- away from narrow self-interest—away from the cynical and disillusioned self-debasement we take as “normal” the rest of the year.

Perhaps the sound waves (the age waves) of that first gloriously impossible Christmas are stirring our souls at last, and guiding us toward a new nativity—a new birth—a new age—finally come to birth in our own lives, and in the life of our world.

Here is the real miracle of Christmas (and here is how Christmas can turn our most rigid perceptions of ourselves on their heads). Christmas shows us:

That our deepest power arises from our simplicity and humility (as gentle as a newborn babe held in his or her mother’s arms);

That when the night is darkest, we see the shining of the stars most gloriously;

That only in knowing what we yearn for can we be filled;

That the choicest gifts of life come to us when we are most empty;

“That,” as the martyred Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador said on Christmas Eve in 1978, ”no one can celebrate a genuine Christmas without being truly poor. The self-sufficient, the proud, those who, because they have everything, look down on others, those who have no need even of God—for them there will be no Christmas. Only the poor, the hungry, those who need someone to come on their behalf, will have that someone. That someone is God, Emmanuel, God-with-us. Without poverty of spirit, there can be no abundance of God.”

Let us not, in our fullness and in our too-full-of-our-self-ness, crowd the Christ Child out of the welcoming inn of our hearts. He has taken a long time to arrive here. It has been a difficult delivery for peace and justice in this world of ours, and in all too many quarters, Herod still rules, arrogantly and stubbornly doing the bidding of his imperial taskmasters.

If we keep still long enough, and if we listen closely enough, we may yet hear that newborn babe’s cry at last—and hear, at last, before it is too late, his mother’s gentle lullaby of peace. It is the cry of every child of our Mother Earth yearning for food, and warmth, and safety, and love. It is the cry and the yearning of each of us who yearns for the Spirit’s healing touch.

Let our hearts prepare him room. And may we greet the holy child of hope—and all of our brothers and sisters the world over, who wear (as we all do) his divine and human image—with the most sacred and abundant hospitality of our hands and of our hearts—not just at Christmas, but in every season; indeed, in every moment of our lives.

A blessed and peaceful Christmas to you all.

 


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