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  • Fr. George

Christmas on the Edge

Today is one of those days for which I have no words, really. Shocking, I know, to anyone who truly knows me that I would ever, ever run out of words …. But by Christmas morning, I have preached a funeral homily on Saturday, two sermons on Advent 4 (that’s was Sunday, folks), at 4 pm with the wonderful kids, at 10:30 last night and now, again, today. But it is not the many homilies that must be prepared or the time of day or night or whatever, it is simply, when we think about it, stunning to take in it all; to comprehend all that God has done and will do, and how much we are loved and held by God in this crazy, challenging, and yet mysterious and beautiful old world. So, I say with all the joy I can muster, and trust me, there is still a lot left in that particular God-filled tank, Merry Christmas!!!!

Since words can be a challenge on Christmas morning, I want to share a poem, in this season for which the wonderful English poet and musician Malcolm Guite wrote it. He is, by the way, a priest in the Church of England and Chaplain of Griton College, Cambridge. The poem is called Christmas on the Edge and, lest you worry, it is not about being on the kind of edge that looks into an abyss, like many men’s favorite Christmas movies (see Die Hard or the unfortunate Jingle All the Way). No, Malcolm is sharing with us that God’s Christmas miracle, His great inbreaking into our world, tells us that we are on the edge of something truly and inexplicably powerful and joyful, after which world has never been and will never be the same. God has re-aligned who we are as His people. Here we go:

Christmas on the Edge

Christmas sets the centre on the edge;

The edge of town, the outhouse of the inn,

The fringe of empire, far from privilege

And power, on the edge and outer spin

Of turning worlds, a margin of small stars

That edge a galaxy itself light years

From some unguessed at cosmic origin.

Christmas sets the centre at the edge.

And from this day our world is re-aligned

A tiny seed unfolding in the womb

Becomes the source from which we all unfold

And flower into being. We are healed,

The end begins, the tomb becomes a womb,

For now in him all things are re-aligned.

— Malcolm Guite

“And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only Son, full of grace and truth.” The end of our sorrow has begun, the grave of Christ’s death Has become the womb of Resurrection, and today we celebrate the beginning of that ending, as we remember that God has broken into the world and shattered the darkness and in Him we not only see Light, we experience the light of His presence, full of grace, truth and hope.

I think it is worth looking at Psalm 98, always our Psalter for Christmas Day. The Psalmist cries out that God: “has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises.

Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who live in it. Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills sing together for joy at the presence of the LORD, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.”

And the Psalmist goes on. God has, as Malcolm Guite’s poem reminds us, realigned even the planet which, when we listen to, see, and hear our world, in light of God’s love which came among us and reversed the sin, lostness, and hopelessness of the human condition, well, then, the very sea roars in triumph, the rivers clap their watery hands in praise, and the hills sing the echoing of the angel song: Glory to God in the highest!!! For God has come to judge the people with equity. No special treatment for the rich, the powerful, or the settled …. for the poor, the homeless, those living in Camps and detention centers, the grieving, and the lost are seen as equals. On this day, we should understand that God has begun the ending of our pain and all that is truly left, other than Christ’s return, is for us to live into what the natural earth already knows: God is nigh, the night of our darkness is nearly over, and God’s kingdom has come near in Jesus Christ.

We understand, of course, that the world is not as it should be and there is much we are missing, losing and/or failing to do. God’ realignment of the world in Christ - His saving entrance, full of grace and truth, through the birth that will become the ministry that will become the death and resurrection of Christ – is not yet our realignment. But, the seed has been planted. And I love that image of the seed that Malcolm’s poem more than hints at. Remember he writes:

A tiny seed unfolding in the womb

Becomes the source from which we all unfold

And flower into being…..

Our fortunes, my brothers and sisters in Christ, are tied together. We go as Christ goes and God, in Jesus’ coming, calls us to grab hold to him with both hands and to never let go. In Christ, we become all that we were ever intended to be: beloved of God, saved at the first and at the last, and realigned into the blessed Light that Jesus shines wherever He is shared, experienced, or held onto. Christ’s coming was and is a cosmic event, the One who was from before time, as God’s plan for us unfolded, He entered our sphere like a meteor, leaving a crater in the human spirit that will never, ever fade – Christ has come, Christ has realigned our reality from one of darkness to one of hope and light.

Today, we feel that realignment. We understand that Christ realigned what it means to be human: it is to be full of the knowledge and hope that we are all saved, beloved children of God no matter our condition. We are sensing that all people are our brothers and sisters by virtue of our baptism; all are dignified. We are told that those in halls of power are not more than the people they serve and all have voice, because they are held by the God who made us all; the God that became the seed in the womb of Mary, and with Him we grow into all we can and need to be.

We are healed,

The end begins, the tomb becomes a womb,

For now in him all things are re-aligned.

Not only for now but for all time. Christmas is not simply a time of holy celebration and expectancy. It is one of realization that we are made new creations by the coming of God among us in Christ, “full of grace and truth. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” Nor will it ever, because God, in Christ, has realigned the world for us to become the people of God, full of grace and truth. Merry Christmas!

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