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Saint Ignatius of Antioch Episcopal Church

An Episcopal Church in the Anglo-Catholic Tradition Where All Are Welcome

The First Sunday After Christmas
28 December 2008

A Sermon Preached by the Rev’d Dr Andrew C. Blume

Almighty God, who hast poured upon us the new light of thine incarnate Word: Grant that the same light, enkindled in our hearts, may shine forth in our lives; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Isaiah 61:10-62:3
Psalm 147
Galatians 3:23-25; 4:4-7
John 1:1-18

Christmas is not over. It is not something we can toss away with the wrapping paper after all the presents have been opened on Christmas Morning. The mystery of the Incarnation is something with which we sit for a full twelve days. The twelve days of Christmas is not simply a song with party-trick lyrics that are fun to remember and change in funny and amusing ways. Christmas is a full blown, twelve day feast following upon a month of preparation, of watching and waiting, and of self-examination.

We began our feast in the liminal world of the evening, that time between light and dark, as we ended our Advent watch with the angel’s announcement, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” That announcement called us to our Christmas celebration, that first Eucharist on Christmas Eve, that joyful celebration in the darkness, illuminated by the love of God pouring forth from the manger, pouring forth from the Child, the unlikely messiah.

When we awoke on Christmas Morning, we realised that it was not just a dream and we returned to this place for another meal in which Jesus was once again present with us, present in the Sacrament, and present with us still in the manger, in our humble creche. Indeed, each of the mornings of the twelve days of Christmas we wake up to realise that it was not all just a dream. God did act. God did send his only son, born of a human mother. God did send the improbable Messiah, the child. God did send the one for whom we have been waiting and it is through the love of the vulnerable child that we learn the depths and heights of love. It is in the life of this child, the life we know lies before him, that we will see the depths of pain and hurt and see how love, the love of God, made present here on earth in the Paschal Mystery is the triumphant reality of the Universe.

So today (as on Christmas morning when we first awoke to realise it was not just a dream), we read in the Gospel of John that this event, this child, this wonderful Word of God—God’s very reason and self-expression—was always a part of God. We learn that the Word was waiting from the beginning to be expressed in the person of Jesus Christ so that all the world might be reconciled with God, so that all the world would see the light of God by his light.

This Word of God, this child, God’s own self-expression, “became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.” “We have beheld his glory,” John tells us, “glory as of the only Son from the Father. And from his fulness have we all received, grace upon grace.” God’s self-expression was enacted in creation in the life of a child who became a man who “came to his own home, and his own people received him not. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.” It is through this child, God’s Word expressed in time and space, that each and every one of us may be reconciled with God in and through love. It is through this child, through the light that shines forth in his birth, life, death, and resurrection that we see and know and feel that we are loved so completely, so fully, so wonderfully, and are ourselves given “power to become children of God.”

Each morning of the twelve days of Christmas we receive not a partridge, or a drummer, or a lady dancing, or a maid a milking, but rather the gift of the power to become children of God. Each morning of the twelve days of Christmas we wake up and realise that it was all not a dream, that our Advent watch was not in vain, that our preparations were timely, and that we were awake when the moment came to behold our Lord, our Everlasting Father, our Prince of Peace, and that this person came in the form of the Child, God’s very Word, god’s very self-expression. Each morning of the twelve days of Christmas we are given the gift of life and light. So I say, feast on. There will be time later for fasting. Now that the Word of God is here, let us rejoice and sing and be merry!

Andrew C. Blume+
New York City
Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist, 27 December 2008

©2008 Andrew Charles Blume