Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Eve - Dec 24, 2012

Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY
Brother James Michael Dowd, ohc
Christmas Eve – Tuesday, December 24, 2012

Isaiah 9:2-7
Titus 2:11-14
Luke 2:1-20

Rage with Hope

Our Christmas tree on December 23,
before being trimmed by our guests on  Christmas Eve
Picture by George Reiner, AHC
Merry Christmas!

Again, I say to you, Merry Christmas!

It is nothing less than essential that we say Merry Christmas and that we greet this night with great joy, loud praises, and exuberant glorias. And so, I say to you again, Merry Christmas!

This greeting of joy is so urgent, my sisters and brothers, for we are a people who walk in darkness and yet we have seen a great light. We live in a land of deep darkness, and yet, on our land has shone a great light.

Our nation has been reeling these last ten days from the unspeakable violence unleashed in Newtown. We have, I believe, finally, awakened to the violence that plagues our suburban communities, infects our countryside, and handicaps our urban centers, only to realize that it was not a nightmare that we had been having, but a real experience of the slavery of violence that grips our people and seems to capture us in an endless loop of hopelessness and submission to that same violence. The violence that grips our nation – both in our foreign misadventures and in our own hometowns - is a darkness so pervasive that many have convinced themselves that to be an American is to have no choice but to bear the weapons most murderous. Weapons that can destroy as many people as possible whether that be in Pakistan or Afghanistan, Newtown or Aurora.

But again, I say to you, Merry Christmas.

I say, Merry Christmas, because we have a God who who has taught us that:
I have come into the world as light,
to prevent anyone who believes in me
from staying in the dark anymore.
1 John 12:46 NJB

And so I must tell you, my brothers and sisters, that the Incarnation demands that we rage in hope. The Emmanuel, the “God with Us” calls us to let every candle we light this season and every string of lights we hang these holidays, to be a symbol of our resistance to the darkness. The darkness cast by drones over Pakistan and a war fought in Iraq for fabricated reasons; the gloom befalling our land because of death in the darkness of a movie theater, or in the darkness of a corner closet in a kindergarten classroom. Rage with hope against this darkness because so much of this can be prevented. And the Incarnation demands that we prevent it.

But this darkness must not only be prevented, rather our lives must be illuminated, indeed our entire beings must glow with the glory of God. Because if we believe in Christ we do not have to stay in the darkness anymore. We can be freed from the dark shadow of hopelessness in the face of this gruesome violence; a violence that has become the American religion: a pagan belief system that worships weapons of mass destruction held in the hands of our government and our citizens.

So, I think, the questions to ask ourselves are: Do we believe that the darkness is so pervasive that we must arm ourselves into oblivion? Or do we believe, as the Prophet Isaiah did, that the light of the Prince of Peace is growing continuously and that there will be endless peace for his kingdom? These are not choices that others can make for you. This is a choice you can only make for yourself. Do you believe in the darkness or in the light?

And again, I say to you Merry Christmas! Because you see, there was another time in history in which a republic had descended into empire and wreaked a violent havoc on the poor of the world. They, or their minions, slaughtered men, women and children in unprecedented numbers in the name of the Pax Romana. They took what was not there's, they desecrated sacred sites, they imposed their will on innocent people. And it was into that world, that Christ came to “prevent anyone who believed in him from staying in the dark anymore.”

Into the darkness of the Roman Empire's occupation of Israel and into the darkness of Herod's vicious puppet kingdom, shone the glory of the Lord because the angel had come to the poorest of the poor – those shepherds living in the fields around Bethlehem – to tell the stunning news that God was no longer a distant un-nameable figure in a heaven far away, but a Savior, a Messiah, the Light that was good news and great joy for all the people. A God of this earth, this realm, these people. A God who loved us so much that God would make Godself one with us. Yes, even in our very broken humanity, God was desperate to show us a way to worship the God of Life, not a god of death. To bring us a light so bright that it would banish the darkness forever. And God would show us that way by teaching us to lay down our swords, our glocks and our drones and instead, focus our resources on the poor and the sick.

And so, like the shepherds, let us go to Bethlehem, but let us go to the Bethlehem of our hearts and, like Mary, let us ponder these things there, in our heart. Grotesque violence is not new. It is not particularly American. It is an aspect of humanity throughout recorded history and no doubt before that as well. We are broken to some degree, though we were created as good, indeed very good. But the American obsession with violence is centered on what amounts to the worship of weapons of mass destruction. And so we must bring the light of Christ to all those who fall victim to this profane worship. And we must be the light to the rest of us who have buckled to the “powers that be” in fear of their alleged control of the political process.

Bethlehem, Scripture tells us, was a village of great life as represented by the birth of Christ; and of terrible death, as represented by the murder of the Holy Innocents. I believe this is true of the Bethlehem of our hearts as well. When we go to the Bethlehem of our hearts and really, honestly, ponder these things, we know that we each have violence within us, whether we've ever touched a gun or not. But we also should know that we have Christ within us and that we have the same call as Mary did: to birth Christ in the form of a life lived in non-violence. We know that we have the same call as the shepherds did: to proclaim the Good News by sharing the hope of a loving, non-violent God, with others.

I believe in the Bethlehem of Life. I believe in Christ. And I believe in the Christ within each of you. And I believe in the Christ within me. And I believe that the Christ within you and within me can overcome the darkness and can shine so brightly that our prayer and our work will lead to a community led by the Prince of Peace. And that this community will share in that peace. And that we will sing with great gusto, all the while raging with hope: Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth: peace, peace, peace. And because I believe that, I say to you again: Merry Christmas!

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