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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion October 2, 2022 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.orgTime:  09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)        Every week on Sun.Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/83929911344?pwd=alZQTWZMN0ZkWFFPS1hmNjNkZkU2UT09Meeting ID: 839 2991 1344Password: Call for detailsOne tap mobile+13126266799,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (Chicago)+19294362866,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (New York)Dial by your location        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)        +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)Meeting ID:…
    • Sunday service - Holy Communion October 9, 2022 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.orgTime:  09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)        Every week on Sun.Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/83929911344?pwd=alZQTWZMN0ZkWFFPS1hmNjNkZkU2UT09Meeting ID: 839 2991 1344Password: Call for detailsOne tap mobile+13126266799,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (Chicago)+19294362866,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (New York)Dial by your location        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)        +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)Meeting ID:…
    • Sunday service - Holy Communion October 16, 2022 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.orgTime:  09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)        Every week on Sun.Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/83929911344?pwd=alZQTWZMN0ZkWFFPS1hmNjNkZkU2UT09Meeting ID: 839 2991 1344Password: Call for detailsOne tap mobile+13126266799,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (Chicago)+19294362866,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (New York)Dial by your location        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)        +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)Meeting ID:…

Christmas Eve—The Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ

Isaiah 9:2-7
Hymn 92—Angels from the realms of glory
Titus 2:11-14
Luke 2:1-20

No matter how many times we hear the Christmas story, it has something new to tell us every year. Isaiah proclaims, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” And indeed we have seen and are seeing that light.

This year, I have been thinking about the sheer humanness of this Christmas journey. Here we have Mary, a very young woman who is very pregnant, and Joseph,  the man to whom she is not yet married. So this pregnancy has a shadow of illegitimacy even though the Holy Spirit has created this child. Joseph is a man of deep faith who has a close relationship with God, a man who seeks the guidance of God and follows that guidance. And so, under this shadow but enlightened by God, Joseph does not divorce Mary, but rather follows God’s guidance. Mary, after asking some very reasonable questions, has said Yes to this amazing, creative, wonderful enterprise of God.

Things have been peaceful under the rule of Caesar Augustus, but Mary and Joseph live in a land that is occupied and carefully and sometimes ruthlessly, controlled by the vast and powerful Roman Empire. It has been a time of peace, which is good, but you know how governments can be. They like to keep track of things, so there is a census. Mary and Joseph have to go from Nazareth to Bethlehem, which is about 70 miles as the crow flies. It’s between 70 and 90 miles if you don’t fly, depending on the route you take.

Our son Michael was born on December 27, so that particular year I had no problem identifying with Mary. In fact, I thought about her a lot. Joseph was walking, leading the donkey on which she rode. Scholars tell us that back then folks usually walked about 3 miles an hour, and that the journey of, say, 80 miles would have taken at least four days, perhaps more. If it was four days, Joseph was walking almost seven hours each day. And Mary was keeping her seat on a lurching, bouncing, not very smoothly moving donkey that had no springs, shock absorbers or struts. Thinking about this has given me great respect and love for Mary. She is the one who said Yes to all of this, and we can all be thankful to her, because that took a level of courage that I can barely even imagine. We can also thank Joseph, who, because he loved Mary very much, respected her for her common sense and sound judgment, and had deep faith in God, believed what she told him about the angel Gabriel and his preposterous message and her saying Yes and then listened carefully to another angel who came to Joseph in a dream and confirmed Mary’s account.

And then when they finally got there, all the hotels were full, but a kindly innkeeper let them stay in the stable. So they were essentially homeless and then we know that, later, Joseph had to take his new family into Egypt to protect Jesus from King Herod, who, hearing of the birth of a new baby king, felt the best way to deal with this threat to his power was to kill all the baby boys. We’re getting ahead of ourselves, but this is by way of saying that our king was not born into privilege or security but into homelessness and refugee status.

But here he is, lying in a manger with bands of cloth around him—-a baby, not a king, not a president, not an emperor, but a baby. He came into the world just as we did.

And to whom did the angels proclaim this good news? Not kings and queens, not the privileged, but shepherds out tending their sheep by night. The fact that the angels told them first is astounding because shepherds were at the bottom of the social scale, They were considered ritually unclean, which was not a good thing to be, but  they couldn’t help it. Day in and day out, they were dealing with smelly sheep, the sheep manure, blood from cuts, flies circling around, all kinds of unclean things. And those are the people who were the first to receive these glad tidings. We need to keep in mind that the great King David, the ancestor of Jesus, was a shepherd, and that we know Jesus as our Good Shepherd, who will lead us to the green pastures and the good water. We know his voice and he knows us, warts and all, and loves us more than we can imagine but again we are getting ahead of ourselves.

Those shepherds had a quick consultation, and they knew they had to go and welcome this new king. The shepherds were the first preachers of the good news, They told everyone what the angels had told them. Mary treasured these things and pondered them in her heart and the shepherds went back to their flocks, singing God’s praises, their hearts warm with the love of God. On the social scale, they were low, but they were very close to the heart of God.

So God comes to us just as we came into the world, as a baby, and God lives a human life so that we can see God’s love shining forth from a fellow human being and we can live the way of love as Jesus calls us to do and as Bishop Curry teaches us to do.

We call Jesus Emmanuel, God with us. This day we remember and gather and sing with joy because God has come to be one of us and to show us the way. Our king has come to us in the most amazing way— as a little tiny baby in a little out of the way place rather like Sheldon or Montgomery or Fairfield or Fletcher or Franklin or Bakersfield or Enosburg Falls or Richford or Swanton or St. Albans. And God has come as an ordinary person to ordinary people like you and me.

And why has all of this happened? Because, in spite of our flaws, our past mistakes and stupid decisions and errors of judgment and things we wish we could do over again and get it right and things we wish we had not done at all, God loves us with a love that nothing can stop, a love that is immense beyond out ability to imagine, a love that is stronger than hate, a love that transforms division into unity, brokenness into wholeness, a love that brings life out of death. A love that is the most creative and powerful force on earth or anywhere else in God’s beloved universe. As Bishop Curry says, “Love is the Way.” Let us live in that Iove and walk that way of love.  Amen.

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