Christmas Eve 2020

  • Post author:
  • Post category:Sermons

A YouTube Video Version Follows (keep scrolling)

Shh…the cervix of the rational world is growing thin,
making way
for us to be born
into the mystical dimension
of a cosmos cluttered with more practical things.

To begin like that
may scare some of you
and creep out others
but if we can’t lace our speech
with such buttery light reality now,
on Christmas Eve,
then we never can.

Here we are, standing
on the very spot
where double-exposure of two worlds happens –
two realities always present to each other
at one and the same time
just like watercolors bleeding into one another
yet never fully joined.

Yes, the Beast of War
still snorts and heaves as loud as ever,
its hot breath dripping from enraged nostrils.
But also, there are few wolves
who oddly decided
to curled up with lambs –
and I’m not talking about in a mint jelly kind of way either.

You see, it is always like that,
both/and – beast of war
and wolves with lambs.

Even among us –
this peculiarly extended community
across time and continents
connected through the thin whisper of electrons –
some of us are suffering the haunt of grief,
the lamentation of fractured relationship,
the anxiety of illness,
or the guillotine of lost income.

At the very same time, for others,
the breath of God echoes on the wind
bringing an unexpected healing,
an oasis of peace from mental torment,
even rest to an exhausted soul.

Shh…don’t say it out loud,
because the rational world –
stretched like a latex glove over our brain –
will not believe it,
does not wish to see it,
will go to great lengths to live in denial of it.

So let’s not stir up our rationalism just now,
let it lie like the bony old dog it is.

Instead, stir up your imagination.
Invite your intuition and sail
that pond of emotion,
activating all five of your other senses.

That thing swirling around us
squeezing between our toes,
curling behind our ears
with its fingers running gentle over the scalp,
is the thin veil
between God and Creation
stretching thinner and thinner.

From one to ten it thins.
A veil so sheer it almost isn’t there;
so diaphanous and gauzy
it really doesn’t appear.
It is the veil between God and Creation –
a semi-permeable membrane
that gives shape without structure.

This double-exposure
of believable and unbelievable
is sometimes especially intense –
sometimes especially confounding.

As with negative ions stroking the skin
after a thunderstorm,
the thinning of this veil
crowds the air thick with knowing.

Shh…can you feel it, even now,
this pandemic Christmas Eve:
This socially distanced intimacy,
this time of masked smiling,
this silent night tethered to anxieties and hopes?

Sometimes, and now may be one of those times,
the veil gets stretched so tightly
across the border between us and the holy,
we can almost see little faces looking back at us
from the other side.

Little noses and lips smooshed
up against the invisible but opaque pane of days,
and our faces likewise pressed against the clear window
bringing smiles to the other side.

It is also true that skinny old dog
sleeping in the corner,
normally content
to sleep between meals and attention,
gets aroused when the veil is thinned.
The practical,
thoughtful mind
travels down a well-worn
rutted road
following the tracks of oxen,
and wagons wheels
it follows.

It doesn’t wander from those paths
and instead, works to keep itself in those ruts
and on those tracks.

It is the prove-it-to-me voice
within our heads,
and it ticks down the list of reasons
the veil is not there,
or if for some reason experienced, is not real.
It grumbles about commercialism
and keeps an eye on weather reports,
while barking about pandemics and war.

That voice is easily hassled and disturbed
by bad smells,
ugly scenes,
lost opportunities,
fearful possibilities,
and the knowledge that the Christmas tree
will die and just be thrown away in the end.

And still,
there is the other voice,
the quietly humming voice
coming from within the chamber
of our otherwise hardened hearts.

There is that definite cooing,
that bids us to look again
at the winter landscape
and see if we can’t perceive
a sign of Spring hidden there.

It is always like that,
both/and – two voices
with just one strand of music.

We have to choose which one
we will listen to now,
in this moment.
At Christmas, in the bleak mid-winter,
there is a strange magnetic power
that has the unbelievable seeping through
the thinning veil
between God and Creation.

It sneaks through our resistance;
it pokes through but sometimes
draws the attention of our cynical,
hassled, rational inclination
to just get through it all.

As much as we insist, and need,
the intellectually credible,
we also yearn for a lifting of the veil
on the strange and mystical.

It is always like that,
both/and – resisting and yearning.
It is what we do, we humans.

All this worship stuff
that we do on any given week,
is only an attempt
to say something intelligent
about the unbelievable holiness
that moves like smoke through history,
that sings it songs
in the ears of our otherwise routine
and unremarkable lives.

All our Bible readings
with all those antique images;
and all our hymns –
jolly or morose;
with all our poignant stories and poems;
our overly formulaic prayers,
and our predictable rhythms of Communion…
all of it, is just our way of stuttering
over what we are unable to say.

If, in all this stuff we do,
we think we are going to discover a big “Truth,”
or uncover some tidy summary of God
to unwrap each year in a digestible formula,
we are mistaken.
All of these things we do on Christmas
or any given Sunday,
are merely a highly articulate form of stammering.

As the veil between God and Creation thins,
just like a cervix in preparation for delivery,
we suddenly realize that our most eloquent
statements of faith crumble
into shards of nothingness.

That is the beauty of such thin moments
like the one we are in.

When we come upon a thin moment
there are only three things we can do
if we want to enter into it
instead of resisting it:

Now that old dog in the corner,
our insistent rationalism,
will bark
will guard the entrance,
will growl at anything threatening it.
So don’t wake the old thing. Let it lie.

Instead, watch and
listen, and
Don’t analyze the story.
Don’t try to figure out a mystery.
Don’t apply logic to a thin place.
Don’t dissect and evaluate it until it’s gone.
Instead, watch and
Experience it.
Feel it.
Enjoy the moment.
Later you can wake up that old dog
and give it a bone
but in the thin moment
just watch, listen, and wonder.

Even in this time of pandemic,
when it feels as though there is a fog around us,
and we may be more isolated than ever before,
we need to watch and listen,
and wonder.

We have entered a thin moment
and the cervix is tapering the border
between God and us –
and strange things are afoot.
Watch. Listen. Wonder. And enjoy.