Monday, December 26, 2005

Christmas Church

So we did it - Christmas Eve and Day church. At first we were a little worried - when we got our leaflet for the Day service, it looked nearly identical to the night before's. But it turned out not to be - and it was glorious. I was so happy to be in church.

The sermon was outstanding, and I've gotten a copy of it. Although it's best heard with my preacher's wonderful intonations and resonant bass voice, you can get the idea. If you'd rather listen, it will be here in a couple of days.

Christmas Day Sermon by Gabriel Ferrer
[Gabri opened with a weather report for the benefit of those listening from colder parts of the country - yesterday it was cool in the morning with high clouds followed by blue, sunny skies and a high in the low to mid 70's. It was perfection.]

This morning, I'm going to give you the BEST Christmas present any preacher can give to a congregation: A TWO MINUTE SERMON.

Because, this morning, more than almost any other Sunday morning except perhaps Easter, the sermon is the Liturgy. It is the lyrics we sing and the words we read: Of the Ancient Logos, the Life of Humankind, Light, SHINING ON in darkness - a darkness that CANNOT overcome it. About that Word becoming FLESH and dwelling AMONG US - filled with enduring and everlasting LOVE. Of Bread, blessed and broken and taken and eaten - Bethlehem: literally: HOUSE OF BREAD. Nourishment and Sustenance and Life. The sermon is THERE.

Many years ago, the English poet W.H. Auden sent out his yearly Christmas card, with the words of this Carol on the front:
Tomorrow shall be my dancing day. I would my true love did so chance To see the legend of my play, To call my true love to my dance. Singing, O my love, O my love, my love, my love. This have I done for my true love. In a manger laid and wrapped I was, So very poor, this was my chance, Betwixt an ox and a silly poor ass, To call my true love to my dance.

On the inside, Auden wrote this:
Christmas is an ancient feast of frivolity (the Puritans forbade it) and this Carol seems to have caught that spirit. If we wish you a playful, dancing, merry Christmas, our intention is not the hope that you will find some rough mockery of the ecstasy, the pattern, the joy and the grace of the Ancient Dance in the frenzied days - the harried attempts to make sense of our lives - the half-guilty celebrations, the stilted human relationships which mark our fasts and fill our days. It is rather the hope - that you may perceive the legend of God's play: "This have I done for my true love" and that the festival of unsparing munificence will strengthen and deepen the elements of the Dance in your life: love and forgiveness and mystery and harmony and grace and attention and wonder and jubilation and praise and bodiliness and freedom and a pas de deux - spontaneously discovered for a few moments or labored out over faithful years. In this year of the plod and march of technology and war, of our own plod and march, we wish you the Dance of the Word of God. Now he shares our poverty - and there is an chance. I know nothing, except what everyone knows: if there when Grace dances - I should dance.

As the Ancient Prayer dating back from the 3rd C. says:
This day true peace has come down to us from heaven, this day the heavens drip honey upon the entire world. This day brought the dawn of new redemption, of the deliverance announced of old, of eternal happiness. Wonderful the dignity you bestowed O God, on human nature when you created it; more wonderful still its condition when you recreated it - as Jesus Christ stooped to share our human nature, so that we may share the lot of his divine nature. Let us dance with delight in the Lord and let our hearts be filled with rejoicing, for eternal salvation has appeared on the earth, alleluia.

A Playful, Dancing, Merry Christmas to you all!


Emily said...

You're right. It is a good sermon.

Trust Auden to put it all so beautifully as well.

Peterson Toscano said...

I absolutely adore that sermon! Thanks for sharing it.

M.J. said...

Ah, Gabri's sermons....aren't they great!

I went to the Episcopal Cathedral in Portland for their 11 p.m. service. After being at the church where we've both been I now understand how SPOILED we are - no one does liturgy as well as there and at Grace in SF.