Baptism is the ritual by which we sign up for a journey that through suffering and death brings us more and more to life. I could never belong to a religion that promised that if you do certain things you can avoid suffering. I can't believe in a god who would use power to relieve some people's suffering and not others. But I can believe in a God who sees what is going on in the world and comes down into human life and participates in human suffering, even death, and is able to bring meaning and hope and new life out of it.
Muslims and Jews follow a lunar calendar, so their holidays move around a lot. But last year the birthday of Mohammed fell on Christmas Eve. And this year, the first night of Hanukkah falls on Christmas Eve for the first time in 111 years. For the children of Abraham, that's a remarkable convergence. So I've asked my husband, Hank, to tell the story of Hanukkah, light the Menorah and say the blessing in Hebrew. Then I'll tell you why.
When it comes to the internet, we are left wondering, why does chaos spread so effortlessly and quickly, but love does not? The answer to that question points back to the incarnation. I would say that chaos spreads so much faster in cyberspace because it doesn't need a body, and love does. You can telecast the hate on Twitter pretty easily. But sharing the love is far more complicated. There are many variables. At the least, it requires our heads and our hearts and our hands.
There is a scourge plaguing this country. And I'm not talking about the Zika virus, the heroin epidemic, cancer or the Kardashian family. No, the silent sickness that has descended upon America today is loneliness.
So what if we treated our fears the way Newt Scamander treated his fantastic beasts? He named and claimed each one of them. And instead of trying to hunt them down and kill them, he studied them, so he could learn all he could from them. What if we did the same with our fears? I believe that by God's grace, we could learn a whole lot about love from them.
So we have good enough historical reasons for celebrating Christmas in the darkness of winter. But I believe we have even better theological reasons for doing so. What I want to argue today is that we need darkness in order to understand Christmas. I want to try to convince you that if we never experience darkness, we will never be able to see the one true light.
Shepherds are supposed to protect the sheep. So what do we do when shepherds say things that incite others to go after the sheep? The question of how to make our communities safe is being asked by city councils and school districts all over the country.
We finished the series on Paul last week, so on Sunday night, I went back to the lectionary and found two choices for the sermon today: this passage in Isaiah about the new creation or one in the Gospel of Luke about the end of the world. At the time, I wasn't sure which one would be most appropriate for a sermon after the election, and I'm still not sure, because a lot of us don't know what just happened or how we got here.
To preach on the politics of Paul, I could launch into a long discussion of the various schools of Christian political philosophy, but I think it will be more helpful if I just tell a story. This is the story of one Christian for whom the politics of Paul was no abstract theory; it was a lived reality. This is the story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
From the beginning, Christ was the plan and the purpose for creation. Christ is the revelation of love and the destination of love. And Christ is what holds everything together until we get there. So Rohr says that we have to stop thinking of Christ as the "divine plumber" come to fix the mess we got ourselves in. [Rohr, "Love Is the Nature of Being," 10/25/16] When we make Jesus out to be a problem solver, we make him too small and our understanding of salvation becomes small, too. But salvation is not just the solution to the problem of human sin. It is much bigger than that. Salvation is God's purpose for everything.