I Christmas, Sunday 29 December, 2019
Jesus, the very thought of Thee
With sweetness fills the breast!
Yet sweeter far Thy face to see
And in Thy presence rest.
No voice can sing, no heart can frame,
Nor can the memory find,
A sweeter sound than Jesus’ name,
The Savior of mankind.
O hope of every contrite heart!
O joy of all the meek!
To those who fall, how kind Thou art!
How good to those who seek!
In the name of God; Father , Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
One of the things I heard fairly often before Christmas services was that Christmas seems to have snuck up on people this year. I tend to agree, even though I suppose it seems a little ridiculous for a feast with a fixed date to surprise anyone. Even still, that feeling led to a heightened sense of immediacy as we prepared for the parish Christmas. I’d hoped that immediacy would not dissolve into blind haste as we prepared, and I’m pleased to say that it really didn’t. As I reflected between opening presents, roasts, naps, and other post-Christmas service activities, I see now that a heightened sense of the imminence of Christ’s presence actually helped me realize afresh the newness of what God promises us in the incarnation, and that once again we need the Christ-Mass to get through the New Year.
Therefore, I thought I’d offer some thoughts on how we can approach 2020 with the Incarnation in mind. 2019 was, for so many, a stressful year and these things don’t tend to just simply go away at the turn of a calendar. Plus there’s going to be a general election this year, and frankly, we will all very much need the present help of Christ to keep it together.
In all likelihood, this coming year will see people profoundly divided. We must, by grace, be obedient to Christ’s command to live as one in his love. In prayer and practice, we need to consider that God sent the light of Christ into the world all the while knowing of the darkness therein. He loved us enough to send Christ to us anyway. St. John reminds us that the darkness did not overcome the light. I think this means that the love we are meant to show the world, especially in a time where contention seems imminent, should reflect the love that God has for us. In practice this means that we need to consider those in front of us as having their nature given to them by God, as loved by God, as worthy of love and dignity as befits someone who may be considered “a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.” People are people, not just a summary of opinions. We do our best when we are open to God’s love revealing this to us person by person. We do our best when we find ways to love people we disagree with because God loves us and yes, disagrees with many of our decisions, but loves us anyway. We know this, because He sent His Son to be among us.
St. John wrote, “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” This beautiful and moving text reveals something about God’s pastoral method. In the Incarnation, human beings were able to get to know Jesus, were able to be with him, to live with him, hear him teach, laugh with him, cry with him, and basically be human with him. While, we don’t interact with him in the same way as his disciples, Christ left his Church and the sacraments to embody his love, and keep his ministry human. God’s design for us is to be present with one another, and He showed us this design by doing it. I think that might be a great corrective for us in 2020. We need to stay embodied with one another; and we need to share our lives together. Practically speaking, we should live embodied lives. Consider how we interact with each other online, for example. If people are more than the summary of their opinions, people need more than the output of electrons. People need more from each other than posts on social media. And, here’s some real talk from the rector, know that very few people have their minds and hearts changed by even the best soapbox-y posts on facebook. If you want to change peoples’ hearts and minds, you must love them and spend actual time with them in person (then you can do some posting I guess). It’s much harder, but it’s way better, I promise. Again, we know it works because God did it first.
Finally, in light of the Word made flesh, we should consider the prophet Isaiah’s words:
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
my whole being shall exult in my God;
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
I believe that the incarnation is the adornment of humanity with love, peace, beauty, and truth because in Christ divinity is mysteriously united with humanity. I also believe that a place like this makes that spiritual reality a physical reality; and that week by week we are ever more moved to exult in our God in our very beings. But it takes the faithful work of the entire parish to continue doing this project. As you consider the presence of God in our lives, even as Christ was present to his disciples, and present to us in the ministry of the Church, I pray that you are moved to make your own faithful presence known in the work of the parish. We are blessed to have some hard-working folks leading and working in our ministries here. We are also blessed with many things to do week by week. So, if you have yet to find a place to serve here at the parish, know that stuff will get done without you but our work would be better adorned with you. Adore Christ in the pew and at the rail, and follow his example by embodying his service even here in our community. And if you are already serving faithfully, I want you to know the depths of my gratitude as your rector.
I hope any of the the preceding was helpful. I know that seeing my own life through the lens of the Incarnation has helped me to draw closer to God in my own service here at the parish that carries the same promise in its name; Emmanuel. You see, the call of the incarnation on me as your priest is to help you discern how to be connected here at the parish and how that work translates to the fullness of our lives; things like our work with families, in the neighborhood, in bringing the Gospel to our work and to our homes. I’m delighted and honored to serve you and I look forward to hearing from you in 2020. This coming week marks the beginning of a brand new calendar year (not to mention the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus). In that same name, I wish you a safe and Happy New Year and I look forward to a 2020 with you in the full enjoyment of the Word made Flesh.
To God be all Glory. Amen.
The Very Rev. David Bumsted
Emmanuel Episcopal Church
1603 E Winter Park Rd.
Orlando, FL 32803