Readings – Isaiah 9: 2-7; Psalm 96; Titus 2: 11-14; Luke 2: 1-20
A reading from the Gospel according to St. Luke —
…on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling white stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen”.
It was still dark that morning. Artistic renderings of that scene depict the women with the spices and with a lantern. They entered the dark tomb and found nothing. The angels appeared, and proclaimed, “He is not here, he has risen”.
Without that ending, there would be no beginning. Without Easter morning and the Rising Son, there would be no Christmas story to be told. We would not know of the angel’s visit to Mary. We would not know of the angel’s visit to Joseph. We would not know of their journey to Bethlehem. We would not know of the birth in a stable behind an inn by lantern light. We would not know of the newborn’s placement in the cow’s food trough. We would not know of the shepherd’s abandonment of their posts, abandonment of their flocks, in the middle of the night to sneak into town. Mary’s treasuring, Mary’s pondering, for a lifetime became real on Easter morning at dawn.
The People of Israel had many false starts. There were many times when they lived in darkness and saw a flash of light, and then saw it quickly fizzled out. Our reading from the prophet Isaiah scholars believe was written in the 8th century B.C.E., over 700 years earlier at the birth of a crown prince during dark times. They were in a place of deep darkness; they walked in darkness, and a Davidic heir was born – …” a child has been born for us, a son is given to us…” They hoped he would exercise rule in accordance with God’s will. It did not develop as hoped. Just a flash, hopes dashed again, and again, and again.
The Psalmist continued to keep hope alive. He envisioned one day a new song would go forth in all the nations. That all the nations would “ascribe to the Lord God honor and power”. He hoped that a time would someday come when the Lord God “will judge the world with righteousness and the people with his truth”.
The angels said to the women at that first dawn of Easter in the dark tomb – “He is not here, he has risen”.
It was about thirty years after that first Easter that the hopes of Isaiah and the generations that followed would be proclaimed by the author of Titus —
…the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us…while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
The hopes of the prophet Isaiah, the Psalmist, and the People of Israel were realized in the Christ-child promised to Mary, to Joseph, to the shepherds, and to all of us. The treasure of Mary and Joseph birthed in the darkness of the stable was opened for us all.
As the angels said, “He is not here, he has risen”.
Through that child we now know how to partner with God; we now know how to live the blessed life; we now know how to live in the eternal light. That light burned through the darkness, and the darkness was powerless to overcome it. The shepherds entered in darkness, and they left in great joy, sharing with all what they had seen and heard.
People of faith through the generations have lived in the light. Though at times it seemed like they were surrounded by the darkness, they would not be overcome by it. Through the Christ-child we know how to partner with God’s will, through him we know how to be lanterns in our own day.
Tonight, when we sing “Silent Night”, let’s hold our candles high and light up the darkness with those around us.
This Holy Night we welcome again the Christ-child who knows the secret of the universe.
This Holy Night we welcome again the Christ-child who lived the secret of the universe.
This Holy Night we welcome again the Christ-child who shared the secret of the universe with all who would listen.
To live the eternal life, to live the blessed life is
To love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love your neighbor as you love yourself.
The foundation of the universe is no longer a secret. It was proclaimed in word and in deed by that Christ-child each and every day of his life, and it rolled the stone away from the darkness of the tomb forever.
Tonight, we celebrate the Light of Love coming into the world.
Tonight, we celebrate the Light of Love being shared with us.
Tonight, we celebrate the Light of Love we pass on to others.
And in the darkness, WE FEAR NOT!
The Light of Love shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it.
We know how to partner with the Glory of God, the glory of the Universe.
We know the Light of Love. Amen.