upper room daily devotions

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

"Earthrise/Christrise" a Christmas Eve Sermon"

"Earthrise" Seattle Times
Forty-five years ago today, astronaut William Anders took the first color photograph of earth from space. It changed everything; 1968 was a year known by violence and war and assassinations, by change and chaos and the loss of trust in institutions, and this one photo gave a new, larger vision of what it means to be - to exist at all. Now known as "Earthrise," Anders' photo stood, and still stands, as a symbol of humility and wonder, of vulnerability and strength. For the first time, human beings could see our place in relation to the deep darkness of space. Our "little blue ball" shining in the midst of pin pricks of light surrounded by incalculable darkness, Earthrise shows both the vibrancy and the vulnerability of what it means to call Earth home.

Our Judeo-Christian narrative says that a God of sufficiency desired more - desired relationship - and by imagination and articulation brought creation in to being. The Christian story goes on to say that to poor parents in an occupied land, God's articulation became flesh and entered into the fullness of the human condition. In one person we find the fullness of God's grace and mercy, compassion and justice. Here, again, like in Earthrise, we find humility and wonder, vulnerability and strength.

Christmas is an invitation to a new perspective and the new experiences that perspectives brings. It takes us on a journey to see the world more fully and wholly and to engage in it without reserve. What does it mean to share this blue ball with one another? Christmas asks of us to do something almost impossible - to see and not be afraid, to confront the overwhelming aloneness of darkness and to not be overwhelmed, to see the joy and wonder and glory in that one little blue dot rather than the imposing emptiness that surrounds it as vast as it is. Christmas is about relationship - God's relationship with us and our relationship with one another. We live on a small floating ball together - Muslims and Buddhists, straight and gay, Easterners and Westerners, capitalists and socialists. We are immigrants, migrants, refugees, and travelers. Here we are. We live along rivers and in valleys, in deserts and on mountains. We speak hundreds and hundreds of different languages. We worship different gods. We sing different songs. We tell different fables. But we are neighbors. We are here in the ocean of space together.

When we as Christians arrive at the manger, we find not a king with power and armies and a palace. We find the brokenness of humanity in poverty. We also find the limitless joy and possibility of new life and the uncertainty that accompanies new parenthood. We find the earthiness of animals - their smell, their waste, their warmth. We find nomads and shepherds. And there are angels proclaiming to us over and over that we might not be overwhelmed by the smallness and the poverty and the uncertainty. They are the color in our story that punctuates the darkness of everything by saying "Do not be afraid for I bring you glad tidings of great joy." They sing what we should feel, "Glory in the highest." The manger is a new world without domination or violence. It is a the feeding trough for the world. It is where all come and find room and hospitality and warmth, and no one is turned away. The manger is like our Earth floating amidst space; it is one small place of respite in a conflicted hurting world.

May Christmas offer you a new perspective. May it change everything for you. In the midst of war and violence and grief and the loss of trust, may this day serve as a reminder of the wonder of life. In it, God's holy light pricks through the darkness. This evening, we welcome the Christ-child. May we nurture him with love by treating one another with gentleness and sacredness. As we live on the earth, may we treat it with reverence. It is God's breath shaped into our home. May we not look upon one another with suspicion but with love knowing we share a vulnerable experience with each other and that we need each other for our very existence. May Christmas be for us "Christrise," a new picture of reality that challenges everything and gives us hope. Amen.

*Ironically, William Anders left his home religion of Roman Catholicism after this experience, asking, "Are we that special? I don't think so."

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