Such a lovely room

Such a lovely room

Saturday, December 25, 2021

YEAR C 2021 christmas day

Christmas Day 2021
Isaiah 52-7-10
Psalm 98
Hebrews 1:1-4
John 1:1-14

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

There’s a famous scene at the end of the movie Thelma and Louise.  Perhaps you’ve seen it, or at least the clip of the final scene.  In a tribute to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Thelma and Louise sit in a car, poised to be captured.  They point the car at a cliff, and drive off into the air. . . The movie ends.  People are moved.

But the original ending of the movie showed the car actually falling, bouncing off the cliff, and exploding at the bottom.  You know why they changed it?  Because the test audiences said it was too sad.  Too final.  Too hopeless.  As ridiculous as it seems, just showing the car driving off into the air left some glimmer of hope, however tiny, that something miraculous might happen, once the characters left the certainty of the camera lens.  Always a chance . . .

There are many books that, when translated onto the screen, get a completely different ending.  I am Legend, and Bladerunner, and the Time Traveler’s Wife all got massive remakes of their ending, because . . . well, we do not want a hopeless ending in our movies.  Han Solo was supposed to die in the sixth Star Wars, and instead everyone goes to an Ewok party.  (Of course, that particular choice was based less on hope, and more on the sales of plastic figurines.  But the principle remains.)

We want hope.  We want there to be some glimmer of possibility that things might just turn out all right in the end.  We want to know that some day, some how, it really will be alright in the end.  As Julian of Norwich wrote, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”  That’s the kind of assurance we want before we close our eyes at night.  The confirmation from somewhere that this deep longing we have to trust in the future is not misplaced.  We want somebody outside ourselves to tell us that it really is going to be alright.

And I’m not just talking about times when we are suffering.  Because, oddly, that kind of reassurance doesn’t always help.  When we are truly suffering, hearing a friend say, “It’s going to be okay,” doesn’t necessarily make you feel better.  Because, come on, how do they know?  How do they know your medical bills will get paid?  Or that a new job will be there?  Or that you will be able to feed yourself, or do anything?  They don’t know that, and deep down, we know that they don’t know.  Sometimes, hearing “It’ll be okay” is not the least bit helpful.  In fact, sometimes--in the very worst times--it can make things worse.

Because the person saying, “It will be okay” isn’t there to look at the empty chair on Thanksgiving.  They aren’t there the first Christmas morning when our loved one isn’t sitting next to us by the tree.  Though our friends are trying to be helpful, hearing “it will be okay” doesn't help when there’s no glimmer of “okay” on the horizon for us.  And that’s because our friends don’t have a plan for making it “okay.”  Our friends do not have a solution that is going to make “all manner of thing” well.

In the reading we just heard, there is a promise.  It’s a subtle promise, to be sure, but there it is:  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

This may be the most powerful statement in the whole of scripture.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.  That is the message of Christmas.  And even if we’re not aware of it, that is why we put lights on our houses, and bring pine trees into our living rooms.  To remind ourselves that light shines in the darkness—that something stays green through the winter.  

And, in some way, that is why we so resonate with this Christmas story we observe each year . . . Because it’s a story about a baby.  Babies bring hope, and a new beginning, and a chance to start over.  It wouldn’t be the same if Jesus showed up as an old man, would it?  Old guy with a beard and a cane . . . Cute, but not necessarily going to inspire us to have hope for the future.

Jesus’ arrival as a baby is a reminder that things might be different this time.  Maybe you’ve heard that saying, attributed to Mother Theresa, “Every time a child is born, it is a sign that God hasn't given up on the world.”  And I would add to it this, from Martin Luther, “Even if I knew that the world would end tomorrow I would still plant an apple tree today."

Or, to put it another way, even the most cynical people I know still love babies.  People may think the world is all screwed up and hopeless and beyond redemption . . . And they set all that aside when you hand them a baby.  And the reason for that is hope.  Babies bring us hope.  And everyone accepts a baby.  Everyone.

Jesus comes to us as a baby not a warrior, because babies bring hope.  Jesus comes to us as an infant instead of an adult because babies offer hope.  Everyone accepts a baby.  And, in the end, it is hope that lures us to face a new day, and a new year.  Because deep down, we all have an unshakeable sense of the truth of the gospel:  
“What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”

Merry Christmas!

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