Wednesday, December 24, 2014


Proclaiming the news of the Christmas gospel is a daunting assignment for a preacher. Many of us ask ourselves, "What can I add to this old, old story?" For a number of years my response to this challenge has been to attempt a Christmas sermon in verse. When preaching, I try to read these sermons fluidly, without undue attention to the line endings dictated by poetry. 

This is a verse sermon I wrote for the Christmas after September 11, 2001. The themes, alas, still seem timely. Perhaps--this side of heaven--they always will.

I offer this as my blog Christmas card, with thanks for reading, and a prayer that all will hear Good News in this season.

When God to the nothing said
   let there be light,
There was nothing … nothing to
   make a world bright.
There was no one to see it and
   no one who heard,
Except God – for the source of that light    was God’s Word.

The light wasn’t starlight or moonlight or sun
But the radiance to be everything, everyone.
The light was creation – the beginning of
Life, and a universe, made out of love.

It is love that has made you and love that made me;
God, with a word of love, called us to be.
In the dawn of that day when the morning stars sang
It was God’s song of love with which all heaven rang.

But how can it be that our tiny green world
Would even be noticed as space-time unfurled.
Not only noticed, but dear in God’s sight.
Love means that nothing is small in God’s light.

Love, light, and life: it’s the poem of birth;
Love, light, and life: it’s the portrait of earth –
Earth as God made it and saw it was good,
A good place to live in – a world neighborhood.

A neighborhood world with God’s light to share,
Plenty for everyone – water and air.
But some of the plenty we wanted to keep,
And hide under cover of darkness so deep.

So we came to love darkness, why would that be?
When light is a gift given so we can see.
People loved darkness instead of the light –
Walked from the brightness of day into night.

Hid, so our deeds would be covered and dark,
And tried to pretend that the tiniest spark
Of the light of God’s judgment could not seek or find
Where we were hiding. How blind we were blind!

So hatred and darkness and death took the place
Of love, light, and life for the whole human race.
It’s what happens to you and what happens to me
When we walk in the darkness but think we can see.

Then came a day when God looked with the eyes
Of his heart, and he wept when he spotted the size
Of the storm cloud of darkness that covered the land
And smothered with night all the work of his hand.

“This is the darkness of death that I see;
Death is not what I intended to be
On the day of creation.” And his eye dropped a tear,
And God wept for a world filled with hatred and fear.

But God is light – in him there’s no darkness at all,
So he would not, not in anger, just watch his world fall
Away into darkness,  into eternal night.
“Love leaves no choice,” said God, “I’ll be their light.”

But God did not send down mere moonlight or star.
God came as a baby, to right where we are.
The light is among us, one of us, near,
The light is Emmanuel, God with us – here!

But don’t think that the light burned the darkness away,
All the powers of darkness then came into play
And attacked with full force when they learned of this birth.
(These powers work best when night covers the earth.)

“It’s only a baby,” the fearful king cried,
“And, like all the others, I’ll soon see him die.
A mother’s – a father’s love? How can that stand
Against armies of night that I’ll send through the land.”

So there is the picture: A small family
Who carry the promise that all will be free.
And more – there in the darkest of night
That family carries the light of all light.

Imagine if all of the sky – near and far –
Was nothing but nothing, except for one star.
It would seem, as you look, that the nothing will win,
But the light of that star is where God will begin –

Where God will begin to create light again.    
And the light will bring new life – and new life will win.
And the baby will grow, and the darkness will shout,
“Now he must die,” but the light won’t go out.

And a cross will be raised on the crest of a hill,
And a mother remember that night, and the thrill
She felt then, and the light all around,
And the promise she kept to herself, then the sound

Of the hammer and nails pierce her through,
And again it will seem that the darkness can do
As it will, and that light will seem so far away.
And she’ll weep for her child, for this man, for that day.

But the promise is true, and the life has begun
The life of a world newly born in her Son,
Newly born, so that never again can a grave
Contain all the light, life, and love that he gave.

And now, in our own day, when shadows have grown,
Again, the Word’s promise we claim as our own.
Hope seems to dim, and our day turns to night.
Come, dear Lord Jesus, and let there be light!