Christmas Eve Pageant Sermon

12/24/2022 5pm
Preacher: The Rev, Eric Stelle

We’re grateful.

We’re grateful for our children, and the work they’ve done to share the gift of their pageant with us.

We’re grateful for all children, and for the promise each new generation gives, that this good life we’re living will carry on.

We’re grateful for children, through whose eyes we can recover a sense of wonder and joy, as they discover all those things that make this such a good life.

And we’re grateful for our children, and the particular dignity they’re given at Christmas, that each year as we celebrate the incarnation – God with us – we celebrate that God’s first, in-the-flesh introduction with us humans, was as Jesus of Nazareth, a human child.

For this is the heart of this holiday – this wild hope and belief that God should become one with us; that God is not some distant specter or disinterested deity, but God is here, and with us, and so fully committed to us. It is a hope of God’s absolute presence and intimacy.

But, of course, (I think I can safely say for most of us), that we’ve never actually seen this God. Instead, God asks of us to keep seeking God, and the knowledge of God and the wisdom of God, through all our lives and all our experiences. And for me, I’ve often thought of water as a kind of metaphor for God – how water is everywhere – visible and invisible; how water is the source of life – forever moving through us and all living things; how water – in all its forms – is beautiful and mesmerizing, as if we were designed to delight in it.

And yesterday, like many of you probably were, I was curious why – sometimes – freezing water doesn’t fall as snow, but falls instead as freezing rain. And this is what I learned:

Freezing rain actually begins as snow. But as it’s falling, it passes through a layer of warm air and it melts. But it’s only a layer, kind of warm blanket in the sky. And as it gets closer to earth, it re-enters another freezing layer, but doesn’t have enough time to form into crystals again, so it just lands as water, then promptly refreezes on whatever frozen thing it’s landed on.

So that was interesting. And as I walking through Sehmel Park, looking with delight at every twig and leaf encrusted with ice (the whole world now a kind of gigantic ice sculpture), I started to mull things over: the things I’d learned about freezing rain; my long-standing curiosity of water as a metaphor for God; this season of Christmas, and our hope in the incarnation – and it all kind of began to blend together for me:

Heaven is like a snowy day: stunning and pure. And the glory of God and the presence of God is like that snow, dazzling in its beauty and covering everything.

But God is not contained in heaven. God is everywhere. And that we might know and experience this God, at a certain place and time, God chooses to come to earth as one of us. The incarnation. And so God comes, like the snow, falling from heaven.

But things are messed up in this world. And the messed-upness is like that band of warm air, and when God the Snow is passing through it, the snow melts. God melts. But it’s still water; it’s still God, but a God who – in giving himself to this world – suffered because of it.

But it was just a layer of warm air. The earth and the things of earth are still good, even if they’re wounded. Good like heaven is good. For God made it and God loves it. And when that water hits the earth it freezes again; it’s now ice again, like in heaven. But different. A different shape. A different form. And this world is still in need of healing. But like in heaven, the water is everywhere. Every twig, every leaf, coated in water, coated in God, the Incarnate One. God with us. Emmanuel. And that ice, and the earth it has embraced, is dazzling beautiful.

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 (John 1:14).

Amen. And Merry Christmas.