I do not come to worship on the first Sunday of the 12 days of Christmas because I am struggling with the challenges of the Christian faith; I come because for a least a little while, the Christian faith is bringing something of value and substance to my life. This Advent has been rich with light giving reflection, a wonderful calendar, and projects that brought us together in community with creativity, beauty, and substance.
I know very well that many around me, (people I know and love) are struggling. And I respect and honor and pray for that struggle.
Yet, I did not come this day to struggle. I came to rejoice, and to dwell within and savor the “light of God’s incarnate word” mentioned in the Collect.
An “incarnate Word” is surely a strange combination — a holy word in flesh, something to be eaten or touched rather than spoken, heard, or read. And this word is not only enfleshed, it gives off light. Light is what I and a lot of people I know need. Light in the darkness. My/ our own darkness, the darkness of the world’s fear, violence, greed, and lack of care. Light in flesh that we can touch and eat. Flesh and touch that give us light and feed us.
O, those clothes. The outfit mentioned in the prophet Isaiah, “garments of salvation, a robe of righteousness! What is the color of salvation? What does the fabric feel like? How is the garment cut? sewn? This is some God of a dresser, for these clothes are linked to bringing forth new shoots from the earth, righteousness, and praise springing up before all nations. Perhaps some kind of holy gardening clothing that transforms the wearers into tillers of peace who work within the soil of praise.
Now those are things I and this sad world can use. All nations! Even to suggest such a thing sounds outrageous. Absurd. So, let’s suggest. Let us be absurd. And then let’s remain with that image for a while, and see where it leads us.
Clothes with the qualities of salvation, righteousness, and eliciting praise from everyone. (No, this does not happen in the fashion world. No, it does not. Still, let’s imagine such clothes and see what unfolds.) Yes, these may be “mere” images. Yes, these are what we hope for but do not yet have. That Word, one with Light, Praise, and those clothes are something we can use.
Use to do what? Use to do what the Psalm 147 hints at; rebuild what has been torn down, to gather up the exiles / migrants / refuges, to heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds. Yes, we live in a world where more energy is being spent on turning back refugees. Still, let us imagine.
Not that this is something we would do alone; it is God’s work and I / we will collaborate with God such as I am / we are able. (Even when my collaboration is rather small. Even very small.)
For, although I am not as strong as I was. Even though I cannot do all that I did, I still have this measure of freedom to serve as an heir of the Holy One. (Galations 4:4-7) . And that service is marked by this brightness of enfleshed Light, Light within the everyday, Light among us, living Light. For “From this fullness we have all received grace upon grace.” (John 1) And we have seen this. We have seen this in our community, across the world, in each other, in the Creation, and even within ourselves. Amen.
Merry Christmas, on the Third Day.