A Christmas Message

While I close up shop for a few days to spend Christmas with my family, I want to share with you an excerpt from a sermon my father preached on Christmas Eve, 1982. We’ve had a blessed — and messy — year, and we are more fortunate than many right now. It’s not a “holly, jolly Christmas” type of sermon, so be forewarned, but that’s sort of the point.

We’re usually surrounded by aspirational parties and happy, smiling children on this site. As lovely as that is, I’m so cognizant that our life is messier than the pictures show — as, I’m sure, are your lives. And so I’m grateful for a God who came down to be with us in the mess — the mess that befalls us and that we make for ourselves. So from my messy house to yours, Merry Christmas, and God Bless.

Christmas Eve 1982 Christ Church + Washington Parish, Washington, D.C.

Mangers
are messy.
And into a manger,
God came down.
The Word became flesh—
not a smiling baby Superman,
crowned with a golden halo,
lying there listening
to angelic cantatas.
The Word was made flesh—
just a red and wrinkled infant,
crying when he wanted milk,
and messing up his swaddling clothes
when he got it.
The Word has made flesh—
that is,
God became mundane . . . messy—
God got all messed up—
God got human.
And humanity?
Well, humanity got holy.
And a few people noticed—
some ordinary folk and some important folk,
some shepherds and some kings.
And now, today
Santa is the symbol
of both the human and the holy,
Santa the saint
of the sacred and the secular;
down the chimney,
or in the manger . . .
Let me tell you
how it happens.

Wednesday afternoon
I got a call—
churches get lots of calls at Christmas.
This call was from Lawrence;
Lawrence had called before;
Lawrence was laid off again.
The call was local and collect;
Lawrence wanted a ham for Christmas—
He’d spotted one at the Safeway
For $11.35, he said.

When Lawrence got here,
we sat down and talked a little,
about how it was;
and it wasn’t very good—
no job, no food, no fun;
but the rent was paid ‘til January 1st.
I like Lawrence;
he’s from North Carolina—
and always had ham for Christmas as a boy.

We went down to the basement
to see if we could find
a coat for his son.
I wasn’t very hopeful—
since not much had come in
since the last rummage sale.
But we rummaged around—
not finding anything, really,
except an awful lot of books.
And then, tucked away behind the junk,
way over in the corner,
there was a box.
And what a box!
caps and mittens and jerseys,
and a little fleece-lined denim jacket—
and some turtleneck sweaters,
just his wife’s size!
Lawrence was so excited . . .
and so was I . . .
it was like Christmas . . .

And then . . .
I saw a name . . .
and I knew whose things these were—
and, Oh,
it was Christmas and Good Friday and Easter
all in one.
For these were Alexander’s things,
and the sweaters were Anne’s,
his mother.
And you remember,
Alexander and Anne,
don’t you (some of you)
Alexander’s father (with a knife)
killed the little boy and his mother Anne,
and then killed himself . . .
And the family
came to this old church
for help with their awful mess;
and we did what we could—
and buried them quietly
one evening this fall.

Mangers can get messy;
but somehow
God is there.
God gets through,
no matter what we do (or don’t)—
Only God is God;
and God gets through;
down a chimney,
or in a manger—
on a cross,
or in a tomb—
God gets through.
It is a Mystery.

Christmas is a very human time
because it is a very holy time—
And being holy is simply
the art of dealing well with people.
Or to put it another way,
loving one another.
making someone feel “at home”—
that is, safe, unafraid,
giving them sanctuary.
So Christmas is also a very homey time—
because home is where we are most human,
however messy the manger may be.

Early tomorrow morning,
I’m going to a rather messy manger—
called “My Sister’s Place.”
It’s a “safe-house” (a sanctuary)
for battered women and children;
and it really is pretty messy.
But it is also home, right now,
to 15 children and their mothers—
a very human and very holy place.
Michelle invited me,
last Thanksgiving;
and I accepted, as your emissary.
I’m going as a Saint of the Church,
in rented red vestments
and a fake white beard.
I’m going as an Angel of the Lord
to say to them,
HO HOHO! Be not afraid!
I’m going there because you are here;
and for that
I thank you.

BECAUSE—
The people who walked in the darkness
have seen a great light—
Lawrence and his little family;
those who dwelt in the land
of deep darkness—
Alexander and his mother, Anne, and his father—
on them
has light shined.
And the angel of the Lord,
appeared to them—
call the angel Michelle or Janice or Lorrie—
and the angel said to them,
said to Jorge (2 1/2) and Antonia (5),
and Basil and Macio and Issa and Dale
Nathaniel, Marlando, Cathy, Antoinette,
Alex, Melvin, Ami, Waiyaki, and their mothers,
said to them,
“Be not afraid.”

— The Rev. Dr. H.L.H. Myers

Advertisements

Comments

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this. Hank is one of my favorite people and probably my favorite priest ever. What a glorious sermon for all of us with messy lives who try so hard to make them seem un-messy. Merry Christmas and the Peace of the Lord be always with you. Susan

  2. Hey, Jennifer! I got to this link via your mom’s Facebook post. It made me so happy to hear a sermon from Hank today! I miss you all and hope you’re doing well. Love, Kacky

  3. What a wonderful wonderful sermon, what a wonderful wonderful man who wrote it, with love

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: