Summary: How do we answer evil as humans compared to how God answers evil? We are called to meet evil with love and compassion, as God met evil with Jesus.

A Christmas Eve Service of Carols and Lessons

Preached at Saint John the Evangelist, Cold Lake

24 December 2001

May the words of my lips and the meditations of all our hearts be ever pleasing to thee, O Lord most high. Amen.

Tonight we join together to anticipate the imminent birth of Jesus. We have listened to the sacred readings that anticipate His coming and announce the good news of his birth. We have sung together these wonderful sacred carols that celebrate the news of the coming Messiah. We recognize Christ’s coming into the world with the lighting of the final candle of our Advent wreath, the Christ candle. Now we gather to reflect on His word, and how we are to apply it to our lives.

Christ came into the world as God’s answer for evil – by bringing the light of love into our midst. With all that has happened since September, it is interesting to reflect on what humankind’s answer to evil is. When we listen to the world leaders speaking, the language reminds me very much of what we read in the Book of Revelation – apocalyptic and very polarized. Things are either very good, and our hope for happiness, or very evil and must be destroyed quickly.

How do we see evil dealt with in adventure movies? The plots are familiar to all of us. There are good guys, and bad guys. In each group there will be one person who is better than all the rest, and one who is worse. As the movie unfolds, we know the hero will suffer at the hands of the villain…but we know the villain will get his just deserts in the end. As the movie moves to its climax, the hero defeats the villain and all is well in the world. The question we need to answer is what does the hero do to win? The answer is he defeats evil by being just a little smarter, stronger, faster or wiser that then bad guy.

The message: Good defeats evil through might!

As much as we teach our children that violence does not work, one only has to look at the world to see violence used almost everywhere, by both the good and the bad guys.

In the Christmas miracle, what was God’s answer to evil? Do we hear of the coming of an all-powerful king like King David, who will conquer all of Israel’s oppressors and return Israel to their rightful place? Do we hear of a mighty warrior like Sampson, who comes to knock out the pillars of the oppressors, and to bring the temple down on their heads? We do not.

What we hear of is a baby, a human baby, who came into the world as the human son of poor, common people – a carpenter named Joseph and a young woman named Mary. That baby came into life, not in a palace surrounded by riches, but in a stable, surrounded by sweet hay and silent animals. And who were the first to hear the glorious words of the angels? (candy cane) They were not the rulers or the leaders of the army, but poor shepherds watching their flocks by night.

We deal with evil with violence because we live in a violent world. Until Christ comes again, we know that wars, sickness, suffering and the poor will be a part of our lives. The question tonight is what do each of us take home with us from Christmas? What do we make a part of ourselves that will change us forever in answer to this wonderful gift of our Lord?

God could have defeated evil by sending a multitude of the heavenly host – his special forces – to overwhelm and destroy evil forever. B-52s, modern fighters and precision-guided bombs look like birthday balloons popping compared to the might of the Lord. Why didn’t he? He didn’t because he sent something much more powerful and much more majestic – the gift of living love, in His own Son.

This baby would change the world and all of us forever. He lived a sinless life and taught people how to live according to God’s will. In the end, he would die on a cross to pay the price for our sins and rise again to give us the amazing gift of eternal life. He was no ordinary baby, this Jesus, lying there in the manger. He was God incarnate who came to give us life. And he is here right now with us by the power of the Holy Spirit.

God’s gift of love tells us something very important – it does not matter what we do in our lives…it does not matter how bad we feel we may be…you can not think of a sin so bad that God’s love will not overwhelm it and provide us with Divine forgiveness. In fact when you think about us compared to the goodness of God you realize that the gap between us and the most heinous criminal ever known is insignificant. When you look at the awesome gulf between the best humanity has to offer and our Lord, you realize that there is far more that binds us together as sinful people than we may first acknowledge.

What do we do in answer to this awesome gift? How do we say thank you to a God who sacrificed a part of His being – who willingly gave us His Son for our salvation? Jesus was born so that we might have life, and have it more abundantly. Our first answer to our Lord is to live, to be joyous and to live life to the fullest. He also left us with an example of compassion and generosity that we can all follow. Jesus changed the world forever, and we – each of us here tonight – can continue to change the world forever through how we act and treat each other. Our answer to this gift is to dedicate our lives to making the world a better place, and to take on this awesome responsibility and act on it.

Jesus’ birth calls us to action, to leap forth from this church into that violent, confusing world as examples of kindness and mercy. To push forth into the world and change the lives of those around us, not through our greater power or wisdom, but through overwhelming love and generosity. Jesus came to challenge us to become more than we are, to forgive and show love to a world that often mocks love and forgiveness. To win over others through a mercy that makes no sense to our physical and technical world, but makes perfect sense to God.

Maybe this is the key thought of all the readings tonight – that our answer to Christ’s birth – is to change our own lives forever by dedicating ourselves to him. How do we do this? It is simple to start – when you awake each morning, take 30 seconds and dedicate the day ahead to God. Offer yourself up as a servant, and pray that you become transparent so that Christ may become apparent. Pray that all who see you will see an image and an example of Christ in your actions. Once we take this step, and make this dedication, wonderful things will start to happen to us and those around us.

God sent Jesus to be one of us, to teach us how to be more like Jesus.

As we leave tonight, filled with the joy that is the incarnation of our Lord Jesus, carry that joy home with you and pass it on. When a future day seems dark, recall that wonderful message of the angels: Glory be to God on high, and on earth peace, good will among all people. God is here with us, loving us, forgiving us and calling us daily back to that image of the tiny baby lying in a manger. When we know that God gave us this gift freely, it makes everything somehow better.

In a way all of us here are shepherds standing in those dark and lonely fields. Alone and guarding our flocks – be that flock our family, our job, our sense of our lack of worth compared to God. We poor shepherds receive this gift of the Christ, freely given – to do with what we will. If we choose to stay in our fields alone, the world does not change and we remain alone to slowly die. If we choose life, to live and to live more abundantly, and make a small change – perhaps only an extra smile to a stranger, a kind word to someone in need, forgiveness to a family member we feel wronged by, a word of thanks to a loved one - the ripples from that change will move outwards, like the ripples in a pond after a rock is thrown in, and will change the world. Each of us has that power in our hands tonight, and each of us must make that choice – to walk the path of this world in anger and fear, or to walk into that lowly stable in Bethlehem, to kneel beside our Lord in love and awe and to commit ourselves to His service through action and goodness. The choice is ours – in that choice we live and die, we bring happiness or sorrow – let us all make the use of this gift that God intended, and make that choice tonight.

I speak to you in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, Amen.