Christmas 2011

Lk. 2:1-20

The story in Luke is a great story. It is simple, direct and unvarnished. A young pregnant girl is ready to deliver. She and her husband are turned away from an inn and find shelter in a stable, where she gives birth. Shepherds in the fields are startled by a great light and go and see the baby. The hopes and yearnings of the prophets and the life of Israel are implicit in the story. There are echoes of Israel’s experience of creation and recreation, sin and redemption, despair and hope. The story is a celebration of imagination and memory, of hope and reason, of promise and affirmation. How deprived and malnourished are those who have not heard this story!

Now, as you all know, I think that we make sense of our lives by telling stories. Surely, the Jews made sense of their individual and corporate lives by telling stories of the patriarchs, David and the kings, histories and the stories of the prophets. Likewise, the early Church made sense of its individual and corporate lives by telling stories: the four gospels - three of which contain a birth narrative. The story of Christmas frames the life of Christ – it bookends the two important aspects of His life: 1) incarnation (Christmas) and 2) crucifixion (sacrifice) and resurrection (Easter).

But how do we access this Christmas story? Well, perhaps by our own stories of epiphanic, “seeing moments,” and acts of love.

So, now I want to tell you a true story. As you know, I have been hospitalized three times (twice by ambulance) in the last six months. During that time I have “counted all my bones” (1) and reflected upon my favorite experiences.

Many, many years ago, there was a parishioner at St. Andrew’s by the name of Kay Jones. She was about ten years older than I, had been a nurse in WWII, and was married to Bob Jones, who was an art director for both RCA and CBS. They had three children, Pip, Tig and Flip. Like all of us, they were the perfect dysfunctional family. Kay served on all of the committees in the parish, thankfully she did not sing, and at one time was sr. warden.

When my mother died in June of 1978, I came over to the chapel here to pray. Kay saw me and asked, “Is there anything I can do?” I was in business at that time and I replied, “You can go to my office and answer the phone.” She did, and she stayed for five years. We became good friends.

I was ordained in 1990 and worked at St. John’s. One evening I went up to Stamford Hospital to see a parishioner who had just had a baby. When I checked the register, I discovered that Kay was in the hospital dying. I went up to see her. We chatted and prayed. A full moon shown in her window. “What brought you up here?” she asked. “Oh, I came to see a woman who has just given birth.”

Kay paused for a moment, reached up, moved her hand, closed her fist and motioned to me to come forward. “Here,” she said, “Open your hand.” As I did, Kay opened her fist over my hand. “I just plucked the moon. I want you to go and give the baby the moon.” “Okay,” I said. I closed my hand, kissed Kay on the forehead and very carefully walked to maternity.

I greeted the mother and child, held out my hand and opened it over the baby. “What’s this?” the young mother asked. “An old and faithful friend of mine plucked the moon from the sky and asked me to give the baby the moon.” The mother smiled, looked at me thoughtfully and said, “Thank you. God bless her.” “You’re welcome,” I replied and left.

I stood in the parking lot on that cold winter night and thought: Kay gave that child her love. Her loved reflected the love of God in the birth of Christ. The Gospel of John tells us “And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” (2)

The light of God, the love of God, was captured by an old woman and passed on to a new mother and her baby.

You and I celebrate such a love today: God’s love for us, our love for God and our love for one another.

Today, come to the altar to celebrate, to receive and to share that love.

“Come. Let us adore Him.” (3) Amen.   

(1) Ps. 22:17
(2) The Gospel of John 
(3) Hymn 83 “O come all ye faithful.”  The Hymnal 1982.