An Earthy and Embodied Faith

Christmas Eve homily given by Rev. Frank Clarkson, December 24, 2017

“O come, all ye faithful.” I wonder—do you count yourself among that number? Do you see yourself as faithful? Too often faith is equated with what you think, is seen as believing the right thing, even believing in the unbelievable. But that’s not what faith is. No, faith is about how you act. 

And from what I see, you are faithful people. You show up with open hearts and minds. You do what you can to help others. You share your gifts and resources and talents, trying to ease another’s pain, trying to make ours a better world. You keep on trying, when it might be easier to give up. When you make mistakes, and we all do, you try to make amends, and do better. This is what it means to be faithful. I hope you heard Jan Richardson’s words for Advent as speaking to you:

Blessed are you
who bear the light
in unbearable times,
who testify
to its endurance
amid the unendurable,
who bear witness
to its persistence
when everything seems
in shadow
and grief.

This is what Christmas is about. Not about gifts and trees and lights, as nice as those things are. The story of Jesus’s birth is about ordinary people facing fearful times with hope and love. It’s about light shining in the darkness. The holy becoming flesh and dwelling among us is not meant to be a one-time event, but rather, something that keeps happening, in our lives and in this world.

We retell this old story because we forget that we too are here to bear the light, to be bringers of hope and love to a world sorely in need of it. 

I am convinced that if we meet the God anywhere, it is right here, in the beauty and in the mess of our lives. In the stuff of this good earth. It’s why we are drawn to stories of light shining in the darkness, of consecrated oil that, against all odds, doesn’t run out, of the Holy One coming to earth and being born in a humble stable—because we need to be reminded of the pregnant possibility that exists right here—in these bodies, in these humble and holy places, in these lives we have been given

This past week, people kept showing up at our church door. They looked ordinary enough. But maybe because it was the week before Christmas, maybe because I was mindful of Saint Benedict’s rule that we should receive guests as if they were Christ; that’s how I experienced these folks: as bearers of the Holy in our midst. As blessings in disguise. 

The other day one of you said this is why you’re committed to our work of feeding the hungry; that you experience the Holy serving others. That in our basement you see these are moments of grace: people caring for one another, the divisions between us falling away. It’s a glimpse of how life could be.

This is the the promise of Christmas, when we see that God is with us, in one another, then there will be peace on earth peace and good will toward all. And the invitation is to practice this not just at Christmas, but all the year ‘round. So come all you with your stubborn hope, all you who keep putting one foot in front of the other, who keep working to make things better, redeeming our world one step at a time.

Blessed are you
in whom
the light lives,
in whom
the brightness blazes—
your heart
a chapel,
an altar where
in the deepest night
can be seen
the fire that
shines forth in you
in unaccountable faith
in stubborn hope
in love that illumines
every broken thing
it finds  (Jan Richardson).

Come, all you faithful. Come, let us adore him. And let us see that the Holy is right here, on earth and here in us. And we are here to share that Love, and that light. Now and forever,