Homily by The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Bainbridge, GA
27 Dec. 2015, Christmas 1 Year C: Isaiah 61:10-62:3; Psalm 147; Galatians 3:23-25; 4:4-7; John 1:1-18
My husband's conversion experience right after Thanksgiving opened the way for me to give him a very special gift this Christmas.
At Thanksgiving, he rescued our neighbors from a cat & brought it into our house. After years of his putting up with cats we had & years enjoying cat-free living, he has converted into a cat person. [I have photos to prove it.]
What does the cat have to do with our scriptures?
Notice: our scriptures speak of changes – how we live, from imprisonment to freedom, a new, close relationship with God, change of status, change of perspective. The cat has brought many changes in how we live, our perspectives, & has added a new relationship. Her life has gained freedom since her rescue.
Our lesson from Isaiah, as one Bible commentary says1, is a Song of Thanksgiving for public celebration of divine rescue. Notice it says “you shall be called by a new name”. Remember: In the Bible, names matter. Names reveal one's essence. A name change signifies a new direction in life. Think of the Apostle Paul's name change.
The 2 verses after our lesson in Isaiah [62:4-5] say:
You shall no more be termed Forsaken...you shall be called My Delight Is in Her... for the Lord delights in you...as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
so shall your God rejoice over you.”
Our Psalm echoes this rejoicing in its praise & presentation of God as healer of personal sorrows, as one commentary says, adding2...God cares. God is compassionate. We know this through Jesus' being born as a human, dying for us on the hard wood of the cross, rising from the dead & sending the Holy Spirit to guide us. In short: Christ's Actions Transform. The word “cat” can help us to remember: Christ's Actions Transform.
Paul reminds the Galatians & us of Christ's transforming actions in our 2nd lesson today. The Gospel supersedes the law. God's love overflows. God loves you. No exceptions. All are welcome. To become God's adopted child, we only have to accept God's open invitation to new life. Then we shine God's Light in the darkness. Like John in our Gospel, we testify to the Light.
When we pray, “Our Father,” we claim our status in God's family. This status transforms our lives & gives us work to do, carrying on the actions of Jesus, the Word which became flesh & lived among us.
What do we in the 21st Century miss when we hear: “the Word became flesh & lived among us”?
Early hearers, as more than one commentator3 note, would know the Greek word translated “lived” refers to living in tents, as the people did in their travels with Moses, carrying the Ark of the Covenant & housing it in a tent. We could phrase today's Gospel to say:
The Word became flesh & pitched a tent [among] us.”4
Jesus pitches his tent among us to end our BIG separation from God. Jesus “'pitched his tent' in a stable...a highly undesirable & unclean space...Dirty shepherds & even animals got to share Jesus’ first...moments. The mundane & profane people & circumstances...[that society excluded] were the exact people & circumstances included & recognized as Holy in the presence of Christ.”5
Christ's Actions Transform.
Christ's actions help us see the Holy in daily life. Remember: we have received the gift of Jesus from God the Father. The gift of Jesus keeps giving all year & throughout our lives. The gift of Christ transforms us day by day.
Our day-by-day transformation helps us approach our work, our lives differently.6 Members of the Daughters of the King strive to be aware of this. Our mission is the extension of Christ's Kingdom through Prayer, Service & Evangelism7. [One example of our prayers is this chapter's gift of praying daily by name for a year for those who mourn. An example of service has been leading Stations of the Cross in Lent. Our evangelism is especially among women & girls; notice: DOK members started our work with Girl Scouts.]
Christ's Actions DO Transform.
DOK's Vision Statement says: “Empowered by the Holy Spirit, our vision as Daughters of the King is to know Jesus Christ, to make Him known to others, & become reflections of God's love throughout the world.”8 [In other words: Christ's Actions Transform.]
Regularly, when we are together & individually, we say our motto, which I consider a prayer, that helps us live as agents of Christ's Actions that Transform.
“For His Sake...
“I am but one, but I am one.
“I cannot do everything, but I can do something.
“What I can do, I ought to do.
“What I ought to do, by the grace of God I will do.
“Lord, what will you have me do?”9
Lord, what will you have me do?
The American College Dictionary. Ed. in Chief: C.L. Barnhart. New York: Random House, Inc. 1966.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1988.
Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
“Is Christmas Really Over?” http://www.sermons4kids.com/is_christmas_over.htm Accessed: 26 Dec. 2015.
Johnson, The Rev. Edwin. “Confusing The Sacred & The Profane, Christmas 1(C) – 2015”. Accessed: 26 Dec. 2015. http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/stw/2015/12/09/confusing-the-sacred-the-profane-christmas-1c-2015/.
The National Handbook and ByLaws of The Order of the Daughters of the King. 2005 Ed. Woodstock, GA: The Order of the Daughters of the King, Inc.
1 Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. P. 591.
2 Ibid. P. 493.
3 Johnson, The Rev. Edwin. “Confusing The Sacred & The Profane, Christmas 1(C) – 2015”. Accessed: 26 Dec. 2015. http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/stw/2015/12/09/confusing-the-sacred-the-profane-christmas-1c-2015/.
4 Ibid. Johnson.
7 The National Handbook and ByLaws of The Order of the Daughters of the King. [DOK] P. 1.
8 Ibid. DOK.
9 Ibid. P. 2.