Thursday, December 24, 2009

This Day - Christmas Eve 2009

“Those Days” 12/24/09 ACOB
You know it’s the Christmas story when you hear, “In those days a decree went out. .” Using today’s language, we might say, “back in the day an executive order went out”.

The words, “In those days,” are a clue for us to settle in and listen to the story we love. Tonight we broke it up in order that we might also sing the story by inserting some of our favorite Christmas carols into the text.

I was reminded by Charles Campbell in Feasting on the Word that “In those days” tells us this story is set in chronos time, the Greek word that means chronological time with a beginning, a middle and an ending. This is the time we are used to and in which we live.

Yet this story is not about chronos time, it’s about the beginning of Kairos time, God’s time. God’s time is “shaped by the character and quality of the new event” .

Luke gives us details to locate the story of Jesus’ birth in time and place; in the history we know. Mary and Joseph lived and died in that chronos time. This story is the story of their timeline and their hectic travel schedule.
Like last weekend’s travelers, they got stuck in a town with no room left. Everyone was on the road and every spot to sleep was already taken. Only someone’s compassion led them to a stable, perhaps under someone’s home because it was obvious Mary needed to lay down. Their journey in ‘those days’ was interrupted by the pangs of birth which made ‘THIS day’ the most special day of all time.

There would be no business as usual for Mary and Joseph and it wouldn’t be a small interruption in their schedule. Jesus’ birth was the in breaking of the heavenly realm. Nothing would be the same ever again. The physical location didn’t really matter because Kairos time had come.

Kairos time challenged the Emperor’s time just as Jesus’ presence challenges the emperor’s lordship – any emperor, then or now. “In ‘those days’ life was governed by fear. Political powers play on fear to get their way. There is fear of the emperor, fear of terrorists, fear of immigrants or any one who is ‘the other’. [There’s fear of hurt, of pain, of death.] But with “THIS DAY” comes a new possibility.” (Campbell)

When we hear this beloved story we are reminded that we no longer live in ‘those days’ and we are no longer subject to those fears. We need not live according to the emperor’s decree because we have been changed by THIS DAY and this holy night’s event. We have a new Lord who has brought Kairos time to earth.

Our lives should NEVER be business as usual. We must take the angel’s message to heart and ‘fear not!’ We live in and are part of God’s new reality where worldly power doesn’t rule; - vulnerability reigns supreme – even the extreme vulnerability of a newborn. Now, because of THIS DAY, the beginning, middle and end of our lives are set within Kairos time, and we are different.

We are different because of THIS DAY. Now, WE are shaped by “the character and quality” of God’s gift. Now we have the courage to proclaim “Do not fear” and live that way too.

This night and every night we hear and share in the angels song, “Fear not, for unto us is born THIS DAY, a savior, who is Christ, the Lord.”

Reference: Charles Campbell Feasting On The Word, Barlett & Brown, eds. Homiletical (Louisville: WJK, 2009) p. 119

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