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Christmas Eve Homily 2017 – from Rev. Kathleen Owens

When times are their darkest, when the light of hope flickers as small as a tea light, when despair rules the day, we human beings turn to poetry and story for the hope we seek, for the reminder that we are not alone and that there is a reason for moving on, despite what is happening beyond our control. This is what columnist Roger Cohen did when writing his Op-Ed column that was printed in the New York Times yesterday. (Saturday.) He turned to Kipling’s poem ‘If’ and, using Kipling’s words for inspiration, told the truth of the state of our country today. He wrote this to remind us that, in fact, if we can keep our heads when all about us are losing theirs, that if we can hold on when there is nothing in us except the will to do so…if we can watch the things we have given our lives to, broken, and stoop and build again with worn-out tools…if we can do these things, he writes, then stoicism will prevail, decency will prevail, for it means we are fighting to win our country back.

We are living in most distressing times; few of us feel we have any reason for hope and yet we gather on this night, in the memory of and celebration of a story about another sacred night, long ago. Tonight, we can easily see ourselves in the story – for the details of the ancient story can be found even here in San Diego on this night considering the many who are homeless, the many who are poor and struggling, the many who lack comfort, peace; the many who are scared and uncertain what the future will bring. During this time in our country and on this night, especially, we are all searching for Bethlehem…searching for a star to light the way, searching for a miracle that will change these circumstances and bring new life and hope. As part of our centering thought says, We are all part of the holy, human family and we are in need of the saving, universal message of Love.

I think that each one of us in this room tonight can find the story’s characters inside our own heart for who here has not, at some time in their life, like Mary, been moved by something larger than themselves, has needed the help of another, has wondered about the future and decided to trust themselves and what they know in their heart to be true. Each one of us has, in large or small ways, moved to protect what we love most…perhaps at the cost of our own comfort; who among us has not been awed before life’s intricate and beautiful mysteries – maybe through the birth of a child, or nature’s exuberant sunrise…the majesty of mountains and canyons, the strength of the delicate flower pushing up through the ground. Each one of us has carried within us a longed-for reality, a dream that we carried and worked to bring it into reality.

Surely, you too, like Joseph have had dreams. Joseph was a man guided by dreams – was willing to trust them, follow them regardless of how absurd they may have sounded. In Matthew’s gospel, through Joseph’s four dreams, we hear the whole story through God’s direction – to continue his plans to take Mary as his wife, regardless of the unplanned pregnancy, the dream that sent them fleeing into Egypt because they were in fear and were being hunted…the current government wanted them so they could remain in power; and then, once the powers in that government changed, Joseph had a dream that led them out of Egypt – heading back home. But then, an almost last-minute dream took them not home but to go into Galilee. What strikes me most about Joseph’s first dream – to keep Mary as his wife - is that it meant Joseph chose to stay in relationship, even when there were questions Mary couldn’t fully answer or he understand; he chose to offer love and care to a baby that was not his own. Luke’s story tells us that once they reached Bethlehem, there was no room for them in the inn. Today, some people would lead us to think that we have no room in this country; we don’t have enough room or enough jobs; and yet we have so much room, and with enough imagination and resources, we could have enough jobs, to repair our infrastructure, create new products and services, develop new technologies. Recently one of our elected officials encouraged us to bear more children…even though wages are stagnant, homelessness is on the rise, the gap between the 1% and the rest of us continues to grow exponentially, and healthcare is becoming destabilized…why would we bear more children; I think we should take care of the children who are already here, including the 40 thousand children who now are dreamers here in San Diego; nation-wide, we have 800,000 Dreamers in this country – brought here as children, they are now students, employees, business owners, and parents of US citizen children. (from Christian Century) – “they and their families, their employers, and their teachers await a legislative solution. We need the DREAM Act of 2017, a bipartisan bill sitting in the Senate Judiciary committee; a similar bipartisan bill is also in the House; sponsors and supporters of these bills cross geographic and political lines…these bills would make the provisions of DACA permanent, provide a path to citizenship and end the uncertainty under which DACA recipients live. And this is only one part of our broken immigration system…the fate of 11 million, including Dreamers’ parents and grandparents” – face an uncertain future and continue to live in fear, at the mercy of an ever-changing, never-fixed government system. We need to act as Joseph did – honor our commitments, our promises and stay true to our values. We need to repair our immigration policy so that people fleeing for their lives from gangs, and drug lords, those who, (just) like Mary and Joseph, want to keep their children safe, can settle without fear and contribute fully to the community. Let us act as Mary and Joseph did; let us hold fast to our dreams and celebrate the truth that there is room, always more room for Love, / Love especially in human form.

Perhaps like the shepherds you are afraid tonight – you have heard the holy song, you have witnessed a miracle and are uncertain what to do next. Maybe you’re afraid because you don’t want to do what you’re being called to, or, like the wise men, you are still seeking. In spite of the journey, in spite of work interrupted and their fear, the shepherds went searching – without haste they acted on the angels’ good news…and because both the shepherds and the wise men actively searched and stayed the course, they found the beauty, / they found Love in the form of this family – a family that had been pushed out…left to make do on their own and yet a family that radiated light, hope and love. And in the presence of that Love, shepherds rejoiced at being able to see love personified; the wise men, knelt, in humility and offered what they had – just as you can. On this night, we don’t need material gifts…we are searching for something more sacred, something higher. Maureen Killaran reminds us, “‘Tis the season, my friends ... for generosity of spirit / for giving of the heart without counting the cost; for forgiving those who are not here or not here as we would need / tis the season for gentleness with self and others / for hope that love in presence or in memory will pay a healing call / for conviction that the way YOU greet each dayspring is what matters after all.”

We need beauty, poetry, and stories – because we need to be reminded that “life must have its sacred moments, [its] holy places and rituals. We need the deep and strengthening peace that comes from the unutterable communion of our spirits with the spirit of the highest – with all that joins our souls toward the level of the spirit’s aspirations.” (from A. Powell Davies). / “Now is the moment of magic – we already possess all the gifts we need…ears to hear music, eyes to behold lights, hands to build true peace on earth and to hold each other tight in love. So that we may join the bold, holy movement to bring heaven to earth and dedicate ourselves to revolutionary love.” May it be so, Blessed Be.

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