Preached on Christmas Eve, 2016 at the 9:00 pm candlelight service
by Rev. Robin Bartlett at
The First Church in Sterling, MA.
(I forgot to record this and its just as well you don't hear me butcher the Boston accent. I swear I'm from here.)
This week, I posted a version of this reflection on Facebook, and I got so many inspiring messages of hope and similar actions as a result, that I thought I would share it with you as my Ode to this Christmas, 2016.
I call it: “Kid, I’m like the Mayah of Dunkin’”
One day last fall, I drove up to the Dunkin' Donuts window in the Sterling drive-thru and found that the person in the car ahead of me had paid for my coffee. I had to pull over and cry. I cried because I rarely think to do things like that, and that person didn't know me. I could have been a person she disagreed with politically or religiously, or an ex-con or someone who neglects my kids. She didn't care. She wanted to pay for my coffee. "Humans are good," I thought.
About a half an hour later that same day, I was at the Concord rotary, and a car rear-ended me, flipping me off as he drove by. "Humans are terrible," I thought. I had to pull over and cry again, this time with anger.
If I'm being honest, I have both of those people in me--the generous, thoughtful human paying for the coffee of the person behind her, and the angry impatient jerk who thinks only of herself, inconvenienced and enraged by someone else’s slow driving, unwilling to stop and apologize after hitting someone.
I wish that I was so mystical and at one with my creator that I saw each person I encountered as worthy and having dignity, beloved by God. But the truth is, I have seen the angry, impatient, flipping-the-bird-road-rage jerk winning far too often. in the internal fight we all have between good and evil; which is really a fight between love and fear, too often I see evil and fear win. I have noticed this most especially in myself. As someone who worships the God whose battle cry is “Fear not!” and whose other name is Love, this is demoralizing and dehumanizing.
I have been preaching all advent that like Scrooge, we have forgotten what it means to keep Christmas well. We have succumbed to our anger, our hurt, our greed, our grief, our separation from one another. We have forgotten that we belong to each other and to God.
This is why we are given this sparkling sacred night, and this blessed story about God wearing the vulnerability of human skin. This night of candle light piercing darkness and angels singing. We are given this silent holy night to remind us who we are, and whose we are.
This ancient story helps facilitate our birth and re-birth, every year. For God coming in the flesh in the form of a helpless baby boy gives us all hope that we, too, can become worthy of our birthright as children of God. Like Scrooge did on Christmas Eve, we can begin again. We can transform from people who succumb to the worst of who we are, to people who live in to the best of who we can be.
On Christmas day, Scrooge wakes up in the morning to discover that it’s not too late to change the tragic trajectory of the future. There is still time. He hasn’t missed Christmas yet.
And he is not fully redeemed until he knocks on the door of his family’s house, and asks to be let back in. Whether you and I have family relationships that need repairing right now, or we need to repair relationships with other parts of the human family, Christmas is here. There is still time. We haven’t missed it.
The moral revolution this country needs is here. Right here in this room. Those of us who have walked in darkness have seen a great light. Unto us a child is born. And the government shall be upon his shoulders. And he shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God, the Everlasting Father. The Prince of Peace.
Since November 9th, I have started paying for the person behind me in the Dunkin' Donuts drive thru--middle aged men in pick up trucks, young women driving kids around in mini-vans. I know the Dunkin' Donuts drive-thru in a small town in Massachusetts is probably fairly insignificant in the fight for the soul of a nation. But I think it may be significant for my soul, which has to be where this Love revolution we desperately need foments. And Love is the only weapon I have in my arsenal to fight the devil threatening to win my heart. The bottom line is, though it may be naïve and out of style and hard sometimes, I’m not giving up on the Gospel. I hope you will make a pact with me in the waning days of 2016 that you won’t either. (and we’re New Englandahs, so to hell with Stahbucks. Long live Dunkin’s.)
Truly he taught us to love one another. His Law is Love and his Gospel is peace.
Merry Christmas. Amen.
Rev. Robin Bartlett is the Senior Pastor at the First Church in Sterling, Massachusetts. www.fcsterling.org