|Easter 5, Year C||May 19, 2019||Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year C||John 13:31-35|
|Easter 4, Year C||May 12, 2019||Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year C||Psalm 23; John 10:22-30|
|Easter 3, Year C||May 5, 2019||Third Sunday of Easter, Year C||John 21:1-19|
|Easter 2, Year C||April 28, 2019||Easter 2, Year 2||John 20:19-31|
|Easter Sunday, 2019||April 21, 2019||Easter Sunday||John 20:1-18|
|Good Friday, 2019||April 19, 2019||Good Friday||John 18:1-19:42|
|Maundy Thursday, April 18, 2019||April 18, 2019||Maundy Thursday||John 13:1-17, 31b-35|
|Palm Sunday, Year C||April 14, 2019||Palm Sunday, Year C||Luke 23:26|
|Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year C||April 7, 2019||Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year C||John 12:1-8|
|Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year C||March 31, 2019||Fourth Sunday of Lent, Year C 2019||Joshua 5:9-12;Psalm 32; 2 Corinthians 5:16-21; Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32|
|Third Sunday in Lent, Year C||March 24, 2019||Third Sunday in Lent, Year C||Luke 13:1-9|
|Second Sunday in Lent, Year C||March 17, 2019||Second Sunday in Lent, Year C||Luke 13:31-35,Philippians 3:17-4:1|
|First Sunday in Lent, Year C||March 10, 2019||First Sunday in Lent, Year C||Luke 4:1-13|
|Ash Wednesday, March 6, 2019||March 6, 2019||Ash Wednesday||Isaiah 58:1-12|
|Last Epiphany, March 3, 2019 – Rev. Mark Jefferson||March 3, 2019||Last Epiphany, Year C||Luke 9:28-36, [37-43a]|
Christmas Eve, Year C
Sermon Date:December 24, 2018
Scripture: Luke 2:1-20
Liturgy Calendar: Christmas Eve, Year C
Antonio da Correggio – “The Nativity” (1529-1530)
“And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes.”
When Jesus was born, the first thing Mary did was to wrap her baby in swaddling clothes. She must have brought these bands of cloth with her to Bethlehem so that she would have what she needed to care for this child as soon as he left the warm and comfortable safety of her womb.
Mary wrapped her baby Jesus with warmth, love, security, and protection in his first minutes on this earth.
And this sign of Mary’s love for her baby, his swaddling, was the way that the shepherds would know that they had found the Savior when they ran to Bethlehem looking for the newborn King.
The angel told the shepherds, “You shall find the baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”
So the shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem.
There they did find the baby Jesus, lying in a manger. And he was not alone, but Mary and Joseph were with him and they were wrapping their baby with love.
Jesus, like the rest of us, would not have remembered his birth or its circumstances, but the swaddling love of his parents for him shaped who he would become.
When he was an adult, God wrapped Jesus in swaddling bands of love one day on a mountain. Jesus and his disciples had gone to the summit of this mountain to pray.
While Jesus was praying, his clothes became dazzling white.
Yes! Heavenly swaddling bands of love! And not only the dazzling white clothes, but God overshadows Jesus and the disciples in a cloud, cosmic swaddling bands of love. And God speaks.
“This is my Son, my beloved, listen to him.”
So no wonder that Jesus, so richly wrapped in love, tells stories about wrapping others in love, so that through these stories, we can see for ourselves the wonders of this love.
Do you remember the story of the prodigal son?
The son demands his share of his inheritance from his father and goes off into another land and wastes all that he has been given. He’s starving. And meanwhile, back at home, his father waits.
Things get so bad that the son decides to go back home. And his father sees him coming, and he runs and wraps his son in an embrace and kisses him. And then the father tells the slaves to “Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him.”
This father is wrapping his son in the same love that Mary wrapped Jesus in at his birth, as she held her baby close and then wrapped him in swaddling clothes.
And Jesus doesn’t limit his love stories to stray family members who decide to come home to love.
Do you remember the story of the Good Samaritan?
Here’s a quick review. A Jew is traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho, a dangerous journey. He’s attacked by bandits, who strip him, beat him and leave him for dead. And then a priest and a Levite, both “good Jews,” pass by the man. They don’t even stop to help this man, stripped and beaten.
And then a Samaritan comes along. Think to yourself of the people you feel distain for, the people you mistrust, the people you consider dirty, or unworthy, or sinful. This is how the Jews thought of the Samaritans, and how the Samaritans thought of the Jews.
And yet, the Samaritan is the only one who bothers to stop for this Jew.
Jesus said that this Samaritan was moved with pity when he saw the naked man. The Samaritan bandaged the man’s wounds. The Samaritan swaddled this man with bandages—there they are—the swaddling bands of love–and then the Samaritan put the injured man on his own donkey.
And guess where he took the man. Not to a stable, but to an inn.
The Samaritan did not care for this person and then leave him to recover alone out in a stable somewhere, but he cared for him in the inn until he had to go, and then he paid the innkeeper to continue the man’s care until the Samaritan could get back and pay the innkeeper for his trouble.
Imagine a person from the group of people you despise or look down on doing that for you, taking you in, caring for you, wrapping you in swaddling bands of love and guaranteeing your care. Imagine doing that for someone that you despise.
This is the radical love of God, the love Jesus had experienced for himself from the beginning, the love that Jesus wants us to know as the hallmark of the kingdom of God in our midst.
In another story that Jesus tells, a rich man, clothed in purple and fine linen, ignores a poor and starving man named Lazarus, who is covered with sores. The only love this beggar receives is from the dogs, who come and lick his sores. These dogs put swaddling bands of love on Lazarus as they lick his sores, while the rich man in fine linen ignores Lazarus. When the rich man dies, he ends up in Hades, while Lazarus rests, swaddled in love, on the bosom of Abraham.
Clothing figures in other stories and sayings of Jesus, too many to include in this one Christmas sermon, but here’s one more.
Jesus talks about how God clothes creation itself with love. Jesus says to the disciples, “Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.”
And so, disciples, if God could clothe the grass of the field, how much more will God clothe you—God is always trying to wrap us in these swaddling bands of love that nature so freely receives and that we, like the prodigal son, tend to resist.
And then Jesus tells the disciples to be dressed for action—and he doesn’t say it, but it’s clear that he’s talking about being dressed in the swaddling bands of love that allow those waiting for their master to be ready, and to open the door with love when the master comes—and then listen to this twist on the story!
This master, when he gets home, puts on an apron, his swaddling bands of love—and he has his slaves sit down at the table and he waits on them. He serves them. He wraps them in swaddling bands of love. That’s the radical swaddling love of God for each one of us.
At the end of his life, the powers that be, personified by Herod and by Pilate, try to strip Jesus of his swaddling bands of love by insulting him and beating him. Herod mocks him by putting an elegant robe on Jesus and sending him back to Pilate, who condemns him to death.
And after he has been stripped and crucified, as Jesus hangs on the cross, Luke tells us that they cast lots for his clothing. But no one can take the swaddling bands of love away from Jesus, because even as they gamble for his clothes, Jesus is saying from the cross, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”
Jesus died. The women watched from a distance. The naked body of Jesus hung limp on the cross.
But a good and righteous man named Joseph, from Arimathea, who was waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, put his own life at risk by going to Pilate and asking for the body of Jesus.
The Roman custom was to leave the bodies of the crucified on their crosses, to rot away or to be eaten by birds of prey, to serve as warnings to those who might go against the power of Rome.
But Joseph did not leave Jesus to this naked, unloved fate. Luke reports that Joseph took the body of Jesus down from the cross.
And then Joseph wrapped the beaten and abused body of Jesus in a linen cloth—the swaddling bands of love.
And then, just as carefully as Mary and Joseph had placed the infant Jesus in a manger in a stable at the beginning of his life, so Joseph of Arimathea lovingly laid the body of Jesus to rest in a new rock hewn tomb, wrapped and protected in love.
But this ending is only the beginning of the story.
God raised Jesus from the dead. God’s love cannot be crucified.
Luke reports that when Peter runs to the tomb, having heard from the women that Jesus is not there, he stoops and looks into the empty tomb.
But the tomb is not completely empty.
Peter sees the linen clothes by themselves, lying there.
Scripture is silent about what happened to these swaddling bands of love.
Because that story of love is still being written, by each one of us, every time we wrap one another in love.
The promise of Christmas, “you will find the baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes” becomes reality every time we choose to love, whether at the cross or at the manger.
Because every time we choose to love, Jesus comes to us and abides with us, and all will be well.