Community Unitarian Universalist Church
December 24, 2000
Daytona Beach, Florida

Christmas Is A Repeatable Event!

A Christmas Eve homily
by Lloyd H. Dunham

When you hold a newborn infant in your arms for the first time,
what are your dreams for this tiny new person?
We look into its beautiful little face
and we see innocence and hope.
And maybe we also see possibility for becoming.
As this child rests in our arms
its whole life is in the future.
That life is only now beginning to unfold.
How many times each day
does the miracle of birth happen?
While we remember the birth of one special baby
born over two thousand years ago,
how many new little ones will draw their first breath
during this very hour?

The power of the birth and life of Jesus
for me
is that what happened in him
can happen in any one or all of us!
It points us toward a challenge to live a new kind of life,
a kind of life that heals the wounds
and calls forth the best in one another.
If what happened there
is a once and for all event,
then it has little to say to empower and inspire us!
But if in the amazing course of things
the Creator is always seeking to be present in each one,
then Christmas is a repeatable event.
If what happened in Jesus as he lived and grew and touched the lives of others
can happen in you and me,
then there is hope.

In 1961 the poet Sydney Carter wrote a poem
which picks up our theme for this evening,
even as we have remembered those newborns of this past year
who each hold great promise as sources of hope for our world
in years to come.
Sydney writes of the sacredness of human flesh
and human birth.
Standing in awe of the infant of Bethlehem
she goes on to muse
"Who can tell what other cradle.
Still may rock the King of Heaven"
. Her theme moves forward as she writes
"Who can tell what other body He will hallow for his own?"

If we were to say in terms more fitting for our time,
We might say:
"Who can tell what other cradle.
Still may rock another infant
who will bring us all together in peace
"Who can tell what other body
Our Creator will hallow for special service?"

.Christmas is a repeatable event!
As we look back across the sweep of history
it is easy to pick out those who have devoted their lives to high ideals
that have brought hope and healing to our world.
Clearly it could and will happen again.
The question is where and in whom?
What newborn babe will become a special source of hope for tomorrow?

We have been hearing again
the beautiful and poetic stories of Jesus' birth.
We have sung the joyful carols that carry the stories.
Many people
while enjoying the repetition of the stories and songs
hide a lot of questions about them,
questions that somehow seem out of place at Christmas!
Those questions have to do with
the extraordinary and miraculous aspects of the stories
and the contradictory elements of the two stories
in Matthew
and in Luke.
If we can reach beyond the details of the Biblical stories
to experience the wonder in the minds of Jesus' followers
after he was gone
we may discover a great new story.
Certainly it was an extraordinary day when Jesus was born.
His birth must have been very special.
And so they imagined Mary and Joseph holding their very special baby
much as many of us have held our little ones in our arms,
wondering what they might become.

The infant Jesus grew to set a powerful example for us.
Jesus showed us
what humankind was meant to be
at its best!

Harry Emerson Fosdick was highly respected in his own day and ever since.
He cut through much of the theological verbiage
to liberate Christians
into meeting the living presence of God
in the very human man Jesus.
Fosdick believed that the disciples were not loyal to Jesus
because of his birth
or because of any doctrine.
They were loyal to him and followed him
because of who he was,
because of his life,
because of what they saw happening in him ­
as a man.

One contemporary scholar has said,
"The real miracle of Christmas is
that an uneducated peasant
in an obscure corner of the Roman Empire
should have the insight,
the ability,
and the character
to formulate and proclaim
the religion (that) Jesus (proclaimed).
Here was a man who saw the significance of his culture
and religious heritage
in his world
and who had the courage to attack the vested interests of his day
in order to teach what he saw to be the truth.

"Here is the real miracle ­
the personality of the man ­
not floating stars,
angel choirs,
or virgin births.

"The birth of a child,
any child,
is a new incarnation
and carries the promise of the great miracle
of humans becoming divine,
or reaching out to the stars.

The day on which you and I were born
was a special day!
Someone held each of us
and looked into a tiny little face
and wondered what gifts we would bring to this world.
It was the birthday of hope
for our parents,
for our families.
It was the birthday of hope
for a world in need of people
who might help bring an end to violence
and injustice
and give birth to peace and justice.

Christmas is a repeatable event.
God is waiting to be embodied in human flesh again and again,
in our flesh,
in our lives!
perhaps in some far corner of the earth,
maybe in a home near us,
a child is born this night
whose name is hope,
who will turn this world upside down
and make it a better place for us all.

Christmas is a repeatable event ­
but there will be no angel choir heralding the birth,
no shepherds to come and welcome the new child,
and no wise men from the East to bring gifts.
We will not know,
until that infant has grown
to become God's special servant in our day.
When that has happened
then we will have another Christmas to celebrate!

Whenever you hold a newborn in your arms
remember that the birth of every child
is the birthday of hope.