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Christmas - 1999
Fr. William Sisterman
St. Dunstan's Anglican Church, Minneapolis, MN 
Readings: Titus 2:11-14 and Luke 2:1-34 
‘And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not; behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.’’’ 

My friends in Christ, as I read the Nativity narrative some days ago in preparation for this night, it struck me that the familiar Lukan history of the Nativity of our Lord has an almost fairy-tale quality about it. When you read it, it seems as though there is an almost surrealistic aura about it as if it weren't quite all true. Yet we know that it is. . . God's Truth. 

The celebration of Christmas is a time when you and I involve ourselves in so much emotion and memory. For when we celebrate this particular feast, our memories rush back to Christmases gone by. As we dug out the ornaments for this year to decorate the tree, it was a surprise again to see them and to remember where we got that one and where that one came from. It was a good memory. The music, of course, at this time of year, is fraught with memories. 

And the food. Ah, the food! Suffice it to say that we all have a ritual about food at this time. That's proper and good. In my house, we have many strange customs. We come from Czech, German, Swedish, and Korean backgrounds. The foods that we enjoy have become a tradition: all kinds of things which most people would probably shun if they were served at any other time of year -- pigs feet and plum pudding, sylta and sandbackles, and Korean mahndu. All have become a part of our family tradition. I'm sure that each one of you have your own culinary traditions within your families at this time. They become a part of the ritual of the celebration of this festival of Christmas. They help us to remember. A contemporary writer said, "You can't go back." And yet, on this day, we make a pretty good attempt of it. We do go back. 

The Church picks up on that theme because the Church wants us to understand that this is a new and fresh beginning for each and every one of us. We can make of it what we want it to be. But God would have it be a fresh new start in grace for each and every one of us. "Unto you this day, THIS DAY, is born a Savior which is Christ the Lord." We are not merely commemorating a past event. We are celebrating something happening in the present. The Lord is with us by grace this day. We can go back. We can reject what has been a sinful past, and begin all over again, have our sins washed away. This is the reason the Lord came into the world, why He was made flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary; why that flesh was nailed to a tree: in order that you and I could start fresh, anew. We can go back. And it's more than a memory. It's a reality. 

In our first reading tonight, Paul's letter to Titus, he wrote, "The grace of God has appeared, offering salvation to all men." The grace of God has appeared offering salvation. He has come. The Lord is in our midst. Emmanuel, God is with us by grace. The Lord our God, Our Savior Jesus Christ was born in the city of Bethlehem. The name "Bethlehem" means the House of Bread. Is there any more appropriate place this night for us to be gathered than in this House of Bread? In a few moments, you and I will be partakers of a sumptuous Christmas meal in which the Body and Blood of the Lord is our food. 

Tonight, this is our House of Bread. This is our Bethlehem. The words of hope given to the shepherds and to the whole world are ours tonight: to surrender ourselves, and our lives, all that we are and all that we have, all of our being totally to the sovereignty of the Lord Jesus Christ, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. He is Lord of lords, King of kings, and God of gods. Tonight. Oh, it's a night for nostalgia. But, more importantly, my friends, it is a night of grace. It is a night of new beginnings. This night a Savior is born to us. 

Please note: These sermons are offered for your meditation. If you wish to use them for some other purpose or republish them, please credit St. Dunstan’s Church and Fr. Sisterman.