How many of you were with us at the Cathedral or at another church for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day services? Let’s see a show of hands. I’m really not trying to check up on your church attendance record, but rather to make reference to how glorious those services were. Those of you who were here at the Cathedral remember the streamers and the processions led by our acolytes with military precision, the choirs, and the crowds. It was all quite grand. And I suspect it was a similar experience for those of you who celebrated Christmas in other churches. I know of at least several other members of our congregation who were at Canterbury Cathedral Christmas Eve.

But that was all four days ago. And this is the Sunday after Christmas. We’re still singing carols and the decorations are still beautiful. But nothing beats the anticipation and the excitement before Christmas.

The church calls this “The first Sunday of Christmas,” which is the first Sunday in the Feast of Twelve Days of rejoicing called Christmas. A week ago today, two full days before Christmas, I went into a favorite store and couldn’t believe it when I saw the sales people taking down the Christmas decorations. I registered my complaint and left without purchasing the gift I came to find. Here at church, at least, the season just began this week.

But no mater what the church calls it, it never quite feels that way after Christmas. We’ll continue to sing songs about the coming of the babe, about Bethlehem, but by this point you might be mostly thinking about the coming of the VISA bill in January. Perhaps some of you were able to take this week off from work, and today marks the end of Christmas holidays with the resumption of business as usual. Here at the Cathedral many of our colleagues are away, and for even those of us who stayed around, it was a pretty light week. But I’m starting to think about all the work that is waiting for me when the calendar says “2008.”

It’s much the same feeling on the Sunday after Easter, isn’t it? That the church calls that day “Low Sunday.” That’s an apt description of how we feel after all the trumpets and fanfare and the alleluias. Then, like now, we ask, Why can’t we keep it going? Henry Van Dyke in his beloved Christmas Reading asks, “Are you willing to forget what you’ve done for others and to remember what others have done for you, to ignore what the world owes you and to think about what you owe the world. To stoop down and to consider the needs of little children? If so, you can keep Christmas. And if you can keep it for one day, why not always?”

Bishop William Willimon, who was here at the Cathedral just several weeks ago, answers that question by referring to the book of Hebrews, that says, “For it is clear that he, Jesus, did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham.” In other words, you and me. And we’re not angels. Why not keep Christmas for the other 364 days a year? We couldn’t live like that, says Willimon. The excitement of this season is precisely that it takes us out of the ordinary and the routine of our daily lives. And while it is never as much fun to take down the decorations as it is to put them up, there’s also a part of us that is glad for the resumption of the ordinary. Like at the end of a long anticipated vacation, surely there is sadness that it’s over, but it feels good to be home.

This morning’s Gospel text, already read at noon on Christmas Day from the first chapter of John’s Gospel, soars with it’s majestic prologue, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God. He was in the beginning with God.” It boldly makes the faith claim about the babe in Bethlehem. Like the star that led the shepherds to the manger and the angels singing, it is lofty, and with fanfare and trumpets proclaims the incarnation as part of God’s grand plan for the universe from the very beginning of time. Yet, even amid the beauty of this poetry, the Gospel writer reintroduces us to John the Baptist, whom perhaps we thought we were finished with during Advent. Because he does not want us to get so caught up in the wonder of God’s grand design for the universe without bringing us back to a conversation about our part in making manifest God’s grand design. Because the Good News of Christmas, as the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us, is that God did not come to help angels, but you and me. And therefore, he had to become like us in every respect.

For this reason I draw our attention this morning to the rest of the Christmas story in Luke’s Gospel that isn’t often read in church. If you have some time this afternoon when you go home, take your Bible out and read the full second chapter of Luke’s Gospel. You heard the first part of it on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning. But after the shepherds and the angels are gone what you will read about is Mary and Joseph returning to their home town in Nazareth, to raise their child amid the ordinary routine of their lives. Like us, within days of Jesus’ birth, Joseph was back at work in his carpenter shop. And Mary was learning how to care for her newborn infant. Being faithful Jews, they observed the religious ritual of presenting and circumcising the boy in the Temple at Jerusalem on their way home. They obeyed the law of the Lord by sacrificing a pair of turtledoves in thanksgiving for the birth of their son. Wealthier people would have sacrificed a lamb when their children are born; turtledoves were no doubt all that Mary and Joseph could afford. After all the glorious, mysterious, joyful goings on in Bethlehem just a few days before, this all sounds like pretty ordinary stuff. After a multitude of heavenly hosts praising God and singing, “Glory to God in Highest Heaven, and on earth peace among those who been favored,” it must have been a real let down to face going back to Nazareth. A dusty, out of the way place where not much was going on.

So the Christmas story is about God doing a new thing in the context of the ordinary. And our spiritual lives are just like that. I think particularly in this culture we like to think we always want what is new, the latest iPhone, the latest fashion. Christmas is always a good time, particularly if you are like me and don’t get out to the stores much, to kind of keep up with what is new. We say we dislike doing the same old thing over again. Some folk register that complaint about church. Why do we have to do the same thing week after week during worship? We’ve just heard this passage from Scripture like today’s Gospel that was read on Wednesday. Why do we have to read it again? Why do we say the same prayers? Yet none of us lives without habit and ritual, pattern and repetition. It’s the glue that holds life together. The habit, the repetition grounds our lives and provides meaning.

And so if every day at church were like Christmas then nothing would be like Christmas.

As Bishop Willimon says, “We can’t live like that.” God takes on our flesh and becomes just like us. And God meets us most regularly in the ordinariness, in the routine, in the everydayness of our lives. And it’s where we meet God, in regular habits of prayer, Bible reading, loving neighbor as self, in coming to this Table week after week even when we don’t much feel like it, to be nourished by the Eucharistic meal. It’s when we are faithful to the habits of faith that we are most able to meet and grow in Christ.

Marriage counselors often remind clergy that the very worst time to try and do marriage preparation, particularly with young couples, is exactly the time we try and do it, in the months leading up to the wedding. Their expectancy and excitement and plans for the wedding overshadow any discussion about the sameness, the habits, the discipline, and the hard work of marriage, that if entered into fully will hold their life together and will be the context for their love to grow in ways they cannot not imagine. For those of you who have been at marriage for a while, you know that the wedding day is not the marriage. And every day could not possibly be like the wedding day.

God comes not for angels, but for you and me.

For most of us as we leave here this morning on the eve of a New Year, it’s back to the ordinary and our everyday duties and responsibilities. It’s also a good time to recommit to a disciple or schedule of regular prayer, Bible reading, and some intentional recurring work that helps build up the Kingdom of God right here, right now. Because that is where we will meet God and God, us…in the everyday habits and routines of our lives.

If everyday were like Christmas we’d never have Christmas Day.