So I bring you greetings from Bishop Bain and from the people of the Diocese of Southern Virginia. We like to call ourselves “the Mother Diocese” of the Episcopal Church. Well, Jamestown was founded in 1607, so we hope to claim that history and celebrate 400 years very soon.

We were gathered this week as a staff for our Christmas party and gathering, and had a Eucharist together and shared stories about times at Christmas that were most profound and moving for us. And my favorite story from that day was from St. Peter’s Church in Norfolk where they were talking about Christmas pageants. And everybody was ready to go, and it was about the point where Mary and Joseph were to arrive on the scene. And everything had been carefully laid out, and everything was set up, and Mary and Joseph did not appear. And Mary and Joseph did not appear. And finally the stage manager leaned back and screamed, “Come on, where’s Mary?” And Joseph hollered back, “She’s not pregnant yet!”

This is the Sunday, the fourth Sunday in Advent, where oftentimes perishes around the country will have thousands, it seems, of children dressed in bathrobes and with lambs ears, to tell the story about the coming of Jesus Christ into the world.

And so this morning, I want to reflect with you about Jesus’ coming into the world, and the gift that Mary gave us in her willingness, in her willingness, to welcome the God incarnate into this world. Her willingness to change her plans, to have her life changed for her, so that God could be made flesh and dwell with us. And I want to do that by sharing with you a story from my own life. And I tell you I got permission from my family to do this. So I know better than to tell stories without their permission.

But I’m a member of the Cherokee Nation, and we are both a matrilineal and matriarchal tribe. So it makes sense to us that the Savior of the world would be brought into the world by a woman, that the story would be told, and the one who would have care of the Christ Child would be a woman. So I want to tell you four stories of women in my life.

It begins with my youngest child, Phoebe. In my new role as a Bishop — and I’ve just been consecrated since April — I’ve come to realize that one of the aspects of the my job is to hear complaints. And I often have people on the phone who are irate with their clergy, or with something that we’ve done in the Diocese. I had a woman call me on the phone about a very difficult ending of a relationship with their priest. And while she was talking to me I said, “You know Lord, I’m not sure I can do this job. This is too hard.” But then she stopped and said, “I need to tell you something that probably no one else might tell you. And I’m sorry that I’m upset about our pastor. But I need to tell you about your daughter, Phoebe. And I thought, “Oh. Oh.” And she said she was at camp this summer. Brand new to the Diocese we had moved Phoebe from a fairly comfortable community, small town in Delaware, to a confusing change in the middle of the year, moving schools, moving communities, and with her mother in a very different role. And she said that Phoebe went to camp with her daughter, and her daughter was terribly homesick. And she said, “Your daughter comforted her and listened to her crying and made her comfortable until she was ready and able to function with the other children.” You don’t know what kind of gift that was to a mother who was sending her child away for the very first time to camp.

Mary tells us that part of what it means to make God incarnate is to comfort those who are broken hearted, who are down caste, who are homesick, who are lonely, who are feeling out of place.

The second story is about my daughter, Ariel. Ariel is a dancer. When Ariel was at the end of her first grade year, she was diagnosed with severe with learning disabilities. Ariel has struggled sometimes with reading and writing, although she’s incredibly bright — And any of you who have dealt with learning disabilities will know that it’s often times frustrating because words don’t come, or they’re out of order. Ariel enrolled in college so that she can teach dance therapy, and she can work with children. And I asked her, “Why do you want to do that?” And she said to me, “I want to help children who have no way to express in words what is in their heart.”

Mary tells us in her willingness to bring the Christ child into the world that we are to give voice to the voiceless.

And then there’s my daughter, Emily, our oldest. She recently finished college in Boston, and she and I were visiting Boston about a year after she had graduated. We were walking the streets of Cambridge, and as you might know in Cambridge there are lots of street people, lots of people panhandling on the streets in Cambridge, Massachusetts. As we walked down the street, many of the homeless men came up and greeted us. And said hello to Emily. And I finally said, “Emily, what’s going on here?” Well, she really didn’t explain too much to me. The next person we came by was panhandling, and asked her if she had a quarter. And she said, “Look, I don’t have any money.” And he said, “Well, you’ve been good to me.” And he turned around and gave her a quarter! What I learned from my daughter, Emily, is that it means something, no matter who you are, to be known by name. And that while she was in college and working in Cambridge, when she had an extra few dollars she would share a sandwich and visit with those people who lived on the street, who hung around the doorways, as wealthy people went by and were often ignored. And a year later, they were known by name.

And Mary tells us that it’s important for us to know people by name, to be known by God in that intimate way that we are known by name.

And finally, my mother. My mother is nearly 80 years old. She is a preacher’s wife. After my dad retired, they stayed busy. After my father passed away she got busier. My mother, every Friday night, goes to a local town and feeds somewhere between 60 and 70 children that they pick up from The Project. Most of these children have at least one parent that is in jail. They usually have a little Bible Study or a little Sunday school lesson, it’s about having a healthy meal and feeding these children. And I asked my mother why she does this. “You know, at 80, people will let you relax, mom.” And she said, “Who would feed the hungry if I don’t feed the hungry?”

Mary tells us that part of the incarnation of God is to be present and feed the hungry. Mary says to that angel, despite the fact that that angel is telling her that all her plans for a peaceful, normal existence have been ruined. Mary says to that angel, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord. Let it be with me according to your word.” Even though she knew that her body would be broken. Even though she knew that her community would come undone. Even though she knew that she would be a stranger, and she would not be known by name, and that she would be among the poor and the homeless and the needy and the hungry. She made room for God.

And you and I likewise are called to follow Mary’s example, to make room for God, to make people who are uncomfortable, comfortable; to make people who are sad and lonely, welcome. We are to feed the hungry, know the names of the homeless, make a place for them in our lives. We are to stand with justice with those who have no justice, and we are to give voice to their pain and their suffering. We are to give voice to their joys and sorrows. We, like Mary, are called to bring God incarnate in the world.

I want to close my words with you today by singing you a piece of a Christmas carol. And I know we’re still in Advent, but I ask your permission, Dean, to get away with this. Because it reminds me how important it is for us each to participate in God’s action in the world. It is just our hands and our voice and our bodies that God has to make God’s love known here and now.

And, like Mary, we are called to make God incarnate now.

In the bleak midwinter Frosty wind made moan. Earth stood hard as iron Water like a stone. Snow had fallen snow on snow Snow on the ground. In the bleak midwinter Long ago.

Angels and archangels May have gathered there. Cherubim and seraphim Thronged in the air. But his mother only In her maiden bliss Worshipped the beloved With a kiss.

What can I give him? Poor as I am? If I were a shepherd I would bring a lamb. If I were a wise man I would do my part. Yet, what can I give him? Give him my heart.