I have always been fascinated by the place of miracles in the Bible and the use of that word in our common., everyday, secular language. And in very truth there is probably no one here in the cathedral this Christmas morning or watching this telecast who has not been touched in one way or another by what could be called a miracle. Think about it!
When an event touches or changes our lives or the lives of some one else for the better in an inexplicable way, usually defying the naturally ordered laws of science, medicine, theology or human experience, we more often than not refer to the event, even in our secular language as. . . “Well, you know, it was a miracle!”
Now to be sure there are cynics in the world who would claim that miracles simply do not happen and things referred to as being miraculous are nothing more than inexplicable events defined by the chances and changes of human existence and the world.
And yet so much of our human existence is lived within the touching embrace of inexplicable events that literally shape our lives, at times tragically and at other times with blessed grace and goodness, that even those who do not believe in the existence of God are often awe struck by the mystery of it all and ponder the unknown depths of human existence seeking some meaningful answer to it all. But there are no secular answers to be found. Only through prayer and the deep, spiraling journey of experiencing the sacred are we able to experience the hand of God in the secular.
And so on Christmas morning we gather in Washington National Cathedral, the sixth largest cathedral in the world, envisioned b the first Episcopal Bishop of Washington, Henry Yates Satterlee, at the turn of the 19 century to be for this nation a house of prayer for every person, regardless of where they might be on their religious pilgrimage. And we gather to proclaim the great miracle of Christ’s birth. We are here in Washington and in churches and homes stretched across this great American landscape and throughout the world to remember and to celebrate the powerful truth that miracles can and do happen! And as people who have seen the great light of Jesus, we are a people who have come to expect miracles!
What was God thinking? That an Angel named Gabriel should come into the world and announce to a young, poor, Jewish peasant girl named Mary and to Joseph her betrothed, an itinerant carpenter, and then to nomadic shepherds who lived on the margins of a badly broken, tired, war ridden and religiously divided part of the world … that this unlikely couple would become the birth parents of God’s son. What was God thinking? Many say it never really happened that way! But I say … it was a miracle!
What was God thinking? That by the miracle of a tiny infant’s birth in the squalor and poverty of Bethlehem in Judea, that this Son of God would grow and challenge people then, as he challenges us now to make a difference in the world by loving extravagantly, being reconcilers rather than instruments of estrangement, living as peace-makers rather than war makers, becoming providers of abundance rather than purveyors of scarcity, and being conductors of harmony rather than the orchestrators of dissonance.
Some would say that God does not exist, Jesus was a dreamer and that Christmas and Christ’s birth and living presence among us has no real hold on the world to change it for the better… but I say it’s already happening. And it is a miracle!
And what was God thinking… when the Angel Gabriel was sent by God to reveal the Law to Moses?
And what was God thinking… when the Angel Gabriel was sent by God to reveal the sacred Quran to the prophet Muhammad?
And what was God thinking… when the Angel Gabriel was sent by God to reveal the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God?
Were these just random acts of association and coincidence or was the Angel Gabriel who appears as the named messenger of God in the Jewish Old Testament, the Christian New Testament Gospels, and the Quran of Islam, really the same miraculous messenger of God who proclaimed to a then emerging religious, global community and to us this morning that we are ALL children of the living God? And as such we are called to acknowledge that as Christians, Jews and Muslims we share a common God and the same divine messenger. And that as children of the same God, we are now called to cooperatively work together to make the world a haven for harmony, peace, equality and justice for the greatest and least among us.
Our celebration of Christ’s birth this morning comes at a time when the world is still enslaved by the sins of war, disease, illiteracy, famine, darkness, death and despair and it is also a reminder that the world of Jesus’ time knew him by the titles “Son of God” and “Prince of Peace.” May each of us stretched across this nation, from North, South, East and West and throughout the world be renewed by our love for one another, be open to God’s presence in changing our lives and recommit ourselves to be people who expect miracles!
May we be lifted up as if on the outstretched wings of a graceful, soaring eagle and begin our journey anew in search of religious harmony, and a new global peace… a peace that passes all understanding. And may this day and the many that follow be days filled with the memory of this Christmas… a Christmas where the miracle of God’s love was reborn into the world, became flesh, and dwelt among us. Amen