It's Christmas at Sunshine Cathedral on Second Life. Below are the readings, my reflection, and some music selections for this holy time.
Join us each week at Sunshine Cathedral in Second Life. Download the software and make your avatar at http://www.secondlife.com. Search Sunshine Cathedral in Classifieds to find your way to us. We meet each Sunday at 5pm EST/ 2pm SLT My name in Second Life is CristoferAslan Muircastle.
We look forward to having you at service!
Click the grey strip below to play sermon audio:
(*Text for the reflection at the bottom of this page)
Psalm 98.1-2, 4-6
O sing to the Lord a new song, for God has done marvelous things…God…has revealed divine justice in the sight of the nations. Make a joyful noise to the Holy One, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises. Sing praises…with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody. With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the Eternal
The Wisdom of Eric Sevareid
“Christmas is a necessity. There has to be at least one day of the year to remind us that we’re here for something else besides ourselves.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place…So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
Joy to the World 2:06 Johnny Cash Christmas With Johnny Cash Holiday
Light These Lights 4:28 Debbie Friedman Songs of the Spirit: The Debbie Friedman Anthology Pop
Ave Maria 3:52 Wynonna Judd A Classic Christmas Holiday
O Little Town Of Bethlehem 2:11 Ella Fitzgerald A Christmas Tapestry Holiday
Earth and All Stars 3:30 The American Boychoir Harmony: American Songs of Faith World
Universal Child 4:14 Annie Lennox A Christmas Cornucopia Holiday
Love Came Down At Christmas 3:04 Shawn Colvin Holiday Songs and Lullabies Easy Listening
* Reflection Text
The Reason for the Season
Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah! This year those two greetings coincide in a very real way. Today is Christmas Day, the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth who revealed to us the presence of the Christ in the world. And tonight is also the sixth candle of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights that continues for eight days. So today let’s talk a bit about both of these religious “holy” days.
Hanukkah is a beautiful tradition of lighting candles each night for eight days. It originates in a group called the Maccabees restoring honor to the temple and refusing to capitulate to the Roman empire who demanded that they stop their religious practices and conform to government decreed practices that mirrored their own religious traditions.
Hanukkah is about religious freedom. And there is nothing more beautiful or more moving than the candles of a menorah lit fully in the dark night of winter on the eighth night of Hanukkah. It’s a beautiful symbol of light in the darkest days of winter and the triumph of the human spirit exercising it diversity and its right to liberty and freedom.
Today we have here in our midst a fully lit menorah. We bring this symbol into our midst today to honor and celebrate the fact that it is our responsibility to learn about other religious traditions so that we can honor religious freedom for ourselves by learning about others’ traditions and honoring their right to express their traditions just as we have a right to express our own.
So now let us go to Bethlehem and see the baby lying in a manger there. Let us fully appreciate that his parents were traveling under duress. They were mandated to travel to Bethlehem, the place of Joseph’s birth, to register for the Roman census. This count of people was used to determine taxes on the occupied people.
It didn’t matter that Mary was pregnant and nearly ready to deliver. It didn’t matter that the journey was long. It only mattered that the empire mandated that the people be counted in a certain way for the purpose of taxing them and keeping them oppressed and living under occupied rule.
But the baby came in the baby’s time… the way babies do. And so they needed privacy for the birth but could not find it in human accommodations. And so they end up in a stable with fresh hay in a manger, a feeding trough for the animals. When he is born he’s wrapped in strips of cloth and laid there as his mother rests and his father watches over them.
But shepherds in the field saw a light in the sky and heard the angels singing. They were told of the birth of this child. And they came, as we do today, to the manger in the stable to visit the child and wonder at God’s goodness in the face of a newborn child.
Every year we celebrate this birth as the symbol of the value of every human life. And every year we are moved to acts of charity and goodness that otherwise throughout the year we decry as foolishness. But this is not the message of Christmas. This holy day that we celebrate with gifts and goodness is the essence of what we are called to live our every day of the year as Christians.
We are not called to celebrate only the birth of the child Jesus but to be concerned, vitally concerned with the wellbeing of EVERY child born on this earth. Every human baby comes into this world made in the image of the creator we say we worship. But we act as if some images of God are more valuable than others…. Those who have light skin, those who speak English without and accent, those who identify as Christian rather than some other religion. It’s ironic that some who call themselves Christian and insist it is the ONLY way to experience God forget to remember that the baby Jesus was born a Jew, circumcised on the eighth day after his birth and presented to God in the temple as was his parent custom.
As we close the curtain on yet another Christmas Day in this year of our Lord 2011 let us agree together to endeavor to keep Christmas not only today but every day of our lives in 2012. We will need to help each other. Old habits die hard. But we can develop an attitude of gratitude and an outlook of love and grace just as easily as we have cultivated pessimism, greed, and judgementalism fueled by the media manipulations of our modern culture.
The great Albert Einstein said, “Either nothing is a miracle or everything is a miracle.” I choose the later. I’ve been in the room when a baby was born. I’ve felt the burst of psychic energy that comes forth with the cry of a newborn child. I’ve felt the space in my own heart open where just a moment before there was no space to love another. All of these things are miraculous to behold.
Just as miraculous as the birth of the baby Jesus, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Let us now go to Bethlehem to once again behold the miracle and hear the angels sing.