The Feast of the Nativity: December 24, 2016, 10:30 pm
Preacher: The Rev. Leigh Mackintosh, Associate Rector of St. Michael’s Church
From the very beginning when the Word first swept over the restless waters breathing light and life into a formless void, God was with us.
From the very beginning, the power of God’s Word shines forth in the darkness, and by the power of that Word the entire world came into being.
When God speaks, life and light are born. When God sings, love is born.Through God’s Word, light and life and love were created in us that we might live into the image and likeness of the divine. God is with us from the very beginning; in fact there is never a time when we are without God.
On this holy night, we celebrate when the Word became flesh, when the light and life and love of God came to dwell among us. On this night God’s Word became more than a mere image or likeness of God. On this night God became incarnate—the embodied, intimate union of God and humanity. On this night the Word became the way for us to know God and know ourselves more truly, more deeply, more fully than ever before.
Christmas Eve—a time when the veil between this world and the next grows thin, when angels walk among us and once again God’s Word draws close to us breathing new light and life and love into our hearts, speaking the message that we have heard from the beginning. The message to love one another as God loves us. For all who love are born of God; all who love live in God, know God, experience God. And as we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.
Richard Rohr, Franciscan priest and founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation states, “There’s no other way you can know who God is, and who you are, but to love.” God’s commandment to love is not saying, “I demand this of you.” Rather, God is saying, “I invite you into this mystery of who you already are in me.”
What would it look like if we loved others as God loves us? What would our world be like if we said to one another, “I invite you into the mystery of who you already are in me. I invite you to know the light and life and love that I experience in you, by being in relationship with me.”
Part of God’s call to love means bearing witness and testifying to the light of God we experience in others. Another part of God’s call to love means taking a leap of faith to love the divine Mystery.
Loving God is not like loving an object—it is not like loving your gifts under the tree or savoring your favorite food at the table. Loving God means taking a leap of faith to love personally, mutually, completely something we cannot fully understand. If you think about it, we already do this in our relationships with one another. We can never fully know or understand a person completely, and yet we take a leap of faith to love and trust another as our friend, our spouse, our sibling, our parent, our co-worker. Why should our love of God be so different?
Another part of God’s call to love means living into God’s true image and likeness which lies within each of us. As we take the leap of faith to live in God’s love, as we live more and more in his image and likeness, we rediscover our true origin in God. Jesus reveals that the primary goal of life is illustrating both the image and likeness of God. God’s image is given to all—a gift that is already present in each of us; the likeness must be personally surrendered to, allowed, and practiced. 
Put another way, loving God means surrendering to, allowing, and practicing who God calls us to be. This is the core of the Christian faith—to take the leap of faith and be reborn as our true selves in God. By living into the true light and life and love already within us, we come to know ourselves as God knows us. Living into God’s image and likeness, we become one with God. But being our true selves in God does not guarantee that things will be easy. There will be times where we walk in darkness. There will be times when we feel rejected, alone, afraid. Times when we must face suffering, loss, even death itself. And yet, even the longest, darkest night yields to the brightness of the dawn.For the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.
When the night grows deep and dark, look to God’s light. For in him is life, and the life is the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
When the night grows deep and dark, do not despair. Evil and death have not triumphed. The night is at its darkest and deepest only because the light is shining so brightly we are blinded by its radiance. Such holy nights of darkness teach our souls to see and know and love with new eyes, with God’s eyes.
And as we walk with God though the darkness—the night becomes as bright as the day.
This is the message of hope we have heard from the beginning—the one John proclaimed long ago and that we continue to proclaim today—that God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all. Beloved children of God, love one another, for whoever loves lives in the light, and if we walk in the light as God is in the light, we share the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit now and always. Amen.
 Adapted from Richard Rohr, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of St. Francis of Assisi (Franciscan Media: 2014), 62, 69-71.
 1 John 2:8
 John 1:5
 Psalm 139:12
 1 John 1:5; 4:7