St. Mary Magdalene Anglican Church

Vancouver, B.C.

Phone: 604-877-1788

E-mail: office@stmarymags.ca


The Anglican Parish of St. Mary Magdalene

2950 Laurel Street at West 14th Avenue

Vancouver, BC, V5Z  3T3

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Diocese of New Westminster Anglican Church of Canada

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Sermons for the Season of Christmas

Christmas Eve 2020     John Marsh



I speak to you with hope, in the name of a hope that invites  holiness, a sacredness risked, perhaps an emerging face of divinity, dare I hope, humanity fully alive, coming to birth…


Tonight, we need to listen very carefully, reflecting hard and long about what is perhaps transpiring within our hearing, within our hearts, within our world, because creation depends on it, as do we…


The expected narrative of this night and, truth to tell, an untold narrative of every night, is framed within, by, the institutions and structures of convention, the status quo, vested interest, the way things are and must be, and for many, the status quo has the force of inevitability…


It may carry the weight of fate, it may carry the fervour of faith but nonetheless, it is experienced as inevitable…


The institutions of the status quo contain the usual vested interests – the political, the economic, the social and indeed the religious whose expectations of life map the steps of an inevitable dance – this is how it is and, if you had any wisdom, if you respected the gods, you would get in step and dance the respectable dance, the dance of conventional wisdom…


But some hearing other music – have danced differently or at least have heard an invitation to so respond…


So, come, I pray, risk dancing with me…


In the face of dominant belief as to how things are or must be, some have cherished a hope of difference, have dreamed dreams of how things could be and asked, ‘why not?’, leading perhaps to a question, ‘how is this present age, this ‘world of darkness’ – as one text would put it – how is this world of darkness to change, to transform?


It is to this hope of difference, this messianic hope that convention, the status quo of the powers, would be overturned, that the narratives of tonight were written, re-written - expressing longings, desires, hoping for, demanding an accounting…


Luke’s narrative of messianic fulfillment, of subverting normalcy, begins earlier than the text read tonight…


Stories of subversion begin with a young woman’s child:


‘Mary you shall conceive and bear a child’

‘How is this possible?’ she exclaimed…


And then – ah then, comes an affirmation of a possibility of the impossible – ‘nothing is impossible with God’…


And so, the narrative tells a theopoetic story of divine conception, virgin birth, angels, wise men, and shepherds – Immanuel – god is with us – we will overcome – the messiah is born – In Excelsis Gloria!!


But there are nagging questions:


Is God with us? (Here some will quietly add, ‘I am not so sure we have overcome!)


Has God triumphed? (Here some will whisper, ‘It’s hard to tell.’)


What does it mean that nothing is impossible with God? (As the question is asked, a barely noticeable thought perhaps crosses our mind – Really?)


Conventional piety censures such questions, such thought:


Don’t ask such troubling questions! – Have faith…


Don’t ask such troubling questions – besides it’s a good story.


So, what are we to do in the face of such pietistic pressure?


Yet, it is here that we need to listen carefully, reflect deeply…


Within the text, there is another subverting text, not obvious at first glance but, if you listen, you will hear the sound of another tune, an alternative music suggesting that indeed there may, after all, be another dance…


A clue lies in the line, ‘Nothing is impossible with god’…


We have always cast god in the language of strength, dominance, and power – we know this well – we are surrounded by it, immersed in it; as John the Baptist expresses it, ‘one mightier than I is coming’…


Traditionally, that has always been the hope, that One mightier will come, that One more holy, that the One will lead us. We have always given titles, wondrous names to such expected ones, those who will do the impossible – right the wrongs, bring peace, establish justice because they are strong, and their strength will set us free!


However, truth to tell, what is cast as a ‘new’ hope, a ‘new’ way is, in our experience, not so different, not so new. It’s really just the same power game with different players, players possibly more skilled, more passionate, more a role model but nonetheless still playing the same game…  


Caesar’s way or God’s way?


Let’s be honest, in the end, are they or have they really been different?


Have not Caesar and God joined together, their ways intermingled?


Yet curiously, perhaps all is not so easily defined and dismissed…


Perhaps possibilities of hope lie in the possibility of calls, invitations of the impossible, stirrings of faith, hope and love within the complexity of our times, dare I say the impossibility of what is astir within the name of god, within the ordinary pedestrian ‘might’, the passion, of a young woman empowered, called….


Perhaps it’s not about kings and their reigns, not about princes promising peace, those on high dispelling wisdom…


Perhaps it’s about the impossibility of birth, theopoetic possibilities of life lived fully, theopoetic possibilities of dreams dreamed and risked, of love loving, of justice calls heard and risked, of work wholly committed to…


Perhaps the language of power and dominance is but a theopoetic excess stirring our hearts not a metaphysical ontological blueprint outlining tomorrow…


Truth to tell, each one of us is perhaps an embodied impossibility with all of our unique creative possibility. The odds of any one of us being here as the result of an orgasmic moment are so astronomical as to be almost impossible; yet here we are…


So, if honesty holds, birth, our birth, any and all births, are expressions of a possibility of the impossible – birth is so tenuous, so rife with vulnerability – oh let’s say it – so weak and yet, perhaps, opening up to promise, a promise of faith, hope and love, opening to the risk of response no matter yesterdays paths, no matter the excoriating pain of what was lost yet nevertheless, risking hope, a hope that something will be found, a step taken, admittedly a step uncertain yet nonetheless a step…


It is the narrative of birth precisely in its weakness that expresses movements stirring within the name of god, the name of compassion and reconciliation, spectral callings of spirit astir – a voice crying in the wilderness of power, expressing the wildness of a vulnerable hope welling up…


The birth narrative of one deeply human, one Yeshua ben Yosef, is perhaps a narrative of our birth or, if you will, a narrative of birthing god within and without and, as with all births, it is weak and wondrous; if we attend to it, if we learn to be midwives, we will perhaps entertain the impossible, responding to calls stirring…


Truth to tell, the slim chance of our being weaned from the addictive allure of expecting, demanding, and defending the mighty on their thrones in all their guises must be admitted – it is perhaps impossible – and yet, within the admission, the impossible calls and some, one, claim their birthright, we perhaps claim our birthright – the impossibility of our unique creativity, the impossibility of community, the impossibility of vision, the impossibility of faith, hope, and love – then, perhaps, the mighty and the hungry, the powerful and the thirsty will have their humanity restored. So I hope and pray…


And so, I bring good news, for unto us a child is born … and that child is us.