I was encouraged to post this. This is a short homily I preached at the end of the fall semester. This has been a hard year/semester for most of us. This was my attempt to speak into that. Special thanks to Tim Norton and Henry Coates, who’s homiletical skills are unrivaled.
I have put a link to the audio below, my delivery is less than ideal, e.g., I get off to a rough start and I sound Canadian when I say shepherds, but I thought I’d include it anyways.
One of my favorite stories in Lord of the Rings is from the Chapter Houses of Healing in the Return of the King. After the battle of Pelanor fields, when the City of Minas Tirith was successfully defended, many are left wounded by the enemy and not even the greatest healers of the city are capable of healing them. The people are left desperate for a king, for Aragorn has still not revealed himself and there is an old tale, still believed by some in the city, namely a healer by the name of Ioreth, who has tried everything she could to heal the wounded. The old saying goes, “The hands of the King are the hands of a healer, and so shall the rightful king be known.” “The hands of the King are the hands of a healer, and so shall the rightful king be known.” The rightful King, THE true King, the King we are waiting for is both a mighty ruler AND a healer. “The hands of the King are the hands of a healer, and so shall the rightful king be known.” I want you to keep that in your mind as you listen to this text. Really sit with these words.
Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. 2 This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. 4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, 5 in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. 6 While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
8 In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; 11 for to you is born this day in the city of David a savior. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”
15 When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. 17 When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.
“Unto you, is born this day the Savior!” The savior has come. And He does not pass you by as did the priest and the levite did the man who had fallen amongst thieves. He makes your situation his own. He has taken on your situation unto himself and made himself lowly. He remained what he was, and what he was not he assumed. Truly God became truly man. And this man came to heal and to teach the way, he put Himself at the disposal of those who needed Him. He took on the cancer of sin upon himself in order that He may cure it. He took on the cancer of hate, of racism, of death. He took all of this upon himself. He assumes sinful flesh and through this Christ heals. That’s what Christ has done. That’s what this text announces.
Christ invites us into the life of the trinity, and our humanity cannot preclude us from this.
Through this, Christ heals.
The cause of the widow and the orphan have been taken up
Through this, Christ heals.
The blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up.
Through this, Christ heals.
To you a savior is born, and this savior stands with you
Through this, Christ heals.
The hands of Christ are the hands of a healer.
We are able to recognize hope because of the healing that is given to us in the incarnation. The Holy One Himself comes down to us, God in child in the manger. God comes. The Lord Jesus comes. Christmas comes.
My question for y’all is, how do we recognize this hope when we do not have someone to point it out to us. How do we recognize hope when we do not have a multitude of the heavenly host to proclaim it to us? This has been a hard year. There has been so much pain: the shootings of San Bernardino, California, Roseburg, Oregon, Charleston, South Carolina, and the pulse nightclub in Orlando, the racial tensions from the police shootings of innocent black men to riots, the most contentious presidential election we’ve ever seen. How do we recognize hope when, instead of a heavenly host proclaiming the hope that has just been given, we have a news anchor announcing more death, racism, and hate?
If you are like me, you are so desperate for some semblance of hope that you will follow anything that looks like angels proclaiming it and try to heal the hopelessness yourself. You will burry yourself in your work, you will try and find hope in friends, or you simply plug your ears and hum only to find the every single effort fruitless.
To find the true answer we turn to our passage. “For to you is born this day in the city of David a savior” These words, friends, “to you, a savior,” is the Christmas story. The event that is being proclaimed here by the angel of the Lord, the action of the man who provides us hope, is how we recognize hope. It is true, we do not have angels descending from heaven to proclaim the presence of Hope to us. We do not have angels to proclaim to us that we should not be afraid, when we fear all hope is lost and we feel the weight of pain and hopelessness. What we do have is knowledge of a specific event, an event in history, an action taken by he that gives hope, in the city of David while Quirinius was governor of Syria.
We recognize hope by the past and promised action of Christ, god with us.
But what exactly is the action that is being done that gives us hope, that allows us to recognize this hope without the angel of the Lord proclaiming it to us like he did to the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night? My friends, the action that we may know him by, that we may recognize hope is his movement towards us, the Holy one himself comes down and becomes a child in a manger. “to you, a savior!”
Brothers and sisters, sometimes we need to be reminded of this. We need to be reminded that hope is given and we have found it. That a light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot lay hold of it. For in this action, we can recognize our hope. When we do not have angles to sing and proclaim our hope, we tend to follow any proclamation we can find in an attempt to heal ourselves from whatever is bearing down upon us. We try and find hope in relationships, we try and find hope in our accomplishment within the church, or we burry ourselves in our studies and we make our grades and our performance apart of our identity. We need to be reminded that our hope is found, only, in these words, “to you, a savior.” And it is this savior, alone, who heals.
For the hands of the King of the hands of a healer and and so shall the rightful king be known. We left Aragorn outside of the city, however, seeing the need, but still not wanting to reveal himself as the true king just yet, enters the city but he furls up his banner and enters as a Ranger, a man of an unknown, mysterious people from the North. He enters the House of healing, gathers a little known weed called Kingsfoil, and heals Faramir. Faramir stirs and Aragorn tells him, “Walk no more in the shadows, but awake! You are weary. Rest a while and take food, and be ready when I return.” He is recognized as the rightful king and rumors spread throughout the city that the true king has returned.
Walk no more in the shadows, but awake! You are weary. Rest a while and take food, and be ready when I return.
That is what we do in Advent. We wait. We wait for the final consummation of Christ’s action towards us. It is true that Christ has come, christ has healed, and we see this and recognize this hope but because of this action we also await a future hope. We wait until Christ comes back and makes all things new. But this time He will not enter the city as a Ranger with banners furled, or a child born in a manger because we cannot find room for him. He will come, written on his robe and thigh, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The Holy city, the new Jerusalem, will descend down from heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And he will tabernacle amongst us. He will wipe away every tear from our eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor shootings, nor racism, nor hate. He will heal all. For the former things will have passed away.
Until that day, we wait. We sit with the hope found in the incarnation, god for us. We see the action taken towards us, we see the hope. Brothers and sisters, until that day, walk no more in the shadows, You are weary. Rest a while, and take food, and be ready when He returns.