Sermon for Christmas Eve

Sermon for Christmas Eve

Dec 24, 2020

Preacher: The Rev. Jared Houze


Jared Houze 

St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church 

December 24, 2020

Christmas Eve Sermon 

I am recording this sermon from our home. We thought to do it in front of the fireplace might lend to a festive feel. I really wanted to re-create the cover of Nat King Cole’s The Christmas Album but I didn’t want to move the leather chair from the other room – so we’ll have to settle. There are some folks I want to thank this evening. I tested positive for COVID on Saturday and have been quarantining ever since, so there have been many who have been present in ways I’ve been unable to. I want to thank Momma Jo for officiating the services this week and continuing in her wonderful pastoral care ministry, Courtney and the “stream team” for everything they do to make these services accessible, creative, and engaging. And last but certainly not least the Las Posadas team. Oh how we wish we could have been there! I know it was a wonderful time made possible by a terrific team. So a big thanks to the following: 


Barbara and Jim Whitton 

HQ Wrampelmeier 

Leesa Wood Calvi

Johnny Lattig

Caty Dowdy and Buzz Lovelady

Kim Carter and Greg Welch

David Steadham

Our fantastic ushers and Innkeepers


Thanks to all of you for your planning, preparation, and hard work. 


“In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night…” 


That’s where Luke drops us. In this rustic scene with these edgy characters. 

And they were…Now, we’re all accustomed to shepherds being part of the nativity scene. Another pair or more of bearded pastoral faces on the edge of the creche. And we’re glad they’re there -  there’s something honest and down to earth about them. Like they provide a little balance alongside the possibly opulent and exotic magi, who are often thrown into this Nativity scene – be it prematurely. 


But shepherds in the time of Jesus’ birth were thought of quite differently. They were indeed…edgy. Emerging from the lowest class of their society, the nature of their work necessitated a kind of vagabond lifestyle, and often drew people of suspect character with nothing to lose. Also because of their work they were considered “unclean” by the orthodox and religious elite. Shepherds were not allowed access to the temple and were cut-off from Israel’s religious rites and festivals. 

And that’s who Luke has us rolling dice and cigarettes with at the beginning of the story of Jesus’ birth. Suddenly, an angel appears, “Do not be afraid. For see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people…” 


Did you hear it? For ALL the people. 


All people…even this ragamuffin band of shepherds. Who then watch the evening sky transform into a Van Gough painting and hear a chorus of heavenly host, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among those whom he favors…”  And off they run…these derelicts with dirt under their nails and sheep dung on their sandals – unfit, unclean, and unorthodox become the first emissaries in the kingdom of God…and the message they’re carrying sounds strikingly familiar to another one around that time concerning Emperor Augustus when the provincial assembly announced, “Whereas the providence divinely ordered our lives created with zeal the most perfect good for our lives by producing Augustus (Caesar) and filling him for the benefaction of mankind, sending us a savior…” 


Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? I am bringing you good news of great joy for all people, to you is born this day a savior. 


These shepherds are announcing the arrival of a new king and a new kingdom. That’s dangerous business to announce something like that, maybe that’s why God chose the hard-livin’ shepherds with nothin’ to lose because as Kris Kristofferson wrote, “freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose…” 


I like these shepherds. In their own gutsy and unorthodox way they embody what Mary sang just a chapter before of God…scattering the proud in the imaginations of their hearts, bringing down the powerful from their thrones, and lifting up the lowly.


It’s already happening with these shepherds and then they get the sneak peek when they high tail it to Bethlehem and lay their eyes on Jesus, God incarnate, born into the grit and glory of this world. Then they return full of wonder “glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen…” 


There is a beautiful story told every Christmas in the rural villages of Provence in Southern France. It’s about the four shepherds who came to Bethlehem to see the Christ child. One brought eggs, another brought bread and cheese, the third (it’s a French story so I bet you can guess it) wine, but the fourth brought nothing at all. People call him L’Enchante. 







The first three shepherds chatted with Mary and Joseph – showering the couple with compliments on how well Mary looked and how comfortable Joseph had made the cave, and talking at length on the beauty of the star-filled sky. All of them making merry conversation until finally someone asked, “Where is L’Enchante?” Well, they searched all over until they peeked behind the blanket hung in the creche to block out the wind. And there – kneeling at the crib of the Christ, was L’Enchante – the Enchanted one – who through the entire night, stayed kneeling in adoration, whispering “Jesu, Jesu, Jesu…Jesus, Jesus, Jesus…”  


This Christmas Eve we’re distanced. I know that’s tough. I feel it too. 


But maybe this is also our moment to join those shepherds who were distanced out in the field that night. And if God will scatter the proud in the imaginations of their hearts, maybe he’ll also gather the vulnerable in the imaginations of our hearts. 


So imagine yourself out there tonight with those shepherds. Imagine what that would have been like? The sheer wonder of it…


And, even if it’s just in your heart, kneel in adoration before the Christ child with L’Enchante. And maybe the whispering of Jesus’ name becomes a prayer that reminds us…


That no matter where we are in relation one to another, this is a holy night, a night in which we welcome our Savior into the world, one in which we can join these shepherds and fill this night with our wonder and adoration.