Greatness Without Limit

352-theotokos-of-the-signReconciling Peace, sent to the people,
Gladdening Flash, who came to the gloomy,
Powerful Leaven, conquering all in silence,
Patient One, who has captured the creation
little by little.

Blessed is he who became small without limit
To make us great without limit.

—- Ephraim of Syria (306-373)

Light from Darkness

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
Trinity Parish of Newton Centre
December 24, 2015

The Holy Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ – Christmas 1C

Isaiah 9:2-7
Psalm 96
Titus 2:11-14
Luke 2:1-20

My Friends:

Like many of us at this time of year, I have probably spent too much time shopping in stores and, now, online.  And, at one point during the maddening rush of this week, I began to wonder if there were a vast conspiracy afoot to undermine completely my already strained ability to take the foolishness of our times in stride.  I even began to understand just why the reclusive American poet Emily Dickinson never left the house and grounds of her father’s home, and here’s why.

61gozp-wv9l-_sy344_bo1204203200_There I was, innocently browsing in the religion section of a Barnes & Noble bookstore when my eye glanced upon a book with the provocative title of Jesus in Blue Jeans: A Practical Guide to Spirituality.  Well, who among us could resist?  I waited until I was quite sure that no one was watching before I furtively snatched the book from the shelf.  And I didn’t need to read any further than the first few sentences of the dust-jacket’s description to confirm my dark suspicions and to get a pretty good idea of the author’s slant on Jesus of Nazareth.  The sampling included such “gems” of wisdom as—and now, I’m afraid, I am quoting—“Jesus the leader, who tells us that moving isn’t fun”; and “Jesus the worker, who never whines, but only hums.”  And, to make matters even worse, this book, we are told, is the last in a trilogy of such books by the same author.  With that, my amusement changed to horror because this meant that two other books just like it had already been unleashed upon our confused and hapless world!  Having had quite enough of this trendy, “wonder-bread” Jesus portrayed not as a fount, but as a mere puddle of so-called spiritual wisdom, I decided to read no further and I quickly returned the book to the store’s shelf where I hope it has found a permanent home.  Thanks, but no thanks, I thought. Continue reading

God’s Love, like a Mother’s Love

Sermon for Sunday, January 4, 2015
Christmas 2C
Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23

Next Sunday the infant Jesus will be all grown-up, and he will be all grown-up for another 50 weeks until next Christmas.  Today, then, is the last opportunity the lectionary offers for us to imagine Jesus as an infant.  And I encourage us to take advantage of this opportunity.

As I imagine Jesus as an infant, I can imagine holding him as I would any other infant.  I can imagine putting my nose into his hair and smelling his “new baby” smell.  I can imagine listening to his breath as he sleeps; hefting his tender, yet solid weight; marveling at his fat little legs and wrists; seeing his perfectly-formed little fingers and toes.  I can imagine watching the little patch of skin on his skull– that little patch between the four segments of our skull before they harden into solid bone – go in and out with his pulse.   And I can imagine loving him.  I mean, how could you not?  I know infants are a lot of work – OMG, they’re a lot of work! – but still, how could you not love him, that small, tender life so fragile in your arms? Continue reading

A New View of Christmas

childOver the swinging parapet of my arm
Your sentinel eyes lean gazing. Hugely alert
In the pale unfinished clay of your infant face,
They drink light from this candle on the tree.
Drinking, not pondering, each bright thing you see,
You make it yours without analysis
And, stopping down the aperture of thought
To a fine pinhole, you are filled with flame.

Give me for Christmas, then, your kind of seeing,
Not studying candles – angel, manger, star –
But staring as at a portrait, God’s I guess,
That shocks and holds the eye, till all my being,
Gathered, intent and still, as now you are,
Breathes out its wonder in a wordless yes.

— Bishop John V. Taylor (1914-2001)