is it possible?

Washington Diocese of the Episcopal Church a sermon, based on Luke 2.1-14, preached with the people of Epiphany Episcopal Church, Laurens, SC, on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, December 24 and 25, 2016

“She gave birth to her firstborn son…and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”


A mother lays her newborn baby in a filthy feeding trough for animals in a dark, dank, rank stable because there was no room in the inn. It doesn’t matter why. The heartless negligence of an innkeeper’s refusal to find lodging for a needy family, the blameless coincidence of the inn already filled by others coming to be registered, or something else. Whatever the reason, this story often is viewed as a sad depiction of privation and exclusion.

I see it as a story of hope. Hope that reflects our desire for the way we want life, the world to be. A desire deep and abiding precisely because it is seldom achieved and whenever realized, never long-lasting.

Hope is why this story has mesmerizing power. Why we read it every year. Why we gather annually to hear it. All to remind ourselves of the way things are meant to be.

So, let us listen again.

This baby, according to his-story, grew up and for many in his time was and, according to history, for countless over two millennia is the embodiment of love, the kindness for which our souls cry, and justice, the fairness for which our hearts hunger. This baby found no room in the inn and was laid in a manger.

An inn is a lodging place for guests; a temporary house for visitors, those who are not at home. A manger is a place for food where those who hunger are fed.

This Jesus, the embodiment of love and justice, is not a guest, not a visitor, therefore he need never lodge in the inn. Rather lying in a manger, he is the feast!

Is it possible then that love and justice are the food of which we are to partake so to become what, who we eat? Is it possible that as love and justice are embodied in our lives that we, others, God will see and know that kindness and fairness are not alien or unknown, but alive and at home in this world?

If we embrace and embody that hope, then it is possible that we this Christmas Day and every day will make all the difference in this world.


Photograph: me preaching at The Washington National Cathedral, Friday, January 27, 2006 (by Walt Calahan)

Illustration: The Adoration of the Shepherds (1609), Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610)

4 thoughts on “is it possible?

  1. Thank-you for giving me hope again by reminding me today who Jesus was and is and what his ongoing life presents to our fraught world. Love to you and your family, this and every day from your (one of) former partner in the sublime,
    p.s. There were two, tiny dinosaurs at our nativity scene last night along with other animals and a large bumblebee. (You really can’t make this stuff up….)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hope, my beloved FPITS Louise, is something I yearn to name and claim as a way to hold in check my inner shadows/darkness/pessimism, yet, even more, I have discerned and have come to believe, as a way of holding on to truth. For the more I reflect on the travails of oppressed peoples of history unto this day, the more I marvel at the/their unassailable capacity and willingness to hope, even and especially when what they long to see does not come in the span of their lifetimes. Incredible! Hence I share their hope in hope!

      As for the menagerie that annually appears at the StM Christmas pageant, nothing at all surprises me! And, no, YCMTSU!

      Love always to you and Charlie!


  2. Merry Christmas Paul! Thank you for clarifying the definitions of an inn and a manger. A temporary home and a place where the hungry are fed – and most importantly that Jesus IS the feast!! I don’t think I’ve ever thought of it in exactly that way! But Duh!!!! That is Exactly the point!

    With love and justice being the food, becoming who and what we eat is an incredible goal we all need to strive for. Kindness and fairness should be alive and at home in our lives every day. But as we all know, in this day and time we as a Nation truly need to work on it… Right now it just seems alien..If everyone as a single individual, works hard on their own, it will be so much easier to come together as a united front of love and justice.. wouldn’t it be awesome if by next Christmas we’ve made enough progress that at the very least kindness is the norm with fairness soon to follow. I’ll hope for that, and as Louise said, hope is a good thing to have on this day!

    Much love to you and Pontheolla on this day and for 2017.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, Loretta, sadly, I agree with you. Love and justice seem alien in this world we inhabit…

      Truth to tell, I always have believed that thus has been so. The powerful exercise power. The powerless remain powerless. AND despite, I think, it seems, the best, most concerted efforts of those who cherish equality to share the blessings and benefits of that liberty with all…

      What this suggests to me is that those…we who value love and justice, that is, unconditioned kindness and fairness to, for, with all need, MUST labor daily, intentionality to bring these realities to life…

      For this, I live and labor in hope


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