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The Sermon I Need to Hear this Christmas

Posted: December 22, 2012 by Rob Voyle

I won't be preaching this Christmas, but I have been reflecting on: "if I was preaching what would I preach" and realized that what I was ruminating on was "what is the sermon that I need to hear this Christmas?"

Over the last few years I have become increasingly discouraged by the level of public discourse and even more frustrated that political ideologies have replaced seeking and finding practical solutions for the myriad of problems we as a society face. This all came to a head with the shooting at Newtown.

I wanted to scream, and yell, but most of all I just felt hopeless and wanted to give up, after all what can I as an individual do? That sense of hopelessness gets compounded by the sense of economic struggle of the past couple of years and where would I find time to do something in the midst of all that I am currently doing. Its hard to think of others when I find myself locked in a struggle to survive.

So with that as the context what is the sermon I need to hear this Christmas I need to hear?

The answer came on one of the weekly teleconferences that I run, which brought me to the first realization:

I can't do this alone, it is in community that I and we have the power to change the world.

And the Christmas message I need to hear (and had forgotten) was the prologue of John's Gospel and especially:

"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."

When children are afraid of the dark, we don't turn off the dark, we turn on the light.

Much of what discourages me is that I and most in our country are focused on trying to turn off the dark.

There is much talk of "gun control," which I avidly support, but I realize gun control is like putting a small scab on the gaping wound of our society

We focus on and vilify one or two people as "crazies" with guns yet we live in a culture that places a high value on revenge, often wrapped in a primitive idea of justice, and a high value on physical violence as the means to achieving that idea of justice.

Violence in any form is an example of communal moral failure and should be a time for communal sorrow and repentance for all involved. Why should we be surprised when one person takes a gun, invades a school, and kills 20 children and 6 adults when we as a nation invaded a country and killed hundreds of thousands of children and adults? Both were wrong, and we are all part of the problem and the solution.

I remember walking through an airport weeks after 9/11. At each corner of the terminal was a national Guardsmen with an assault weapon. There presence did not make me feel safer, on the contrary, I just knew that any terrorist would have to come with a bigger weapon, and the end to that spiral is joint annihilation. I also had a feeling of profound sadness and awareness that I don't want to live like this where everyone is armed to the teeth.

Please don't get me wrong. I am grateful for our military who are willing to make sacrifices that I am not prepared to make. I just have a huge problem with the way we as nation use our military.

Adding more darkness to a dark world isn't the solution, we need to turn on the light! The light that the darkness has not overcome.

And John goes on to say that all who received that light were given power to become the children of God.

Now I have known that light and been a child of God for over 40 years and I realized that it is time for this child of God to grow up and become an adult of God, to stop whining and do something. To stop blaming others and accept my part in this communal mess we are in and more importantly my responsibility for being part of the solution.

We get one choice in life with two options: to live in fear or to live in love. From "our time in the garden" humanity has been afraid and living in darkness. Each theophany begins with "do not be afraid" and is followed by a welcome into the light and a call to manifest that light in some way in the world.

And so as an adult of God I get to make choices. I choose to:

Live in love, which for me means:

To renounce using fear to motivate myself or anyone for that is the path of and to terrorism. To see the world through the eyes of love, for those are the eyes of God. To stay in community with others who walk the path of love. And whenever and wherever to seek and find the light in others and discover how we can make that light burn brighter.

And in the words of Steve Bhaerman to become a "nomad." That's where I no mad at you and you no mad at me. A little peace here, a little peace there, and pretty soon there be a big peace everywhere.

So that's the sermon I need to hear, or that I will preach to myself this Christmas.

I wish you, your families, and your enemies a great piece of peace this Christmas and pray that together we can all see and live in the light.

Rob Voyle

Song for Times Of Sorrow

As I thought of the families of those who lost children in Newtown my thoughts went to my own family. My sister Marilyn and her husband Don and their daughter Brie are two of my heros when it comes to dealing with grief. Marilyn and Don's son Zaan died when he was eight years old having lived most of his life with a brain tumor. Zaan was an amazing child, who, like many with a short life span seized what life he had and lived it to its fullest. When he died my sister wrote and recorded "Child of the Angels" as her tribute and farewell to Zaan.

You can listen to a recording at:

There is also a brief account of Don's experience of grief excerpted from the book Restoring Hope.

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About the Author

Rob Voyle

Rob Voyle

The Rev. Dr. Rob Voyle is a leader in the development and use of appreciative inquiry in church and coaching settings.

Rob's Approach to Training

  • Helpful: Training must provide practical, sustainable solutions for today's challenges.
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