My final sermon as curate at St. Peter’s Comox, December 30, 2018.
Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise him in the heights! (Psalm 148:1)
Merry Christmas! If you’re like me you might have been a bit of a zombie this week, celebrating with those you love, with seasonal delicacies, its a bit disorienting isn’t it? Some people even lose track of what day of the week it is.
I think Christmas is a time of year when its most clear the distinction between the church and the world. As the decorations of the culture around us go down ours go up. As their carols end ours we raise. When they turn to slumber our inheritance is to turn to praise.
For Cranmer, a formulary of our Anglican tradition, the sacrifice of worship wasn’t Jesus sacrifice again on the altar-that was accomplished once for all at Calvary. The sacrifice of Christian worship is our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. We gather together often to give to got what little we have to offer, which is to praise him and to give thanks to him. But what does that mean?
Its interesting that at Christmas time we hear this slice of a story about Hannah and Samuel. Hannah was one of Elkanah’s two wives. The other wife gave Elkanah many children and she lorded it over Hannah. So she prayed fervently for a child saying that if she had one she would offer it to the service of the Lord. That child was Samuel.
This morning we hear about his growing up in the service of God. Samuel helped the people and the priests of Israel worship God every day. He wore a linen ephod, sort of like a ritual apron.
His mother used to make for him a little robe and take it to him each year, when she went up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice. (1 Samuel 2:19)
Our servers Sion, Claire, Johannes and Alexander get a taste of Samuel’s life in their service to God here. His involved more blood and fire than theirs. Every year his mother brought him a robe. We still wear robes symbolically, but what is our work in getting dressed? What do we wear to praise God?
Paul tells us: above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (Colossians 3:14). The love that we dress ourselves in is the praise of God. It is not a love that comes from any power of our own, it comes from the power that is on high. It is not a love we imagine but the very same who makes himself known to us in the bread of life and the cup of salvation. It is not a love of sentiment but a love of sacrifice. Not a love of sappy compassion but divine mercy. It is not a love of social justice but of holiness after God’s own holiness. It is not a love that is far off, but a love that is very near you, in fact it is so intimate with you that it became incarnate at transformed everything about you.
Christmastide is the celebration of this love that takes us up into himself, makes himself known to us, but more importantly beholds and takes up everything that you are. We are to clothe ourselves in Him, to clothe ourselves in love. That’s what it is to praise him.
Every year Hannah made this robe for Samuel. Every year. And despite Eli’s prayers, she had given her one and only son to the praise and honour of God. Samuel was “the gift that she made to the LORD” (1 Samuel 2:20). Like Abraham offered Isaac, Hannah offered Samuel. Jesus has been offered for us that we might offer our own lives, the lives of our families, to the honour and service of God. The center of worship is no longer the tent Samuel worshipped in or the temple Jesus taught in, the heart of worship is your own heart.
You carry that thing with you everywhere you go. In every familial interaction. In every commercial choice. In every word spoken or withheld. In every opportunity to love you carry the heart of worship within you. About this Paul says: “whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him,” (Colossians 3:17).
We are called to make every moment our lives a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to God whose love knows our every moment, whose spirit fills our inmost being, who has called you, known you, empowers you.
Let us with all that is seen and unseen praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his glory is above earth and heaven. (adapted from Psalm 148:13).