On Christmas Eve, this year at St. George’s I spoke to the gathered worshipers about the importance of being prepared to receive the blessings that God wants for us in our life. As God’s children, as brothers and sisters in Christ through our baptism, God has given a promise of blessing for each of us. But for us to receive it, we must be ready for it. It is sort of like teaching an infant how to play catch with a rolling ball. The first things we do is teach them to open up their arms. You can not catch the ball until you open your arms up first.
Now in that video, I love the surprise on the unexpected folks faces. I think that beautiful piece of music is sung well by the members of Chorus Niagara. It is obvious from the first notes sung, by the young lady on her cell phone that this is staged. But what makes it compelling for me is its’ place in the food court of a mall in mid November where the Christmas shopping is already in swing. I love that the fellow on the piano has been playing Christmas Carols in the back ground. I love that the singers are mixed in the crowd in the food court of the Seaway Mall in Welland, appearing like regular shoppers and of all ages and even as a mall staff person. I love the ordinariness of the setting. We have all been there. And I love the faithful text of the Hallelujah Chorus ringing out in that consumer cathedral as they sing, “He shall reign forever. Lord of Lord. King of Kings. Hallelujah.” (I’m a priest, so I doubt that that surprises you.) But mostly, I love the surprise and then the joy that is reflected on the faces of those folks just out to shop at the mall, who are experiencing something unexpectedly wonderful and beautiful. I think they received a wonderful blessing and gift that day.
I can tell you that at all our four services on Christmas Eve, we didn’t do anything that you hadn’t expected. The Christmas Carols we sang are the same and they story of Jesus birth is the same. But I need you to hear that one of the most important messages of our reading of the Christmas story is that God works in unexpected ways and in unexpected places. Imagine how many people walked by Joseph and Mary with the newborn Christ Child as they went about their business in Bethlehem, and noticed nothing out of the ordinary.
There is one more short video clip I showed to the folks gathered in church on Christmas Eve. The reason for showing it was to remind us that it is almost too easy for us to get caught up in the busy and ordinary in our life. How getting caught in the regular, we can forget to be ready for the unexpected ways that God can send blessings our way. But if we are not ready to receive them, we can walk right by them. This is a video from 2007 shot by the Washington Post with a hidden camera placed in a Washington subway station during rush hour. They wanted to see how people would react to great masterpieces performed by a talented musician but in an unexpected place. For this they enlisted the help of Joshua Bell, one of the worlds best violinists who, dressed in street closes, would open the case of his 3.5 million dollar Stradivarius to collect the change that people might give as they walked by as he played 43 minutes of the greatest and most challenging violin music written. Here’s what happened.
Over one thousand people passed by in that 43 minutes. Only seven really stopped to listen for more than a minute. In his open case he collected just over $32. And only one person recognized him. The Washington Post did an article called “Pearls before Breakfast” detailing the whole account.
God blesses each of us each and everyday. As the Christmas story reminds us tonight, God will often bring us those blessings in unexpected ways. I believe that what we do at church on Christmas Eve and what we do here at St. George’s every Sunday helps us to be more attentive to how God works in our lives and helps us to better spot God working in our lives, even when Christ shows up unexpected and in unexpected ways. It is my hope for each of us, this Christmas, that we will be ready to receive God’s blessings and that they will not just pass us by and we never take notice them. I know that if we are ready, with our arms and our hearts open to God’s blessings, then God will fill us to abundance. Merry Christmas!