This is the text, more or less, of the Christmas homily I preached in my parish.
The movie “Yesterday” begins, essentially, with Jack Malik riding home on his bike late one night when all the lights around him begin to go off. But, it’s not just around him, for 12 seconds the entire world goes dark – Red Square, Times Square, Tiananmen Square, St. Peters Square, the Eiffel Tower, the White House. From the North Pole to the South Pole, the entire world is in darkness.
As Isaiah said: The people who walked in darkness!
Jack is an aspiring, but most failing singer/song-writer. It is after yet another depressing evening of performing that he is headed home. And at the very instant the lights go out, he is hit by a bus!
When Jack gains consciousness in the hospital, there is Ellie, his long-time manager and should-be girlfriend, at his side. As she’s leaving for, Jack thanks her and flirts with her a bit: “Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m 64?” Ellie is puzzled. 64? That’s kind of random. You know, Jack says, the line in the Beatles’ song. She thinks is still delusional from the head injury.
What Jack begins to discover is that he is now living in a world in which no one would understand that reference. A world in which, when he sings the classic Beatles’ song, “Yesterday,” his friends are blown away. How did he write such an amazing song? Where did that inspiration come from?
Jack comes to realize that in this new world the Beatles never existed. Nor did Coke or cigarettes or Harry Potter.
But he also comes to the remarkable awareness that he has exclusive knowledge of the Beatles and their extensive repertoire of legendary music. Now this guy who couldn’t attract attention in a coffee shop is now filling football stadiums. He’s an international rock star. But Jack also has to work at remembering all of the lyrics and music – remember none of it exists in anyplace but his brain, his memory. It’s a rather long and winding road to putting together all the pieces of “Eleanor Rigby,” “Let It Be,” “Hey Jude,” “Here Comes the Sun” and the rest.
It’s a fascinating concept played just for fun, with some moral consternation thrown in as well.
But, consider that scenario with a slightly different twist.
What if when you wished the clerk at the grocery store a Merry Christmas or Happy Holiday, and they didn’t have a clue as to what you were talking about? What if you were kind of mindlessly singing “Silent Night” or “White Christmas” for your family or friends and they were amazed at the beauty of your music and confused as to its subject? What if there were no blow-up snowmen in peoples’ front yards, no lights or ornaments on a tree – no Christmas trees at all? No Nativity scenes in our homes or in church – no churches at all, really?
What if you discovered that you were the only person who knew about Jesus Christ?
What if it was up to you to tell the story, to introduce and promote and establish what for so many of us is so easily, too easily, taken for granted, or maybe simply ignore?
What if it was your exclusive, sacred task to establish the mission of faithfulness, of discipleship, of promoting the good news of the kingdom of God.
That’s not a bad notion for us to consider as we celebrate Christmas. It’s a concept that requires us, I think, to focus on what’s most essential – remembering and embracing the overall concepts, as well as the precise, most consequential, details.
For example, it’s not just this story from Luke’s gospel that we would want to remember. But far more consequential are so many other words, phrases, lessons, encounters, bits and pieces of the ministry of Jesus that would need to be collected and preserved, remembered and proclaimed. Kind of like Jack does with the Beatles’ lyrics in the movie:
Blessed are the peacemakers.
You are the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
There is no great love than to give up one’s life for a friend.
Forgive 70 times 7 times.
I give you a new commandment, love one another.
As I have done, so you must do.
Blessed are those who believe and have not seen.
Come to me all who are weary and find life burdensome.
Take and eat. Take and drink. Do this in remembrance of me.
Go, therefore, to all nations. And know that I am with you always.
And, it’s not just the words and phrases, but the life and love that must emulate from the words, the phrases, the lessons, the encounters in the ministry of Jesus. There’s also the necessity of living and loving as if we are the only ones who know; of living the way of the one who was born in a manger and rose from the dead; of sharing that remarkable awareness with everyone and in every way imaginable.
That’s what our world desperately needs of those who know the words and phrases, who know the stories, who have a sense of living according to his way. The world desperately needs for us to move beyond the manger, despite our fear and trepidation; to move beyond the manger to walk out of the darkness – to live as the light and love of the Lord. TL