A Christmas Sermon

Flying Saucers & Christmas

 

Christmas Eve 1996, Leander Harding

 

Tonight I am going to talk about something which may seem strange as a topic

for a Christmas Eve sermon. I am going to talk about flying saucers, UFOs and

alien abductions. My job is to tell the story of Jesus Christ. In order to tell the

story of Jesus Christ effectively, it is important to listen to the other stories that

people tell each other. People express their hopes and fears in the stories they tell.

Tonight the church proclaims that in Jesus Christ the hopes and fears of all the

years have been met. The stories of UFOs and space aliens have a form which

seems strange, even bizarre to some, but the content of these stories is very familiar

and very universal. At the heart of these stories the human heart cries out in

hope and fear. I want to spend a few moments exploring these stories so that I

can share my conviction that the true and living story of the birth of the Saviour

is the answer to the desire of the human heart that is being expressed by this fascination

with visitors from outer space.

 

It interests me that stories of visitors from outer space persist and enjoy great

popularity in spite of the obvious scientific difficulties. From a strictly scientific

viewpoint it seems plausible that there is life elsewhere in the universe, and

implausible given the vastness of the universe and the limit of the speed of light

that we have been visited by intergalactic travelers. Yet the interest in this topic is

huge, and television programs and movies which explore these themes, have large

and enthusiastic audiences. Some popular ones are Close Encounters of the Third

Kind, X Files, Third Rock From the Sun, Independence Day, Mars Attacks and

others that you can name. People do not get tired of telling these stories and people

do not get tired of hearing these stories. Two basic themes are represented in

these stories.

 

First there is the alien as a strange and sinister force, immensely sophisticated,

which threatens to destroy humanity by a combination of superior force and

deceit. Often in these stories, such as The X Files, there are traitorous human

beings who are willing to aid the evil aliens and prepare the way for them in the

mistaken notion that they can cut a separate deal. Often there are humans who

have been completely taken over. They look human but have been taken over

from the inside out and are really now enemy agents. There are those terrifying

scenes where the evil alien creature which has consumed the person from the

inside out breaks through the skin of the person and the horrible truth is

revealed. These story lines also have a heroic figure who has learned the horrible

truth of imminent destruction and can’t get well-intentioned but terminally

naive innocents to take him seriously. You sit in the theater saying to yourself,

“For God’s sake, listen to him before it is too late.”

 

Then there is another story line, a more hopeful story. The aliens are superior

beings, morally and spiritually superior as well as technologically. From time to

time they have visited us to help and guide us, to nudge and direct the course of

our history. Now the time is right for them to reveal themselves and save us from

ecological disaster, planetary war and destruction. In some versions of this story

line, the aliens mate with humans to create a new race, a superior race, morally

and spiritually as well as physically. This new race will change the course of history

and give us hope that we might survive.

I believe these stories of visitors from outer space exert a strange power over so

many people because they speak of deep intuitions of the human heart. Human

beings look at life on planet Earth and know with a deep intuition that there is a

power at work in human affairs that is dark and sinister and which is underestimated

by people. Many good people seem naive and complacent, unheeding of

the warning as the greedy, selfish and hateful play with forces they do not understand.

When will they listen? When will they listen?

 

It may be hard to believe in Flying Saucers but it is not hard to believe that

our race, the human race, is a threatened race, and our planet a threatened planet

and that the situation calls for dramatic action. These are the kinds of things people

feel in their bones. This is a deep and true intuition of the human heart. The

form of this story may be fantastic but the content is profound. This story of a

threatened people and a threatened world is a more profound story than the story

that some combination of science, technology and commerce will solve all our

problems.

 

The other story line, the more hopeful one, also reflects a profound intuition

of the human heart, that there is in the universe a benevolent force that is more

powerful than human beings are, a force that is good and which subtly influences

history for the positive, a force which is on our side and working to save us and

our world. It is also a profound intuition that what has been hidden is about to be

revealed and that which has been working behind the scenes is about to step out

onto center stage. Even this seemingly bizarre part about the mating of humans

and aliens represents a profound intuition of the human heart. The human heart

knows about the reality of the first story, the story of evil which threatens to

destroy from the inside out, and human stupidity and cupidity in the face of that

evil. The human heart knows that there needs to be some new element—new

blood, yes, but more importantly a moral and spiritual transfusion leading to a

renewed and redeemed humanity. If only this were true, there would be hope.

We might make it. We could hold out.

 

That is the feeling of these stories. While the form is fantasy and the fantastic,

the content is deep human truth.

 

St. Paul the Apostle spoke to the scientific, rational, skeptical and yet superstitious

world of ancient Athens. He spoke to people who were searching and seeking

because of a deep feeling that they lacked the moral and spiritual resources to

survive. These people had an altar to almost every god imaginable, even to an

unknown god. St. Paul said to them, “Men of Athens, that which you worship

unknowingly, that it is which I proclaim to you.” To a world which expresses its

hopes and fears in stories of alien invasion and alien salvation, I want to repeat

these words of St. Paul, “That which you worship unknowingly, that it is which I

proclaim to you.”

 

I want to say, you are right. There is a sinister and alien force that is stronger

and more clever than unaided, unassisted human will. It must be recognized and

resisted before it is too late. You are also right that there is a superior, benevolent,

beneficent force that guides history, which has been hidden but now wants to be

completely known and to clearly reveal its purposes. This force wants even to

have intercourse with human beings and bring to birth a new race with a renewed

moral and spiritual power, so that disaster may be forestalled and we may be

saved. This is all true and it is all set forth in the Holy Bible.

 

There is a good God who means us well and who guides our history in a subtle

way that does not rob us of our freedom or responsibility. There is a force which

rebels against God and is bigger, stronger and more clever than humankind, and

which threatens to destroy us with the help of our self-defeating connivance. In

this dire moment, the good God who has worked behind the scenes has revealed

himself, come center stage, to give us direct assistance, again in a way that does

not rob us of our freedom or responsibility. The good God, the maker and creator

of all things does this by being born a baby, living and dying as one of us,

conquering death and giving us His life-giving spirit. By joining us to Him in

such a way as to create a new humanity, reformed, redeemed, renewed by a moral

and spiritual infusion.

 

God rest you merry, gentleman, let nothing you dismay;

remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day,

to save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray

O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy;

O tidings of comfort and joy.

O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!

Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by;

yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light;

the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

There is a threat and there is a Saviour. The Saviour is here for us tonight in

our Christmas Communion so that He can live in us and we in Him, so that He

can re-create us as a new and redeemed race capable of honoring and stewarding

this world and fit for life beyond the stars with Him forever. Amen.

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