In the Name of God: Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier. Amen.

Long-time members of this parish will be familiar with the numerous errors made by people who misunderstand the name of our church.

For example, we have been wrongly called, “The Church of the Intercession.” Some people think we’re “the Church of the Incantation.” Others are under the mistaken impression that we are “the Church of the Reincarnation.”

My favorite misreading was on a letter that we once received that was addressed to “the Church of the Incarceration!” This error was a particularly regrettable one—because, in fact, the religion of Jesus Christ brings the opposite of incarceration. Instead of putting people in a spiritual prison, Christian faith liberates their hearts and minds and souls.

That is the reason, for example, why Jesus Christ is called, the “Savior.” As the angels proclaim to the shepherds in the fields outside Bethlehem, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Jesus came to earth to save us.

Not too long ago, some Christians wore necklaces or lapel pins that displayed the letters, “WWJD.” These letters stood for, “What Would Jesus Do?” They were intended to remind the wearers that, when faced with a difficult moral decision, they should always ask themselves what Jesus would do if he were in the same situation.

The fad has passed–and that may be just as well. For Jesus never had to decide, for example, whether medical marijuana should be legal, or whether hydraulic fracturing should be permitted.

When we face many modern ethical dilemmas, we can’t be sure what Jesus would do. We will need to make up our own minds.

But it is useful to ask, what exactly does Jesus do? Well, we know that Christ our Savior is able to save us.

Christ doesn’t spare us from life’s hard choices. And he doesn’t keep away life’s misfortunes, either.

But while he doesn’t insulate us from bad luck, he does help us to bear these trials of life. While Christ doesn’t guarantee that we won’t have to struggle to get by, he gives us a vision of God’s kingdom of good will that makes our labor worthwhile.

And while Jesus doesn’t guarantee that our hearts will never be broken—still, when we think that we have gone down as far as we can possibly go, and we feel as bad as we can possibly feel, Christ gives us a peace that passes all understanding.

Now I recognize that it still sounds a bit extreme to talk about “saving.” Even a little hysterical! You might benefit from a bit of self-improvement, perhaps. You might feel in need of a little moral fine-tuning. But surely you don’t have to be “saved?”

I realize the notion of being “saved” can seem overdramatic. But, for Christians, it means something much deeper than becoming a better person. When you decide to trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior, your whole perspective on life is transformed.

You might come to see that you’re just drifting — one vague plan after another, never really getting everything together. You may think that you know yourself well, but you don’t realize that you’re not satisfying your deepest needs.

But Christ does. Christ saves us from our illusions; he saves us from our false selves.

A large majority of Americans, if they are asked, will claim that they “believe in God.” It’s not always clear from these polls, though, who this God is that these people believe in? An impersonal life force? A creator who began the process of the universe and then stopped creating?

Christians believe instead in a God who continues to participate in the life of his creation. A God who became “incarnate”—who entered the material world to share the life of the human beings he loved.

In human flesh, Christ could be our Savior. And because he came among us, we could for the first time become free.

As the hymn says, the Messiah brings us relief. “Come thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free; from our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in thee.”

That’s why we aren’t named, “the Church of the Incarceration.” That’s why we were blessed with the name, “the Church of the Incarnation”—the Church of Jesus Christ who saves us from our false selves, the Church of Jesus Christ who sets us free.

And now unto God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit be ascribed as is most justly due all might, majesty, power, dominion, and praise, now and forever. Amen.


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