The Christmas Question

The Rev. Noah Van Niel

St. John the Evangelist

December 17th, 2017

Advent III (B): Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11; Psalm 126; 1 Thess 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28

Every so often you need to start a sermon with a confession and today is one of those days: I love Christmas. I love the cards and the colors and the candles. I love the bells and tXMas Decorationshe boxes and bunting. I love that as a society we collectively decide to thumb our noses at 4pm sunsets and bedazzle our homes with resplendent lights. I love that in the face of bare branches all around we defiantly swag our doors with evergreens. I love the music: the joy of melodies well written and well sung, harmonies that create new beauties of sound and lift your soul to greater heights. I’ve had the choir of King’s College Cambridge Christmas CD on in my office for weeks now, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I love that for days, people spend time thinking about those they love, and those in need, and for once, instead of walking through malls or searching on amazon thinking only of themselves, they try to stand in the shoes of another and wonder what they might want. I love the parties, the magical warm spirit that permeates the world this time of year, I love Santa, I love the cookies, and good lord, I love Eggnog. I love Christmas. Everything about it. Continue reading

No Fear Allowed

The Rev. Noah Van Niel

Church of the Good Shepherd Waban, MA

November 19th, 2017

Pentecost    (Proper 28 A): Judges 4:1-7; Psalm 123; 1 Thess 5:1-11; Matthew 25:14-30

In search of spectacular inspiration this week, I went for a walk in the woods. I was expecting it to be a nice quiet walk, a time to stretch my mind and my legs so I could prepare for this squirrelmorning. But as I left the road behind I found a woods as distracting as the civilization I sought to escape. My meditative silence was ruined by the continual explosion of rustling leaves. And as I trained my eyes on the ground, through the brown decay, I caught sight of dozens of squirrels furiously digging, rustling, jumping, running, climbing their way all around the forest. They were not here for a contemplative constitutional. They were too busy frantically trying to store up as many acorns as possible for the winter–that it finally feels like is around the corner–settles in. And as I watched them collecting, digging, burying, it made me think about our poor little third servant in our parable this morning. Continue reading

Upside Down Saints

The Rev. Noah Van Niel

November 5th, 2017

St. John the Evangelist

All Saints’ (A): Revelation 7:9-17; Psalm 34:1-10, 22; 1 John 3:1-3; Matthew 5:1-12

Earlier this year a YouTube video made the rounds in the churchy corners of the internet of an Eastern Orthodox priest in Georgia (the country) using a rather alarming technique to perform a baptism. He stood in front of a large font about waist high, took the baby (clothed only in a diaper; no fancy baptismal gowns here) and flipped him upside down, head-first into the water three times, in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. No one in the video seemed too alarmed by this technique, and the babies were actually pretty amenable to it, but when I showed it to Melinda to ask if she thought I could baptize the babies this way today, she quickly put the kibosh on that idea. So parents, fear not, I won’t be flipping your baby upside down…but I have to warn you, Jesus just might. Continue reading