The blog of a lutheran pastor, writer, and political animal.
Tuesday, December 24, 2013
Christmas Eve Sermon
Christmas Eve 2013
There was once a small boy who got a telescope for Christmas—and he would watch the skies, and he saw a star.
This star was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen, shining and good.
And after a few nights of observation it became clear that the star was showing symptoms of turning into a meteor.
He tracked its descent and miraculously it landed in his back yard one night, though no one else seemed to notice.
He woke up his groggy parents—he was more excited that Christmas morning!
And, after some prompting and poking, they joined him on the patio and saw the star—the meteorite there embedded in their yard.
All that night they looked at it, and wondered at what it meant. It had the appearance of a diamond and a warm inner-light that was both eerie and inviting.
In the morning they called a local astronomer and once he examined it he affirmed, “This is the find of a lifetime, we need to tell people about it!”
To recap, the boy realized the star was there,
showed his parents,
they contemplated its meaning,
and they went and told people about the meteorite.
Similarly, there are four simple things I want to tell you tonight.
God is with us!
Come and See!
Go and tell!
God is with us!
During my last open heart surgery, when I was 18, I was reading a book of short stories by the French Philosopher Voltaire. Thanks to the rough recovery from surgery I don’t remember anything about those short stories, other than the title of one of them, “The World as It Is.”
That title captivated my imagination throughout recovery.
It grounded me in my situation,
forced me to be mindful of what I was experiencing,
it didn’t allow me to escape from my situation, but to be in it—to face full on “The World as It Is.”
Similarly, for the season of Advent, I preached using ideas from an organization called the Advent Conspiracy, which focuses on preparing for Christmas as we experience it, with consumerism and worry about gifts and how to spend time with relatives and the “perfect Christmas,” and the hyper-extended season known as “the Holidays” and all of those things that cause us to dread Christmas.
Christmas as it is, warts and all.
And it’s worth dwelling on the ups and downs of our lives, not escaping from them to some sort of dream world
—because that’s the world Jesus comes to, the world he is God with us in,
this world as it is, is the world he comes to.
A world with an uncertain family and a long Christmas Journey, a world with frightened shepherds and tentative fiancées, Emperors and Governors, censuses and taxes.
The same world as our own, with family troubles and joys. Unmet expectations and unrewarded sacrifices, as well as moments of grace and surprise.
With births and deaths, taxes and tithes, loneliness and familiarity.
This world we live in is the world that Jesus comes to, not as an escape for us, but to be in among us, with us and for us.
In the world as it is, here we find God, because “God is with us!”
Come and See!
Do I have news for you! God is here.
Come and see!
Come and See in a trough, well-swaddled and far from home.
See him there, the one we call Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
See him there, this little one, so new and fresh, so gentle and fragile.
See him there, our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.
Come and See the infinite and the finite, the common and the uncommon, Humanity and Divinity, God for us in the common things of life.
Come and See him in shared words of consolation among faithful people.
And see him in Water and Spirit making children of God
See him in God’s Word for us.
Him in our giving thanks and in our shared meal—his very body.
In our being salt and light to a bland and drear world.
Come and see.
Yes, treasure this gift given to us.
Take it with you everywhere you go—the message that God is with us,
this babe in the manger.
Make it your incessant prayer, hold it close to your heart like a talisman.
Bring it with you, because you’ll need it. You’ll need this moment of celebration, this clear moment of surety, in times of trial and times of doubt.
Bring it with you, as well, because it grows and changes. It, like a child, will surprise you and grow, mature and greet you in new and wonderful ways.
Like Mary treasure all these things in your heart.
Keep the good news close and make it your own,
allow it to transform you and protect you and surprise you.
Go and tell.
God is with us, you’ve seen it and will continue to see it, you cherish and nurture this truth as it does the same to you. How can you not share it?
Share this good news of God come near,
God here in the World as It Is,
seen in the manger and at the altar and throughout our lives—with us everywhere we go.
Go and tell.
Tell it everywhere you go,
tell of the shepherds and angels and mangers and the salvation that we have, because God is with us.
Like that junior astronomer who saw the star, showed his parents, contemplated its meaning, and told the world, let the Christ child do the same to us this night.