Today at Kroger I saw a car in the parking lot with a bumper sticker which said, "My dog is the center of my world." And I found myself hoping that person was dyslexic.
Yet it is also true that in a sense, the story we tell tonight offers a center not far removed from a dog. Jesus, the infant son of two throw away poor Jews at the edge of the Empire, laid out in a food trough is arguably not much better situated then many dogs. Yet that is our story and our proclamation. This baby is God's sign of redemption!
Each Christmas there is the hope that one will be able to create and
deliver the most amazing Christmas sermon ever--something so new and
innovative and creative and insightful that all the visitors will be
drawn to repent and turn to Jesus. A sermon so full of beauty, love and
truth that it will heal the sick and broken hearted, mend wounded
relationships and restore friends and family into holy fellowship.
some of the visitors this Christmas Eve hope for the same? They keep
their fingers cross that this preacher is going to say something that
they have never heard before which will knock their socks off and turn
their lives forever on the right course. Is there something NEW to say about Christmas???
with innovation is that the new and improved has a short time to enjoy
being new and improved. The hunger for something newer and more improved
never relents. The 'itchy ears' of those who want to be entertained and
surprised can never be scratched to the hearers satisfaction.
we have tonight is a simple story. It is a story which makes little
sense to those who expect big and impressive things from God.
Messengers, we read came to shepherds with a proclamation of earth
Today in David's city the
anointed one has come--the one who will set His people free and save
them. And what sign will there be to trust such a claim? Why, you will
see a baby, of course, with his mom and dad. A baby....
of the hot topics in Christian debates centers around sacraments. Some
refer to the sacraments as "only a sign" and mean by that a precious
reminder. Nothing real here, they say, except the warm feelings or
mental image which points us to Jesus.
But today, be
clear, the sign is literal and real. That baby is Messiah. The
messengers make clear, you can believe what we say is true because you
will see the child.
Nothing new or innovative and it seems to leave my socks in place, right there on my feet.
perhaps we are able to think on it a bit and realize, anew, the amazing
depth of this otherwise unimpressive scene. The shepherds are a
delightful pun, a sort of verbal game which is, perhaps, a little divine
Shepherds are, after all, the Biblical word
for kings and leaders. God is also called a shepherd. The shepherds are
to care for and guide God's people, they are to be a sign of God among
us ruling. The poor night watchman in our Gospel are not symbols. they
are poor underclass men working a thankless job. Yet they are privy to
the message of the birth. Their presence works at several levels. They
are a reminder of God's care for the poor and His promise to deliver
them. They are a sign of condemnation on ruling elites which fail to
recognize God and His Messiah. And they are a type of us, you and I, who
have come to see this baby ourselves. Each carrying our own hopes and
dreams, wounds and fears, needs and desires.
stand, yet again, and look at the manger and ask, "Can this baby be the
new born King who will save His people?" And our answer will be not so
much our words as the lives we live. Lives entrusted to His care, in a
loving, obedient faith. The sign, a small baby, seems too ordinary. Yet, it is what we have. And there is a depth here which, like the mother Mary, we are to ponder...