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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas 2013

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.

Perhaps 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???

The problem 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.

What 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 changing proportions.

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....

One 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.

But 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 sarcasm.

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.

So we 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...

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