Monday, December 28, 2015

For a child has been born to us

Scripture Lessons: Isaiah 9: 2-7 and Luke 2: 1-14, NT page 58 Sermon Title: For a child has been born for us This is a high stakes kind of night. Christmas Eve is a big deal. I stand up here and I know that this is a high stakes sermon. I’ve been spending time thinking about what I would say, how I’d look. I went to the barber shop on Tuesday and my barber was surprised to see me back again so soon as I’d had a haircut just two weeks prior, but then he says, “Oh yeah, it’s your boss’s birthday this week. I guess you have to look your best.” “And not only that,” I said, “there’s going to be people here on Christmas Eve that I haven’t seen since Easter, so I really want to look sharp.” You have a lot on your mind too, right? Christmas Eve is high stakes for all of you too. I know it is. They’ll be big meals to make, and you want them to be perfect, not like that turkey that Clark Griswold cuts into in Christmas Vacation. And you’ve decorated the house, but you don’t want your decorations to be like his lights that don’t turn on. Plus, you’re hosting family and friends hoping and praying that Cousin Eddie doesn’t show up in the driveway. You want Christmas to be perfect and I bet that most of you have been working hard to get as close to perfect as you can get. There’s a lot at stake tonight. A lot of traditions. A lot of expectations. A lot of hopes. Really it’s been that way all week. On Monday night we went caroling. About 30 of us met here in the church. Several of the church’s deacons, several choir members. We broke up into 3 groups so that we could spread out and make it to several households. I was in the group that went out to the Bridge. There are five members of our church who now live at this retirement community, and I was expecting the five of them to listen to us sing, but the thing I wasn’t expecting was that every resident of the Bridge was waiting for us when we showed up to sing at 6:15. And there were just seven of us – Greg Martin, Frank and Gloria Dale, Cindy Baxter, me and our two daughters, the seven of us were standing up there in front of all the residents at the Bridge who had just finished their dinner. Right before we started singing one of those church members who lives out there pulled me aside and said, “You know, some of the groups who have come out here caroling have not been very good at all.” This is high stakes stuff. High stakes. Christmas is high stakes, and Christmas Eve – we’ll, this is as high stakes as it gets. You hope no child is disappointed. You hope your turkey isn’t dry. You hope Cousin Eddie waits a couple days to empty the septic system on the RV. There’s all this pressure, and I think that’s thanks to the world that we live in. For the past two months the commercials have done us in. Go to Kroger for the food. Go to Lowe’s for an inflatable Santa Clause. Go to Walmart and ruin your day. There’s a lot to buy and a lot to do, and the stakes are high and it’s all up to you. You’re the one who has to bake the perfect turkey. You’re the one who has to enhance everyone’s Christmas cheer with the right decorations. You’re the one who has to be sure that Granny gets the right kind of night gown. This is a high stakes season and it’s all up to you, right? No. Not right. Maybe according to the world, but not according to the Bible. The big news around here lately has to do with the decorations on local McDonald’s windows. Here in Maury County the owners of the local McDonald’s have made a point of making their December decorations rooted in the true meaning of the season, so their window decorations are obviously Christian. Santa Clause is there, Frosty the snowman is there, but the main focus is on Joseph and Mary and the baby Jesus. This blatant focus on Jesus has surprised some people and has been celebrated by others who worry that as a society we are forgetting what Christmas is really all about, and I agree with that. We’ve gone too far but we’ve gone too far not just because we started saying, “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas,” we’ve gone too far because we starting thinking that the success or failure of Christmas rests with us. So here’s what I want you to do. I want you to remember how to wish for something and how to believe in miracles. Stop worrying about whatever’s in the oven for just a minute. Stop thinking about what’s been bought and what might be forgotten. Stop thinking about what’s left for you to do before tomorrow morning and just listen to this: “In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” “To you,” the angel said. Not, “By you,” or “Because of you,” the angel said that the child was born “to you.” A present. The center and reason for the whole thing. A child who was born “to you.” And the gift of this child is set before the backdrop of a census, a decree that went out from Emperor Augustus “that all the world should be registered.” If it weren’t for the census you know that Joseph and Mary never would have traveled from the town of Nazareth to the city of David called Bethlehem, but what’s so interesting is that they had to go at all. I mean, what kind of a person has to validate himself by counting how many people he has power over? That’s what a census is for. It’s the kind of data that we use to create our legacies. He wanted the historians to be thinking: Don’t you remember how the population boomed under Emperor Augustus? Don’t you remember how we flourished under his leadership? While he was our Emperor the turkeys were never dry, the presents were always wrapped, and the Cousin Eddie’s were finally domesticated like the barbarians of Gaul. Now that’s the part of Christmas that’s been stolen from us. We stopped acting like Shepherds who have received something and started acting like Emperors with something to prove. You can call it X-Mas all you want and it won’t ruffle my feathers. Wish me Happy Holidays and serve me my coffee in a red cup all you want, it won’t hurt my feelings, because the part of Christmas that I want back is the part about laying down my heavy burden. Everybody wants this to be the Christmas that goes down in history: Do you remember the party that she had? Do you remember the time she got me the perfect gift? Do you remember how he had a Lexus in the driveway? Do you remember what I had to do to get that bicycle put together? I – I – I. Me – me – me. But Christmas is not up to me. Christmas is not up to you. It’s up to God. “To you, a child has been born.” “To you a son is given.” And in him is the promise that your legacy has not so much to do with how well you’ve done or how good people think you are, for you are defined not by the gifts that you give but by this one great gift that you have received. To you. To you – a savior is born. To you – the gift of salvation has come. To you – forgiveness. To you – redemption. To you – joy. For a child has been born to you and Holy is his name. On those who lived in a land of deep darkness – a light has shined. For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; And he is named – Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Amen.

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