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A Christmas sermon

Discussion in 'The Atrium' started by bozz_2006, Dec 24, 2011.

  1. bozz_2006

    bozz_2006 Cheesehead

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    As many of you know, I am a Lutheran pastor. Because of many factors, Christmas can be difficult for me. The days leading up are a mixture of happiness and sadness. I pray that the God of peace be with you today and always. So, for anyone who may be interested, here you go. And if you're not, that's fine too. No offense if you decide to pass on this somewhat long read. Take care, and know that you all are important to me and I thank you for what you bring to my life.


    Luke 2:1-20

    1 In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 All went to their own towns to be registered.4 Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5 He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

    8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 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: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger." 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,14 "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!" 15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us." 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them.19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.






    Another year has come and gone, and here we all are again. Gathered around candles, carols, and family, to hear the old familiar story about the improbable birth of a baby boy, to a young un-wed mother, huddled amidst animals in a barn, under the ever-watchful eye of the all-powerful Roman empire. It’s one of the greatest stories of all time, to be sure. It has all the ingredients you’re looking for in a great story; intrigue, deception, perseverance of the will, and the ability of the human spirit to over-come all obstacles. It seems like from top to bottom all great stories tend to have a few common elements, whether it’s Harry Potter, the Odyssey, Lion King, Lawrence of Arabia, or Lord of the Rings. Sorry, Twilight fans, you didn’t make the list. Not even close… The great stories are almost always set amidst the backdrop of chaos; the fight for the good will always prevail, and it will always be against all odds. These are the great stories. But whether I’ve read them in a book or watched them on a screen, at their conclusion, when I put the book back on the shelf or exit the theater, they remain just stories.
    In the stories I expect the good guy to win, but if you’ve cracked a newspaper or fired up your computer to the Yahoo homepage, you realize why we need stories so badly. For many of us, these stories are some small escape from the horrors and hopelessness we see all around us, everyday. In the story, you can expect the good guy to win. In the real world it often doesn’t happen that way. In the real world, those with power have it because they take it. And if they’re strong enough to take it, you can bet they’re strong enough to not let it go. Just this week we’ve seen the passing of one of the world’s most feared dictators. And now that Kim Jong Il has died, is his power gone? Of course not. That’s not how the real world works. He’s just passed it on to his son, the same as his father before him. That’s how power changes hands in the real world. The strong seize it and take over the government, like in North Korea. Or they assert their will outside the confines of government, like bin Laden. Or they simply own the government, like Pablo Escobar in Colombia.
    Even in our country, which I love so much. No matter how much I want to believe things are getting better, on my most cynical days, I admit that it seems like nothing ever changes. Promises are made, but are they ever kept? You know I can make promises too! When I was 6 and I saw Back to the Future Part 2 for the first time, I immediately started making promises to my kindergarten friends. I told them I was getting a hoverboard for Christmas that year. Remember hoverboards? They’re awesome, right? …I’m still waiting for that technology to be developed. But when it finally is, I’m getting that hoverboard. I promise!
    And that’s not the only thing I’ve promised. When I was a freshman in college, I told Mom that I needed a new coat. She said if I promised to get a good warm one, I could go pick one out, write a check for it, and she’d send me a check to cover the cost. So I did. I found a good warm one and I let her know it cost $150. I didn’t really think that one out very well, because it hadn’t occurred to me that she had access to my checking account, and could plainly see that the coat actually cost $100, not $150. I didn’t exactly mean to steal from her, but I just really needed that extra money…
    When I was 12 I promised mom that I would watch my little brother while she quick ran to the grocery store. I promised we’d be good. Why she believed me, I don’t know. But in the time between when she left and when she got to the grocery store, we’d already had a little mis-hap. We were WWF wrestling on the top bunk in our bedroom, and I did the Macho Man Randy Savage flying elbow off the top turnbuckle. And if Pete would’ve just stayed where he was, it would’ve worked! Unfortunately he moved, I missed, and ended up pushing him off the bed and onto the floor. I sure didn’t mean to break his collar-bone… When I promised we’d be good, I had every intention of keeping that promise.
    See what I mean?! Just like all the powerful people in our country and in this world, I can make promises too! And each of those times I really did have every intention of following through with them, but, every time, reality had other intentions. No matter how good my intentions are, it seems that reality has a way of taking over, and preventing those intentions, those promises, from being true.
    But at least I know this about myself, ya know? At least I’m aware that I’m not very reliable. And shame on me if I don’t realize that I can’t rely on the powerful people in the world. That I can’t count on them to take care of me, because they’re too busy taking care of themselves. I mean, this isn’t some kind of fairy tale, this is reality. In reality, most of the time, the little guy gets trounced.
    So if I’m hearing this story about the birth of the world’s savior, how could I possibly believe that if the little guy wins, it could be reality, not just another story? The deck is stacked against the characters. Mary, a peasant girl, probably 12 years old, pregnant and unmarried, is forced to consent to a long journey with the man she will soon call a husband, to head back to his home town so the Roman authorities can get a proper head count, because, hey, you can’t properly tax these subjects if you don’t have a proper head count.
    Well if this is just a story, we know how it ends. The little guy wins. Right? But we’re supposed to believe this is true? This is reality? That this is more than just a story?
    Somewhere along the line, something changes. Something new is taking place. The little guy finally wins one. The poor, the oppressed, the weak, the marginalized; they win this one. Not because they’ve finally bested the powerful, but because God has watched this reality long enough. He’s seen the little guy get trampled long enough. He’s stood on the sidelines and watched us use one another long enough. He’s done working with a poke here and a nudge their to try to get us into shape. He’s done begging, pleading, urging us to take Him for what he is, a loving parent. Done simply urging us to love one another; to act like we’re not the only one that matters. Done extending the invitation that all people should come to him. It’s become painfully obvious that we will never come to him. Painfully obvious that we all act like we’re the only thing in the universe that really matters.
    Yes, if the conclusion of this story were left up to us to live out, the reality is that the story of our relationship with God would end here…. But unlike the reality that we’re so used to, where people will inevitably cut their losses and move on, God loves us too much to let that happen. God loves you too much to let that happen.
    Long after any of us would’ve thrown in the towel and called it quits, God refuses to quit. Refuses to let us continue with the same old, same old. In Christ Jesus God does something new. God steps foot into our reality; into the mess that we’ve created, and re-claimed it as his own. Claimed you as his own. Stepped into this world that’s so fragile, so broken, in such utter disarray. Steps into our world that’s so chaotic we find ourselves clinging to a vision of the incarnation, God almighty borne in the little baby Jesus, that hits us not as reality, but as a mere story. A story that we escape to, to get some shelter from the craziness of the world, the craziness of the holidays, the craziness of gift shopping.
    We escape to a vision of Jesus’ birth that’s somehow just a little calmer than the world as we know it. A little quieter. A little meeker. A little more mild. In our minds, maybe just a little better. A Christmas story that offers some respite from our chaotic lives. A Christmas story that we use like Chicken Soup for the Exhausted and Hopeless Soul. We cling to the fruitless hope that if I believe the story deeply enough, if I want it badly enough, somehow it can make me just a little better, too.
    But is better enough? If instead of lying 18 times a day, I only lied 16 times a day? If instead of having greedy and jealous thoughts every hour, I could limit them to every other hour? Don’t ge me wrong, that would be a major improvement for me! If I tried hard enough, I might even be able to accomplish it…. For a little while. But, should I be satisfied with that for myself? Would God be satisfied with that for me?
    The truth of the Christmas story, and the true grace of the story, is that when God entered humanity in Christ Jesus so long ago, he didn’t do it to make me better. He did it to make me new. He didn’t enter the world to improve us, he entered the world to re-create us. He didn’t become man to rehabilitate you, he became man to redeem you. To do the job of man that man could never accomplish; to love God and neighbor as much as we love ourselves. He didn’t come to merely give us more of the good things in life. He came to give us new life altogether. A life that’s no longer an island in an ocean of loneliness and loss, but a life irrevocably joined to the life of God in Christ Jesus, who is Emmanuel, “God with Us”. “God with us” through it all!
    It would be an unbelievable ending to the story, but in fact it’s only the beginning. Life abundant is yours, because the God of promise, the God of promises kept, has given it to you. So as you go tonight, go knowing that because of what Christ has done, you’re able to go as the self that God has always intended for you, free from the consequence of sin, to embrace life and embrace one another with the same grace with which God has embraced you.
     
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  2. Dan115

    Dan115 Cheesehead

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    Thank you and God Bless you
     
  3. GreenBayGal

    GreenBayGal Cheese Goddess

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    Nice, Bozz. Merry Christmas. :)
     
  4. longtimefan

    longtimefan Super Moderator Staff Member Super Moderator

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    Well done my friend, well done
     
  5. longtimefan

    longtimefan Super Moderator Staff Member Super Moderator

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    Well done my friend, well done
     
  6. Emerald1066

    Emerald1066 Cheesehead

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    Well said! Merry Christmas to all fellow Packers from the Emerald Isle
     

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