The season of Advent and Christmas offered us this amazing invitation to join together and enter into this mystery and celebration of the birth of Jesus. But Scripture does not let us linger long at the manger. Though it is comfortable there, peaceful, and holy, a place where not much is asked of us except to ponder and accept the gift given to us, we are now, today prompted to move forward. In scripture we find no stories of a baby growing up into a toddler, no childhood escapades.
Merry Christmas dear friends! What a special day this is that we can gather together to worship on this morning on Christmas Day! Christmas is not about the gifts we receive, though they are very nice, Christmas is not about the decorations even though they are so beautiful, it’s not about the food either, oh but those meals are so delicious, it’s not even about our family seated around our table, though community with one another is such a blessing…Christmas is about remembering and celebrating the reality that God dwells with us.
Why is this nativity story so important to our faith? Hearing again about the shepherds, the angels bringing good news of great joy and then this child, this child, who the angel says, “comes to save.” I think that is a good question to ask tonight as we gather here to celebrate the birth of Jesus, why is this story so important? And what does it tell us about God? Esau McCaulley, assistant professor of New Testament at Wheaton College pondered these questions in an article he wrote titled Christmas is Weird.
Today is the 4th Sunday in Advent and we continue with our theme: Generation to generation with the subtitle, We See God in Each Other. The stories we have heard leading up to Christmas, including the stories heard in music last week, are stories told generation after generation and together reveal a “Liberating Love”, a love that frees one’s soul to accomplish extraordinary things. Let’s go back two weeks, you will remember we looked at the passage that described the angel Gabriel coming to Mary to tell her she was to bear a child.
We continue our sermon theme, “From Generation to Generation.” And the subtitle today is God meets us in our fear. This subject of fear is a constant thread throughout the old and new testaments. It doesn’t surprise me that this phrase, “do not be afraid,” is written 81 times in scripture. Do not be afraid! In connection with our theme, the sanctified art authors remind us that fear tells us something about God and ourselves. Rev. Lisle Gwynn Garrity says, “From generation to generation, God shows up in the midst of our fear and uncertainty and confusion.
Each week during advent we are going to look at the characters in our scriptures and wonder; What did each character pass on or contribute? How did each character participate in God’s liberation and love? Which characters try to thwart God’s justice and what can we learn from them; What is our role now? What is our generation’s task? What will we carry forth, and what should we leave behind? We begin this series from the gospel of Matthew and the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah.
As we begin, I have an important question to ask you, do you think we, you and I, do you think there is a possibility that we could be blind? Could we be blind and not even know it? I see all of you looking at me, I see your eyes…and I think most of us would be quick to say, “I’m not blind, I am fully aware of everything going on around me.”
Both of our lessons today talk about times of crisis – times when life was falling apart.
Our first lesson – which Barbara read, from Luke 21 – is set some 2,000 years ago, before Jesus’ death & resurrection. The disciples are trying to enjoy a moment of awe & wonder looking up at the Temple in Jerusalem.
It was a beautiful, impressive building some 20 stories high with huge stones, each weighing tons- polished – lovely. For the disciples – this was what we used to call a Kodak Moment, “Someone take a picture – so we can show our friends. . .”
Unbridled honesty is where we sometimes find ourselves when facing challenging times. It’s that place that feels so very raw, a place of vulnerability. Our words in this dark place speak feelings that are transparent and uncontrolled. For some of us, we have to be at the end of our rope or extremely distraught before we will let ourselves get to this place that seems so far down, so deep within us. Look at this face; it says it all, doesn’t it; there is tears, anguish, pain…
Goodbye. Goodbyes are the subject of my sermon this morning. You’ll remember a couple of weeks ago, we talked about how important it is to say goodbye to something that is ending so we can say hello to what is beginning, something new. This week we are staying with the “goodbye,” a place we would rather move quickly through and on to the next. But we’re not moving forward into the hello. No, we’re lingering in the goodbye, fully recognizing that it is a place we would rather not be.