Monday, December 24, 2007

Luke 2:1-20 - A Christmas Eve Sermon - A Little Bit More

Luke 2:1-20
Christmas Eve
A Little Bit More

I have often wondered what traditions Mary and Joseph had with Jesus on his birthday. Did they sit back and tell him the story of his birth? Did they tell him about the shepherds or the innkeeper? Did they laugh about the long walk to Bethlehem or the wise men that came weeks later? I wonder what traditions that family had when they celebrated what we are here to celebrate here today. We are here to celebrate the birth of a baby.

As I have gotten older, and I am sure that it is the same with you, Christmas changes. The traditions change, the people change and the world changes. It is sad because when change happens, things are not the same. One thing that changed is that one of my favorite authors passed away a while ago and I always think of him this time of the year. It is always sad when one of your favorite authors pass away because you end up losing someone you come to count on. I was sad because I could no longer look forward to his in wisdom, his humor, or his creativity. Although I was sad I knew that at least I still had his classics. I could look to them for inspiration, escape, to make me smile, and even at some points to make me cry. I am going to miss that author…the late but great Dr. Sueus.

I will always cherish and now Dean is addicted some of his greatest works such as Green Eggs and Ham, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, and The Cat and the Hat. Dr. Sueus, although characterized as only a children’s book writer, can have a great impact on even our adult lives. One of his more famous books was made into a million dollar Hollywood movie a couple of winters ago. The Grinch that Stole Christmas. But my favorite is the cartoon version made in the 1960s that I use to love to watch as a kid. I had it on tape and it was not Christmas until we watched that movie.

There is a dynamic part of this book which the Hollywood version captures very will. It is a part that always touches my heart during this time of the season. It always gets me and now even more than I was a child, I just have to sit back and gasp at Dr. Sueus’ powerful words and moving rhyme. It is the part in the book and movie where the Grinch has the sleigh full of all the Whos’ Christmas gifts, decorations and food. He is basking in the glory that he was able to steal this event from the Whos. He is looking down from the mountaintop, waiting patiently to hear the cries and moans, when he is struck instead by the sound of cheerful and celebratory singing.

To quote the book…"And the Grinch, with his grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling: "How could it be so? "It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes or bags!" And he puzzled and puzzled, till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't thought of before! "Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store. "Maybe Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!"

It does mean something a little bit more doesn’t it. It is more than Christmas trees. It is more that presents wrapped up in pretty paper and bows. It is more than which football team is playing who. It is more than the credit card debt and the feast that day. It is more than all that! It is about a baby.

For those of you who have had children or know people who have been through a pregnancy, the birth of a child is a wonderful, miraculous and life changing event. I am the oldest in my generation so I have been able to see all my sisters and my cousins when they were first brought into this world. And now after witnessing Dean’s entry into life, I can talk with great authority on this issue. Babies are weird little things. They wobble; they whine, they cry and they coo. They can be wonderful and a curse sometimes. They can melt your heart when you look into a baby’s eyes and it smiles and laughs back at you. I have always found it adorable to watch a young child walk. Since their head is about twice the size of their body, they seem to only go where their massive head is leading them. Yet they do not seem so cute when you have to wake up at 3:00 am to feed them or change them, or if they get sick and just cannot stop coughing or crying. But that is what it is like when a toothless, dependent and helpless human being comes into this world. That is what happens when love comes to life as a child.

Sometimes I just have to laugh at God, because once in a blue moon I see God’s sense of humor come to life. Here, on Christmas Eve; we see the sense of humor God has, the irony that is Christmas. The big irony is that God came to live here on earth. He came as a little baby boy, named Jesus. He came as a toothless, bald, squirming, crying, cooing, helpless and completely dependent baby. He had to be changed, fed and cared for by Mary and Joseph. God had to depend on humans to take care of him and love him during these first couple of years of life. God choose to do this because of the end result.

This baby enabled us to be right with God once again. Sin had entered the world and disturbed our relationship with God. We could no longer be in the presence of God because we were sinful. God wanted his children back so God had to make it right once again. For hundreds of years, sacrifices were made and people tried to right what went wrong but it was all tainted. We were so tainted by sin that nothing we could do would fill that gap that was created by sin that separated us from God. Michangelo did a wonderful job depicting this gap on the Sistine Chapel ceiling. He has Adam and God reaching out for one another. Their arms and hands are stretched out but they still cannot touch. There is still a small gap that separates them. Nothing us humans could do would fill that gap, so God had to do it himself.

So Jesus was born but born with a purpose. He had to grow up to be the supreme sacrifice. This dependent life that laid in the manger, grew to be what we are dependent on. This helpless child is who we are helpless without. This baby laid in pieces of wood would 33 years later be laid on some more, for us. Instead of being placed there by a caring mother like he was that morning, the mother had to watch her child, God’s child, God even, suffocate on the cross.

That is irony of this holiday. We celebrate the coming of God into this world. It is a tainted celebration because we know what will happen to this baby but there is celebration. For every Good Friday is followed by an Easter. Even though we know where this child’s life is headed, we know the purpose. We know that this child fills that gap between us and God, this child makes right what went wrong so many years ago.

Christmas is about this, right here and right now. Christmas is about us coming together to celebrate a baby, not any other baby but a baby born of a virgin and placed in an animal trough. This baby is different because it is the light of the world. He is the light that eradicates all darkness and erases all sin. He is the light so pure, so warm that it is seen and craved by all humankind. He is the light that shines during this season in the smiles of strangers, the hug of family, and the glorious singing of the Body of Believers. He is the light in this place, in the hearts of all of us, the followers of the light. That is what Christmas is about, nothing more and by all means nothing less.

So to answer the Grinch’s question when he states…"Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store. "Maybe Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!"

Why yes it does Grinch, although the world might not agree.
Christmas is about a baby, who shines for all to see.
Christmas is a celebration, a jubilation of a babe in a manger.
Who saved the world, which is a story a little bit stranger.
You see this child, although meek and mild, is The King and Lord.
You see this child 33 years later, is nail to two boards.
Christmas is about a gift, the one given from above.
A father, who redeemed the world, by giving up His only Son,
That is Christmas, it is just so simple can’t you see.
Christmas is this gift of light, of salvation and love, which for all is free.

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