Friday, December 25, 2015

Treasured Words - A Sermon for Christmas/Christmas Eve

Luke 2:1-20

For the past fifty years many of us have chosen to watch the Charlie Brown Christmas special. As you may remember, Charlie Brown is struggling to understand the true meaning of Christmas. The commercial side of the season doesn’t hold any meaning for him. Finally, and after his failure to find the “proper” Christmas tree ends his attempt at directing the Christmas pageant, he cries out in near panic: “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”At that point Linus the Theologian takes center stage and recounts the Christmas story as told by Luke. After coming off the stage, Linus says to him:  “That’s what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown.”

We’ve come here tonight because we want to take hold of this message shared with us by Linus the Theologian. Like Charlie Brown, we want to know what Christmas is really about.

Luke offers us the most recognizable version of the Christmas story. He tells us about a very pregnant Mary who accompanies her husband Joseph on a journey to Bethlehem. When they arrive, they find that there is no room for them in the inn. So, they take up residence in a stable, and it’s there that Mary gives birth to her first born child. As our creche scene reminds us, Jesus wasn’t born in a palace, surrounded by servants. Instead, this little child, whom Isaiah calls the Prince of Peace, is surrounded by shepherds bearing witness to the message shared with them by the Angels. 

These shepherds are the first evangelists. God sends them to the Holy Family, reminding Mary and Joseph that this is no ordinary child. This is the one who brings peace and good will. Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer spoke of the power of what takes place in the manger, reminding us that “it is God himself, the Lord and Creator of all things, who is so small here, who is hidden here in the corner, who enters into the plainness of the world, who meets us in the helplessness and defenselessness of a child, and wants to be with us” [God is in the Manger, p. 66].  After the shepherds give their witness, Luke says that everyone who heard the news was amazed, and “Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.”

For a moment let us put ourselves in Mary’s place, and view this event through her eyes. What does it mean to us this very evening to treasure this story in our hearts? How will this story change our lives?

When I watch people of all ages approach a mother and her newborn child, offering words of encouragement and blessing, I imagine that these mothers, and fathers as well, are a bit like Mary. They treasure the moment. They find blessing in the words of their friends. Mary must have felt a bit overwhelmed by all the commotion, and yet it is this witness that opens our eyes and heart to God’s blessings revealed through her to the world. 

What Mary brings to the story for us, I think, is the sense of wonder at the reality of the incarnation. God is in Christ drawing us into the new creation. This is the one through whom God promises to bring peace and good will. As Isaiah declares: “For unto us a child is born  . . .  [the] Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually, and there will be endless peace . . .” (Is. 9:6-7). It is on this promise that Mary invites this evening to ponder and meditate.

In a few moments we will gather at the table and receive signs of Jesus’ presence. In these signs we’re reminded that God is with us. It is in this presence that we find peace, even if we are experiencing chaos in our lives. Indeed, it is good to remember that a stable and a group of shepherds don’t present a very tidy and peaceful space, and yet I believe Mary found peace in this moment. May we, slow down for a moment and take in the blessings that come to us in the message of a child born in Bethlehem. And as we move from the Table to the edges of the sanctuary bearing lights, may we join Mary in treasuring these things and then continue the work of the shepherds, telling  the world that the Prince of Peace is in our midst.

For that is what Christmas is all about!

Preached by:
Dr. Robert D. Cornwall, Pastor
Central Woodward Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Troy, MI
Christmas Eve
December 24, 2015

No comments: