Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Nativity of Our Lord

Nativity of Our Lord
December 24, 2005
Luke 2.1-14 [15-20]
Thomas Arth

I’ve sometimes heard the saying
that Christmas is for children.
Now I don’t think that’s entirely true,
but I can see where the people who make that statement
are coming from.
I have to admit that the excitement and wonder and joy
that children show at Christmas
can be infectious.
The decorations start to come out,
Santa Claus appears in the malls,
you start hearing Christmas carols and songs,
seeing Christmas specials on TV,
and you can’t miss the advertising
that tells you what you really have to buy
to make your loved ones happy.
It’s not just kids that get caught up in the frenzy of Christmas.
The kids don’t have much money to spend.
But when they know Christmas is coming
they start making their lists.
The song says that Santa Claus is making a list and checking it twice,
but that’s the naughty and nice list.
The kids start writing their "I want" lists.
They can start to get kind of greedy
and some parents start to think
they have to get them everything on their list.
I don’t see any harm in giving and receiving presents at Christmas
except when it starts to go overboard
and people allow themselves to get into more and more debt.
That ends up missing the point, the reason,
and the spirit of Christmas entirely.
There’s a popular song
that has been recorded by a number of artists
called "My Grownup Christmas List."
The words go like this:
Do you remember me
I sat upon your knee
I wrote to you
With childhood fantasies
Well, I’m all grown up now
And still need help somehow
I’m not a child
But my heart still can dream
So here’s my lifelong wish
My grown up Christmas list
Not for myself
But for a world in need.
No more lives torn apart
That wars would never start
And time would heal all hearts
And everyone would have a friend
And right would always win
And love would never end
This is my grown up Christmas list.
As children we believed
The grandest sight to see
Was something lovely
Wrapped beneath our tree
Well heaven only knows
That packages and bows
Can never heal
A hurting human soul
No more lives torn apart
That wars would never start
And time would heal all hearts
And everyone would have a friend
And right would always win
And love would never end
This is my grown up Christmas list.
What is this illusion called the innocence of youth?
Maybe only in our blind belief can we ever find the truth
(there’d be)
No more lives torn apart
That wars would never start
And time would heal all hearts
And everyone would have a friend
And right would always win
And love would never end, oh,
This is my grown up Christmas list.
Maybe some of those things are on our grown up Christmas lists
instead of video games or doll houses.
I read a story recently where a scrooge-like character hated Christmas
and complained that "it was simply ‘Outrageous and overdone.’
It was ‘Too commercial.’
It avoided ‘The real issues of life.’
It led to ‘Extravagance’
and caused ‘Jealousy and anger.’
There was ‘No peace on earth, or good will to anyone.’
Even at family gatherings.
To top it all off, Christmas had been celebrated for centuries
and there were still ‘Wars, poverty,
violence and injustice’
happening all around."
There’s some truth to all of that.
And no matter that our grown up Christmas list asks
for no more lives torn apart, that wars would never start, etc.
we don’t seem to get what we’re wishing for.
When we see what human beings can do to one another,
when we see the effects of our broken lives on our relationships
and even on our planet,
it can bring sadness.
It’s not only we who are sad,
but God is saddened by it too.
We were created to live in friendship with God,
with each other,
and with all creation,
but we decided we could find joy in other ways.
Daniel Erlander writes:
"God groaned. Planet Earth groaned. All living things groaned.
The whole universe, its harmony disrupted
by the egoism of the human species, wept.
Sorrow filled the cosmos.
God thought about destroying Planet Earth
or at least snuffing out the humans.
However, when considering the destruction of the human race,
God wept and said, ‘I will not!
Can a mother destroy her child, her delight, her joy?’
God thought of another way.
The Creator said, ‘I’ll open the sky and reveal my splendor.
I’ll terrorize the human species into submission!’
God thought for a while and then cried out, ‘I will not! I cannot!
Then I would use their method—acting like a big deal.
I do not want groveling subjects!’
The Creator, in passionate love, decided on another way.
It is a long story—
a story of friendship, passion, promise, disappointment,
hope, and self-giving love."
Our grown up Christmas list
has been the wish of some throughout history.
God hears our cries and comes down to us.
It happened on the first Christmas night
and it happens to us over and over.
Mary gave birth while she and Joseph, her fiancé,
were lodged in a stable.
She held her newborn in her arms
and repeated the song she had sung
when the child was conceived:
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my savior;
You have routed the arrogant.
You have cast down the mighty from their thrones
and have lifted up the lowly!
Mary placed the little baby in a feedbox.
Angels sang.
Animals smiled.
The trees clapped their hands,
and all creation rejoiced.
Lowly shepherds, informed by angels,
came and found the child in the feedbox.
God smiled.
In this baby the creator of the universe was present—
with creation, with the poor, one of the poor,
good news to the poor!
Because of this child God’s dream would come true,
a society where people lived in relationship with God,
with each other, and with all creation.
We’re not there yet so we still cry out with our grown up Christmas lists.
No more lives torn apart
That wars would never start
And time would heal all hearts
And everyone would have a friend
And right would always win
And love would never end.
On that first Christmas night our Lord came to us
in the form of a baby.
Every time we celebrate Holy Communion
he comes to us again in a very real way,
present in, with, and under the form of bread and wine.
In that wafer of bread on our tongues
and that sip of wine on our lips
we have a foretaste of the fulfillment
of our Christmas wishes.
We’ve come to this night. The time is fulfilled.
The baby is born and with him
a whole new world and a whole new life for us.
It is the birth of hope, the birth of promise.
God has come into our midst and the world won’t be the same.
Jesus came to bring reconciliation,
to bring peace,
to bring new life.
It’s the beginning of fulfilment of our grown up Christmas list.
It is time now for the celebrations to begin.
Put aside restraint.
Mound up the wrapping paper from ravished presents.
Put out the best food on your finest china.
Use your best manners.
Enjoy the relatives.
Sing the carols, hear the story, light the candles,
eat the bread, drink the wine—
bearing to us the fleshy presence of the infant Lord.
Amen

1 comment:

Kevin said...

Excellent sermon, Tom! Thank you for that.

Blessing to you and your family this Advent and Christmas season.

Kevin