Christmas Eve Luke 2:1-20 A
O Come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant, O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem; come and behold him, born the King of angels; O come, let us adore him!...
Well you know the story, it's the one about a young couple, a man named Joseph and Mar, his expectant wife to-be, they are doing their civic duty, going to Bethlehem to be registered. Caesar Augustus' said every one in the known world must be registered. So, they pack up to leave Nazareth and prepare to walk about 100 miles back to Joseph's hometown.
Along the way, Mary, great with child, starts to feel contractions. It sends the couple scrambling for lodging, going form house to house, knocking on doors, looking for a place, any place. There is no place for them, then a manger looks like it might do.
The child is born and wrapped in bands of swaddling cloth. No fanfare, --just an exhausted mother, a stupefied father, and the promised newborn.
Then it starts, angels announce the birth to some shepherds, and then a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace." The angels disappear and the shepherds make the trip to see this strange "thing" that has happened.
Each year, we hear the same story but each year we hear something different. It seems to take on new meaning. Is it because we are one hear older? Are we just a little more mature, more sensitive, more spiritual than we were in years past? Or is it because we have decided that this is the year we open the door of our heart and invite the baby in?
As we listen to this story of Almighty God breaking into our world as a little baby, we find ourselves caught up in the mysterious story of God's salvation. And we're called to lean into the dep hope, the joy and the promise, that this new birth brings.
No matter what our feelings are at this season of our lives, there is Joseph, trying to anticipate what his friends and family will think of his bizarre situation. Talk about embarrassment, there is Mary, the pregnant, unmarried teenager, shunned by the very people her son came to save. For each glimmer of hope, there are shepherds, hurriedly traveling to Bethlehem to see their newborn king. For every moment of outrageous joy, there are the heavenly choirs piercing the darkness of that deep, dark night.
The good news of the Nativity is that the mess of our lives is not lost on the Nativity. There is an honesty, a profound humanity, that radiates from the lines of Luke chapter 2--the eternal God of the universe, not bound by time and space, saw fit to break into our world in a particular time and place, with all the politics and social stigma and anxiety that was present then and so is today.
God saw fit to coe among us in the most unsuspecting way imaginable: in the form of a tiny, cooing, utterly dependent baby.
God did not withhold His love until the world was pristine and perfect enough for Him to enter it. It's about love that we need so desperately.
Come to Bethlehem and see him whose birth the angels sing; come adore on bended knee Christ the Lord, the new-born King.
Hasten to the manger and you will find something so purely human, so perfectly lovely, it must be of God.
Christmas 1 A John 1:1-18
The lectionary that we follow is designed to give us an organized plan of the Christian faith That is why it is good to try to stick to the theme that it outlines for us Sunday by Sunday. On Christmas we celebrated the major Christian event, Almighty God breaks into our world to tell us how much he loves us.
Now in the season of Christas which is 12 day long we are instructed more about what that means. It is clean in the prophecy given to Isaiah that God intends for his people Israel to be a beacon to other nations. We know that what applies to Israel also applies to us.
The prophet Isaiah uses very precise imagery of "garland," "jewels", "crown", and "diadem" to describe the richness that god wants to bestow upon those who are faithful to him.
The blessings that the Lord gives his people is for one purpose: they are meant to be a sign to those who do not know the God of Israel. The gifts which God graciously gives his people are meant to draw others into relationship with him.
The salvation we receive from the Father is not meant to be seen as God blessing us in the face of those who are perishing, but it is to be an example that will inspire them to accept the salvatio that the Lord is offering them. God intends His people be a torch to light the path for others. What gifts has God bestowed upon you? How might you use those gifts to draw other to God?
Psalm 147 is a song of praise and thanksgiving which speaks directly about how God is faithful in keeping his promises to his people. You know you are in good company when you feel that you are called to worship him. Our worship of God is all that we may offer in thanks for the renewal of life and all the blessings we receive from him. How does the coming of god's word in the person of Jesus Chris, who has been revealed to all nations, affect our understanding of the "chosen" quality of God's people?
In the Epistle to the Galatians it says that before the coming of Christ, the law stood as the means of having a relationship between Israel and God. The law was the way of claiming God as Father, but now that we have the Father's Son we now claim in a real way to be sons and daughters of God the Father. Because the Word of God (Jesus) has taken our human flesh, our humanity is free to be united to the Father in a new way. Does our claim on God the Father free us from our responsibility to his law?
Then we have John's Gospel and it is very different from the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). John is far more concerned with the theology of the coming of Jesus than the other three accounts. The prologue to his Gospel that we read today jumps feet-first into some very deep water.
Much of our understanding of the relationship betwene the Father and the Son, as expressed in the creeds of the Church, is drawn directly from this prologue. Recalling the creation story of Genesis, john assures us of the nature and authority of the Word (Jesus) who takes upon himself our human flesh, in order that he might live among us--and that we might truly live.
The Word made flesh in the person of Jesus Christ calls us to grow into the lives he wills for us and to accept God as our Father. As in the letter to the Galatians, we see tat the Son has come to fulfill what could not be realized by the law alone: true relationship with God the Father. What does John mean when he writes, "He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him"? In what ways do our lives in Christ witness to this power? What is one concrete way that you might testify to the light of Christ/
John's focus in these 18 verses is on the incarnation. Jesus Chris--the eternal, living Word of God through whom all of creation came into being. Jesus became flesh and dwelt among us. John describes this Word as bing the light of man.
We know that mankind rejected the light from the beginning. It is our ministry to see that the light of Jesus shines brighter than ever. The light of Jesus can brighten the whole North West corner of Connecticut. It could happen through us here at St. Andrew's Church.
A Spirit-filled Chrismas to you all.