Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Jesus, Son of God

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Long time ago in Bethlehem,

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so the holy Bible say,

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Mary's boy child Jesus Christ

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was born on Christmas day.

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Hark, now hear the angels sing, the new king born today.

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And we shall live for evermore because of Christmas day!


Today is the day we celebrate Christmas - the birth of Jesus.  Not that Jesus was born on December the 25, but that he was born at all.  This is the day we acknowledge that we worship a God who is willing to come down to earth, to enter into his own creation, and to be a part of the messy-ness of life.

One priest in New York City noted one year that a Christmas tree had already been thrown out at 9:30 on Christmas morning. He saw that as being symbolic of our world today. “Well, that’s over and done with so now we can get on with our lives until next year.” But that’s not the message of Christmas for those of us who believe in something bigger than peace, goodwill and gifts. 

Jesus Christ is God incarnate  - It is more than a God who sent his son to redeem creation – we have a God who was willing to become flesh and to enter into his own creation – to experience what we experience – to love and to laugh and to cry – to be alive to the world.

We must always remember that Christmas is just the beginning – the start of something new. It is about letting the seed that has been planted in our heart come to light and grow in the love of God. It is about taking the responsibility to water it and help it grow. It is about letting that light shine forth to overcome the darkness and to be a beacon for others who are in need of finding meaning in their lives.  And it is about a God who loved us so much that he dared to come down from his throne on high to reside with us and to redeem us and to open the way to heaven for us.  This is the one we call Jesus, and this is why we celebrate his birth.

Before the birth of Jesus, the Israelites thought they knew what God was like - but it is through Jesus that we get the most accurate picture into the nature of our God.  Jesus is God incarnate - God made flesh.  Jesus was a man who laughed and cried, who loved and who got angry.  Jesus was a man who taught and who was willing to learn from those he taught.  It is through Jesus Christ that God learned what it meant to be human.  And it is through Jesus Christ that men and women gained the right to become the sons and daughters of our God.

For all the hurt and pain that we have caused God by the things that we have done - or left undone, all the things humankind has done throughout the years - God loves us so much that he was still willing to send his own son into the sinful world - to redeem us, to love us, to give us hope for a better existence - one that includes the presence of God for eternity.  

For these reasons and so many more, we remember, and we give thanks.  This is why we are here today; this is why we celebrate Christmas; to remember and to give thanks for the love God has poured out on us in a little baby.0


Sunday, December 23, 2018

Mary said, “Yes.”

Advent is a time of the unexpected.  For one thing we have God’s choice of partners in the procreation of his own son.  Jesus could have been set down fully grown anywhere in the world.  But God knew that in order to understand people and to reach out to them, Jesus needed to grow up among them and to really be one of them.  God could have chosen royalty, or a wealthy family to bear and raise his son, one where he would never want or struggle.  God could have chosen a palace and an important city for the dwelling place of his son. 

But God chose Nazareth – a small out-of-the-way place – unimportant – a place where Jesus could grow unencumbered by the wealth and attention he might receive in other places.  God chose a place where Jesus could live among the common folk and learn about them first hand; a place where he could touch, feel and understand the trials and struggles of everyday people.  In this area of Galilee, there was a large gentile population nearby so he would grow up knowing not only the Jewish people, but also how they interacted with people of other faiths and nationalities.  

This is a perfect example of how God works within the context of ordinary life and through ordinary people.    Mary was not any kind of super hero  -  (no Angelina Jolie, no Queen Elizabeth – not even a Mother Theresa) – just a simple village girl who had recently come of age.  Mary lived an ordinary life in the small village of Nazareth.  She helped her mother take care of the house and younger children.  She made a daily trip down to the well, to draw water for use in cooking and washing.  She cooked and cleaned just like any Jewish girl.  I picture her singing as she goes about her work, a sweet disposition and spirit about her.

She dreamed of one day having a home of her own to take care of.  She was betrothed to Joseph, a local carpenter – a tradesman.  The life that laid before them was a simple life – one of love and shared experiences – of small children running around and growing up, much as they themselves had.  When a young couple became betrothed, the husband began work on a place to live – often a room added onto his father’s house.  When that was completed, then he came to collect his bride and everyone was invited to the celebration.

This was the plan – this was what they expected.  But before Joseph came to collect his bride, she had a visitor.  Gabriel, the messenger from God, who tells her she has been chosen to bear the Son of God.  Mary said “Yes, here I am, Lord.  Let it be,” and very shortly she found herself with child.  I’m sure that she knew about the whys and wherefores of pregnancy and childbearing and child rearing.  Those were common enough things in the life around her – and she was prepared for that – even looked forward to it. 

But I’m not sure she was totally prepared for everything that came after.  But in typical ‘girl fashion’ she goes to see her relative Elizabeth who is also expecting her first child.  And Elizabeth affirms how special this child is that Mary carries.  And regardless of what expectation we have for our children we have to wait – nine months until they are born, to see them. to hold them.  And we have to wait until they grow up to see them take their place within this life and this society.  

And so, like Mary, we wait.  We wait in expectation – in anticipation – of what God will do in our midst – how he will work out his promises – using the ordinary to do extraordinary things.   If we just have the kind of faith exhibited by a young peasant girl in a backwater town 2000 years ago – we too may see miracles and experience the great love of our God in new and wonderful ways.

Our lesson from Hebrews tells us that Christ came to abolish the yearly offerings, the sin and burnt offerings to establish himself as The Offering that redeems the world.  In God’s plan, this one person, Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, was to be the salvation of the world.  This little baby would grow up to present himself as that sacrifice for all time.  It is through this offering of Jesus’ body that we have been sanctified and made holy to stand before God.  It is because of this sacrifice that we are adopted as sons and daughters into the family of God.  

And it all started with a visit by an angel and a young girl who said “yes”.