Pastor Will’s Christmas Sermon
Christmas Eve, 2016
Isaiah 9:2-7 Titus 2:11-14 Luke 2:1-14
(In the name of the Father, +Son, and Holy Spirit)
The best stories are always retold.
We tell them, we share them over and over again,
because they tell us something about our world and ourselves.
They reveal truths worth remembering.
We retell these stories so we will never forget,
so these truths will shape us… become a part of us.
We are people of story.
You can make the case one of the main things that makes us human is that we are able to tell and create, share,
and make meaning out of stories and art.
Why are we so draw to epic stories?
Perhaps we are in one.
Perhaps we are in a mysterious story of hope, love, justice, and redemption.
This evening we huddle around a familiar story.
A story that has lasted 1000’s of years.
A story we have been building up to again for months.
Nested in song, carols, prayer, sacraments, and candlelight
we share once again the story of Jesus being born into the world.
This is a familiar story with the well know cast of characters…
But did you listen carefully?
Did you catch the details this go around?
This story starts off with a historical background.
The first five verses attempts to set up the historical context rooted and surrounding Jesus’ birth.
So the story starts out slow with historical names and places.
Connecting this story to our world and history.
And then in only two verses,
Luke shares a bare-bones, matter of fact, birth story… Listen again..
“while they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger – an animal feeding box – because there was no place for them in the inn.”
If the story stopped there it would not be a memorable event.
Notice the details Luke doesn’t share.
Luke doesn’t share details of what kind of animals may be overlooking the baby’s crib, we don’t even see a literal innkeeper screaming out “no room”.
Rather, we hear a simple, straightforward, plain, account of a baby born in very humble surroundings.
They don’t even reveal the baby’s name yet. But it does reveal God’s humble and unassuming nature.
But in verse 8, there is a change in tone.
The plot of this story ramps up and the excitement and mystery builds.
Angles (messengers of God) burst onto the scene.
And what do they do? They announce good news.
And who do they announce it to?
The first to receive the announcement is given to Shepherds…
Those at the bottom of the social latter in 1st century Palestine.
And what is the first reaction?
They were terrified.
But notice the first words spoken in this entire story is this phrase… “Do not be afraid”
As we huddle here this evening… we live in a scary world.
And there are a lot of places around the world that will not be singing “silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright.”
But this is the message of the angels…
a message we need to hear and take to heart now more than ever…
we hunger for good news, our world needs some Christmas.
And so the angels say to them, and to you and to me…
“Do not be afraid, for see I am bringing you good news of great joy for all people… to you is born this day in the City of David (Bethlehem) a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.
This will be a sign for you, you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”
And after a multitude of angles sing of glory and peace…
The story shifts its attention to the shepherds who are given a hero’s quest to search for and find the Messiah.
After God finds them first, they go and find the long awaited Messiah.
They find the baby in the manger and the story reveals,
Mary “treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.”
This is a simple yet enduring story.
A story of new birth, new beginnings, of a new hope.
The miracle and mystery of Christmas is that the infinite and eternal God of the universe has become tangible and fi-nite,
flesh and blood imbedded in our story, imbedded in history.
Deep down this is the good news we are all hungry for.
Last month I was able to go to North Carolina Comic Con
in Durham… a comic book, and sci-fi, and fandom convention with 1000s of geeky people like me.
A place where epic stories of heroes and villains are celebrated.
This year I not only attended the convention but I was also able to be a part of it by leading a panel called “Finding God in Comics”.
It was a lot of fun.
Walking the floor of the convention it’s hard not to be overwhelmed by being surrounded by all kinds of creativity.
You have story and comic book creators and artists and people of all ages dressed in costumes of their favorite story characters.
They become the stories they love.
Not unlike what we do for our “No Rehearsal Christmas Pageant”.
There are always stories and characters that tend to be the most popular in line with the book and movie trends…
but this year I noticed something a little different.
The vendors were not only selling comic books, and graphic novels and action figures, but they were also selling these things called
These mystery boxes contain different kinds of geeky items…
Like t-shirts, graphic novels, and plush toys…
There is something exciting and fun in each box…
BUT you don’t know what is in each mystery box before you buy it.
It’s a mystery.
These mystery boxes were flying off the shelves.
Why where they so popular?
Not only does it connect with the stories we love but they also bring the element of mystery.
What will I get?
What will I not get?
The thrill of the mystery is sometimes just as fun as the item you are trying to purchase.
You see, I believe life is a mystery.
Life is a mystery story.
You don’t always know what you are going to get.
Faith is a mystery.
God is a mystery.
And I believe mystery is what makes the story worth it.
I would say the Christmas story is a mystery story….
Sure there are all kinds of mystery boxes under our trees BUT going deeper….
Who is this baby announced and found in a manger?
Is this the long awaited Messiah?
What kind of Messiah will he be?
Christmas is the story of the mystery of God becoming flesh, becoming a person rooted in history…
rooted in our-collective-story.
But the other side of all this is that God cannot be boxed in.
You can’t keep God in a box.
This story, God’s story, has many twists and turns that no one can predict or keep to themselves.
The heart of the Christian faith, isn’t “be good” or “be nice” and you will get a reward one day.
It’s deeper and more mysterious than that.
The heart of the Christian faith is this person named Jesus, who finds us first, who enters into our story and pulls us from death to life.
This baby placed in an animal feeding box grows up and through his life, reaching out to the poor and marginalized, his death on a cross and his resurrection, he shows us what the journey from death to life looks like.
And so this story of Jesus invites us not only to eternal life way off in the future but even more so into a full life here and now.
I find it really interesting that Jesus was born in a town called Bethlehem, which means “house of bread”.
And so this baby placed in an animal feeding box,
born in a town called “house of bread”
will later break bread on the night before he is executed and says… “this bread is my body broken and given for you”.
Come on! How cool is that!
The “bread of life” born in the “house of bread” and placed in an unassuming mysterious feeding box!
Who could have predicted that!
And so tonight not only does this place becomes a House of Bread but also our lives, hearts, stomachs and souls become a house of bread.
In world hungry for good news, in a world hungry for a Savior, God is born once again in our midst and we become Bethlehem.
In bread and wine, we are invited to consume Jesus.
We are invited to allow his story to shape our own stories.
And so this story collides with our own stories.
And while we take in this story of good news, this story also challenges us…
it challenges our stories and our comfort zones.
Because of a government mandated registration, Mary and Joseph are displaced and there was “no place for them in the inn.”
With the news of an overcrowded inn, this challenges our overcrowded lives.
Mary and Joseph’s story challenges our stories in how we react and act towards refugees and the homeless.
And so how do we become Bethlehem, a house of bread for others who are hungry and marginalized?
Likewise with Jesus being born outside of the inn and placed in a manger, perhaps in a cave, a barn or stable.
Jesus born among animals embraces the diversity of this world.
This birth challenges us in how we care for all of God’s creatures, even those who are different from us.
This birth challenges us how we care for the environment.
This birth challenges us to embrace the diversity of all of
God’s creation as God has embraced us.
This mystery of God being born in our midst…
Humble and plain…
Yet earthshattering and radical…
May you become this good news of Christmas for others.
Everyone has a story that shapes their life?
Even unbelief is a story and worldview that shapes how we operate and live in this world.
What story shapes your life?
Embrace the mystery of this good news,
Because God has embraced us in the birth of Christ.
May this mystery of God being born in our midst shape how you live out your life story in the world.
Like Mary may you treasure all these words and ponder them in your heart.