Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve Sermon 2009

Luke 2:11 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.

When I hear those words from Luke 2:11, especially in the King James Version, I think of the Charlie Brown Christmas Special where Linus stands on the stage and recounts our Gospel text for the actors in the Christmas pageant. I hear the words in the voice of Linus as he reminds his friends of the true meaning of Christmas.

We spend weeks and weeks getting ready. We clean the house and decorate, we shop and shop and shop, then we wrap and wrap and wrap. We cook and we bake and we plan. We work so hard at getting everything just right so that our friends and families will enjoy Christmas. But what is Christmas? What are we ready for?

That is what has happened at the pageant – Lucy and others have planned and have these plans for a huge, elaborate pageant. Charlie Brown has been sent out to find a Christmas Tree. He brings back a small, pitiful looking tree and the others make fun of it – and of Charlie Brown. He can’t even bring back a decent tree! Then Linus reminds them – “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a savior, which is Christ the Lord.” The tree doesn’t matter, the size of the pageant doesn’t matter, nothing that we do matters – it is what God has done that matters.
We get so caught up in the preparations for Christmas, that we forget what we are celebrating. We forget that it is God’s gift to us that gives us reason to celebrate. It is God’s action, not ours, that is important.
As we hear the Christmas story – we hear about Mary, and about Joseph, and their journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. We hear about the birth, and the angels and the shepherds, and we have Christmas pageants and nativity scenes depicting the story, with all the characters and all the animals, and the star – don’t forget the star! We make costumes and decide who will be shepherds and who will be angels and who will be wise men and we try to think of new and interesting ways to tell the story. We get caught up in making it special. We get caught up in the doing.

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” A gift is given. A gift from God, a gift of God, given to the people of God.

Usually, when we receive a gift, we express gratitude for the gift – we say thank you, or we write a thank you card, or send a thank you email, or sometimes we even reciprocate with a gift of our own – another way of saying thank you. But how do we thank God for the gift that he gave us, in that stable long ago? What kind of thanks does God want for this gift? Where do we send the thank you card?

The Christmas text is only the beginning of the story. It is the giving of the gift. Through the reading of the gospels we find out what this gift is all about. We find that through this gift, God is reconciling the world to himself. Through this gift, we learn what it is to be obedient to God. Through this gift, we see what it is to have compassion. Through this gift, we know what it is to be loved. Through this gift, we know what it is to be freed – from slavery, from sin, from the powers of evil. Through this gift, comes our salvation.

In the end, this proclamation from the angels is not just about God’s gift to us, but also about how we give thanks to God for this gift. We don’t have an address for that thank you card because we aren’t meant to send on. Instead, we are to do as the angels did – proclaim the story! Tell others what God has done. The gift is not for us to keep to ourselves, but to be shared with all who will listen.

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” A gift – a gift to be shared. A gift that shows us what it is to be completely unselfish. A gift so big, so perfect, that it only gets better by sharing it with others. Pass the word around! Unto YOU is born this day in the city of David A SAVIOR, which is Christ the Lord – the messiah – God incarnate – the Word made Flesh.

6For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Celebrate! Sing Hosanna! Share the Good News with all the world! Christ the Lord is here! Amen.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

"There are so many hindrances and temptations of the devil and of the world that we often become weary and faint, and sometimes we also stumble. Therefore, the Sacrament is given as a daily pasture and sustenance, that faith may refresh and strengthen itself so that it will not fall back in such a battle but become ever stronger and stronger." From the Large Catechism Part V: The Sacrament of the Altar.

A FaceBook friend posted this as his status today, and it struck me how appropriate these words were for today. We were having a discussion just yesterday about how hard we see Satan working in the world today, and here we are reminded - in Luther's words - about the temptations of the devil and how weary we become.

Here we are, approaching the 4th Sunday in Advent, preparing for Christmas Eve service and the celebration of the birth of Jesus, and Satan is working so hard to make us miss the whole point of what we celebrate. For we celebrate not a cute, cuddly baby born in a barn with cute, adorable animals, but the coming of God in the flesh - incarnate - not because it is "cute" but because we are such wretched sinners that we need God to be among us - the word made flesh, to show us how to live, and to die for our sins.

As we celebrate Christmas, we should take a look at the temptations that we have let lead us astray - success, personal agendas, our need for power and control, money - and instead look at what we are called to give up. Jesus came to give up his life; what are you called to give up? In last Sunday's Gospel text, John calls on anyone who has two coats to give one away. Rather than looking at what you might get for Christmas this year, why not look at what you can give away instead?

It is easy to fall into the temptations of the devil and the world - they look good, they feel good, but they are just that - temptations of the devil and the world. Look instead to the manger - look at what God gave us, look to the cross - look at what Jesus gave up.

May you be blessed during this Advent season, and may this time give you the opportunity to look at your own life. See what you can give up, how you can help someone else, rather than looking to your own wish list for Christmas gifts.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


What does it mean to wait, and to watch, and to prepare for the coming of our Lord? Does it mean that it is time to push our own agenda? Or does it mean that it is time to take seriously our discipleship?

These are issues that the church struggles with. These are issues that some people struggle with. They are also issues that some just shrug off, pushing their own agendas no matter what. The coming of the Lord is not something they either believe in or take seriously. Live for today, for tomorrow is someone else's problem.

For some, Advent is a tired and worn out effort by the church to delay Christmas and to get people to give money to charity rather than to spend it on gifts. Advent just gets in their way. Some even wish the church would just drop Advent and start singing Christmas carols right after Halloween, just like the stores and radio stations have done this year. Do you ever wonder why our economy is in such trouble when businesses are actively competing with the church for your Christmas dollars?

The church can no more stop celebrating Advent than they can stop celebrating Easter. Christ came, Christ died and was raised from the dead, Christ will come again. How can we take that statement of faith and ignore the part about Christ coming - the first time or the second time?

Together with the all the church and all of the saints, both past and present, we shout, "Come Lord Jesus!"