Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Short Christmas Sermon

The local paper asked me to write a sermon for their series "SERMON OF THE WEEK." Here's my offering:

Christmas is my favorite time of the year. I love the lights, the music, the stories, even the commercialism! While a lot of advertisements are gross and the desperation to sell gets annoying, it still seems as if all of America and much of the western world finds a way to be brighter, be cheerier, be more generous than any other time of the year. And that sure helps us pass through the darkest days on the calendar, those around the winter solstice.

Far more important to me than the flurry of exciting activities and decorations which lighten the season is the Incarnation. “God with us,” God becoming human to live with us, walk . . ., sweat . . ., work . . ., attend worship . . ., deal with difficult people . . ., struggle with all the issues of humanity including physical suffering and death. He knows first hand what we go through!

He also lived in a time when power was international, except we need to realize his country was the one being occupied.

And he taught that his nation was ordained by God to rule the world. HA! No, Jesus’ kingdom was not of this world. Somehow we’ve forgotten that part of His message.

He taught many things but the key to his call to us is that we are to also incarnate God’s love. As He came to live God’s love among us, so we are to do the same, live God’s love with everyone else. And the Judgment of God about our lives will be based on whether we fed the hungry, welcomed the stranger, healed the sick, and visited the imprisoned. The Bible says that and I believe it, and that settles it!

That “final exam” described in the Book of Matthew, 25th chapter, verses 31-46, takes us way beyond any belief system which we follow in our religious life. I’ve discovered that people who believe differently than I do and take Jesus as seriously as I do, are the last to presume immigrants, legal or illegal, are evil and need to be removed from our midst. I’ve discovered that people of other religions not only welcome the stranger, they feed the hungry and clothe the poor and care for the sick and imprisoned.

“You will know them by their fruits,” Jesus said (Matthew 7:16).

What then is faith? Fear for our immortal souls? Fear of disobedience? Fear of being wrong? No. As the angels told the shepherds, “Fear not!” Doubt is not the opposite of faith. Fear is.

Faith is far simpler. It is trusting God.

For months, Annie prayed for a horse for Christmas. She did it each night before she went to bed. Even though the main focus of her prayers was to bless her parents, neighbors, friends, and even the strangers in her town, she slipped in her desire to get the horse. Her parents having only a small apartment for the three of them had no way to afford a horse or renting a place where it could be boarded. But they didn’t have the heart to challenge Annie’s earnestness and faith that she’d get the horse.

Christmas came. Annie gleefully jumped out of bed and ran into the living room to check out her presents. She found a doll buggy and a new doll under the tree. She put the doll in the buggy and went door to door on her floor in the apartment building, showing everyone what Santa had given her.

Her parents were stunned. Annie said nothing about there being no horse. She was just full of joy to have the new toys.

When she got back from her trip to the neighbors, they talked to her. “Annie, we’ve always told you that God answers your prayers. But he didn’t answer the one about your wanting a horse.”

“Oh but God did answer my prayer,” Annie said. “He just said ‘No.’”

That’s faith.

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