It’s Beginning To Look a Lot Like …

Just sharing my thoughts from the pulpit today.

And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ … Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.  Colossians 4:3-4

I heard a story this Christmas story. I haven’t been able to verify its veracity. But, apparently, in one family at least, along with the sheep, cow and donkey, a home nativity scene now has a new animal. A plump little teddy bear sits in the hay paying tribute to Baby Jesus. The children will tell you this addition is quite scriptural.

As a beginning reader, Billy was thrilled to be able to read the Christmas story from the Bible for the family advent devotions. Although the verses did not flow from one line to another, his parents enjoyed listening to him read. One night Billy read: “Behold,      a      vir…   virgin      shall      be      with      child      and      bear …

“A bear?” three year old Nancy interrupted.

“We don’t have a bear in our manger,” five year old Timmy said.

“Here, use mine,” offered Nancy, as she plopped her soft stuffed bear in the middle of the scene.

Then Billy continued to read  “… a      son,      and      they      shall      call      His      name      Immmmman    uel.”

 

Well, we made it through Christmas. This is already the second Sunday after Christmas. It’s hardly more than a week since we were celebrating, opening gifts and eating a huge Christmas dinner.

What is left of the Christmas celebration?

A trash bag full of used wrapping paper and empty boxes. The Christmas tree and all the decorations either have been taken down and stored in the attic for another year or shortly will. Christmas is over and our lives have returned to normal. It is back to work for the adults and back to school for the children. Yes, Christmas is over — at least for another year.

Wait! Is it really over? Is that all there is to Christmas? Is it just a time for parties, giving gifts to friends and family, and a brief period of “Peace on earth, good will toward men?”

Surely there is more to it than that.

Our readings today reveal the true meaning of Christmas. The Bible says,  The Word became flesh and came to live among us. The “Word” the Bible is talking about is Jesus. He came, full of unfailing love, and we have seen His glory. We have seen the glory of God’s only begotten Son.

Sadly, Jesus came to the world, but many did not recognize Him. For those who do not know the Savior, Christmas is over. But for those of us who received the gift of the Father, Christmas goes on all year long.

And that’s what I want to address this morning.

The most important gift any of us received was Jesus who came to earth as a gift from God. To those who receive Him and believe in His Name, He gave the right to become the children of God. He became a brother. He became a genealogical link to the Father.
Maybe we didn’t see that this past Christmas season. And liturgically, it’s our own fault.

The “Christmas” season — the Child in the manger, our Brother — is liturgically compressed to 12 days. It liturgically concludes in just three days, Wednesday (Jan.  6), with the celebration of Epiphany, which celebrates the visit of the three wise men to the Christ Child.

Sure, we had the four Sundays of Advent — a time for preparation for the big arrival. If you’re like most of us, except for the lighting of a candle on Sunday morning and maybe flipping a page on our Advent calendar, our preparation consisted of shopping, baking, running around, cooking, dealing with the stresses and realities of shorter daylight and life in overdrive. By the time Christmas morning rolled around, we wished we were snuggled in the hay with the Baby Jesus.

Christmas barely gets a week of our attention before it is lost in the shuffle of resolutions and bills and all the rest. But these verses remind us Christmas isn’t just a season, it’s a way of life. Christmas isn’t over when we reach Epiphany, it is only newly launched once again. While the season may pass, the hope and life it promises are just beginning.

Christmas reminds us of God’s decision to become one of us and bridge the gap from our mortal life so we might enjoy God’s eternal life. This is not merely a season or celebration, it is a promise that requires our active participation every day of the year.

Earlier — in verse seven — John says he came as a witness (marturioν) to testify (marturhsη). Both have the same root, with just a slight variation in the last syllable. He used it again in verse 8.

That multiple use of the same word brings us to an uncomfortable thought. How far are we willing to go to testify, to witness, to point, to be a martyr?

Our take from Christmas is those immersed in the story could enjoy Christmas, despite their circumstances. So can you.

If Mary and Joseph could find room in the midst of their confusion, questions and hardships, you can too. It may not be easy, and it will involve sacrifice. It may mean forgetting what other people think and letting go of some of your dreams, but if you want to experience Christmas, they — Mary and Joseph — would tell you it’s worth it all.

If these shepherds could decide to seek the Lord in Bethlehem, you can commit yourself to seeking Him in His Word, in prayer, in doing His will. You can make it your goal in life to look for God’s will and do God’s will in every area of your life.

If the Wise Men could crown Jesus King in the manger, you can crown Him King in your life. You probably don’t have gold, frankincense or myrrh to lay before Him, but what you do have, you can give. You can surrender your life to Christ wholeheartedly.

We all have blind spots. We may think and believe what we see and what we know is right and true and correct, yet, John confronts us all with the fact the world, 2,000 plus years ago, saw Jesus, but did not know Him. Isn’t it true we can live most of our lives without seeing and knowing Christ?

There are those who approach Jesus from a purely scientific and rational worldview. They examine His birth, life, teachings and death from an analytical viewpoint, as if they were putting them all under the microscope. That may give them a lot of detailed information about Jesus from which they can draw their conclusions based on “the objective scientific facts” they were able to verify and accept.

But,do we really see and know Jesus if we approach Him only from a pure, scientific worldview?

The information about Him may enlighten us and help us in many respects, but I don’t think we completely see and know Jesus only from this sort of approach. When all is said and done, it is relationship that ultimately matters.

How much value do we place on our relationships with one another? Why not with God in the person of Jesus?

John is theologically quite profound, speaking of the Eternal Word with God existing before the world was created and intricately involved in the creation process.

Yet, John is also very simple. He tells us, in the language of love and intimacy, it is God’s only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made Him known. In other words, John says, if you want to see and know who and what God is like, look at Jesus! Whenever you look at Jesus you come to know and see God … Jesus the baby in the manger … Jesus the man from Nazareth … Jesus the prophet, preacher, teacher and healer … Jesus the friend of sinners … Jesus the suffering and risen Savior.

So, today we are invited to ponder anew what value we place on our relationships with God and with one another. How are we doing in our relationships? Do we avoid and resist or do we welcome and willingly participate in the love, support and intimacy of relationships with Jesus and one another?

The meaning and joy of Christmas is valuing most of all the precious gift of our relationships with Jesus and one another. Such relationships help us to truly see and know Jesus whenever and wherever He comes to us.

Our reading — no, the gospel of John in toto — follows a sequence of “Tell and Show.” Today, John tells us who Jesus is … the Word made flesh, the light of the world, the revealer of the heart of God. In the rest of the gospel, John shows us Jesus in action, interacting with troubled people, performing healings and teaching truth. Jesus our Teacher and Savior speaks the words that will lead us into truth. He enters into conversation and relationship with troubled people bringing them an offer of new birth, light, healing, a way, living water, the guidance of a good shepherd and the Bread of Heaven. He is, in the end, willing to lay down His life for His friends.

Strengthened by His presence, we can bring His wisdom and unselfish love to others.

Now is the time to experience Christmas more powerfully and wonderfully than you ever have before if you are willing to make room for Him, bow before Him and seek Him with all your heart. Christmas isn’t Dec. 25. It’s the day  you experience the message of Christmas.

God loves you… and that’s about it.

I hope you join me is proclaiming, It’s beginning to look a lot like … Christmas … the real Christmas. And the faithful said … Amen,

For those of you who came to our Advent celebration at West Fayette Presbyterian Church, you heard Rev. Leah Ntuala of Seneca Falls Presbyterian Church sing Howard Thurman’s wonderful poem The Work of Christmas. I couldn’t convince her to sing a version for us, but I did find one to accompany us. The words follow. I think they may be an appropriate accompaniment to our lesson today.

When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with their flocks,
the work of Christmas begins:

to find the lost,
to heal the broken,
to feed the hungry,
to release the prisoner,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among the people,
to make music in the heart.

When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with their flocks,
the work of Christmas begins.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Prayer doesn’t need hours of time with lots of words. Pray now from the heart for whatever is foremost in your mind.

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About wisdomfromafather

I'm just an ordinary guy walking along the journey of life.
This entry was posted in celebration, Christmas, encouragement, Faith, God, Life, love, Music, prayer, relationships, sermon, Uncategorized, West Fayette Presbyterian, worship and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to It’s Beginning To Look a Lot Like …

  1. chrisbroz says:

    Thank you Frank…

  2. osarobohenry says:

    Thank you so much Joe for making out time to visit my blog and follow. May the Almighty God bless you more abundantly in the name of Jesus Christ.

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