Dec 28, 2010

Christmas Eve Sermon - What Do You See? What Do You Hear?

The Christmas Eve sermon didn't get recorded so I am posting it here.


“What Do You See? What Do You Hear?”
Isaiah 9:2-7, Luke 2:1-20

It is so good to see you and to be with you this Christmas Eve! You are in the right place! There is no other place God would have you to be than right here in God’s house tonight.

A Rabbi went to the barbershop. After his hair cut, he got ready to pay the barber and the barber said, "No Rabbi, I don't charge the clergy for haircuts." So the next morning the barber found a loaf of Jewish rye bread outside of his doorstep.
A couple of days past and a Catholic priest came in to get his haircut. He got ready to pay and the barber said, "No Father, I don't charge the clergy for hair cuts." So the next morning he found a bottle of wine outside his front door step.
A couple of days later the Presbyterian pastor came in to get his hair cut and when he got ready to pay the barber said, "No Reverend, I don't charge the clergy for their hair cuts." So the next morning, the barber found 15 Presbyterian pastors on his doorstep, ready to get their hair cut!
Listen. We’re no fools. Presbyterians know a good deal when we see one.

I share that with you because that’s what I’d like for us to think about tonight. What do we see? What do we hear? In the story we know so well as the Christmas story.

What do you see?  What do you hear?
·      When you watched the 6:00 news did you see chaos and strife, or did you see sheep without a shepherd.
·      When you went out to do your shopping did you see only hordes of people in the stores, or did you notice the worried expressions on some of their faces – worried because they are facing this Christmas without employment or enough money and they don't know how they are going to tell their children there’s no more.

What did you hear this Christmas?
·      Did you hear only the blast of music and carols, or did you hear the silent sighs of the lonely and the bereaved who may be dreading Christmas because it accentuates their loneliness.
·      And in the midst of the sounds of honking horns and people arguing over parking places, did you hear faint sounds of laughter coming from Church mission projects because you furnished food and toys for families and children.

You see, so often what you see and what you hear is not dependent upon what’s around us but upon what we’re looking for. 

What do you see and what do you hear in our Christmas season?

“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world…And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David…He went there to register with Mary.” (vv.1-5)
·      It makes perfect sense that Joseph had to register for the census, but why did Mary go?
·      She was 9 months pregnant!
·      Women were not required to register. They didn’t even count the women.

The distance between Nazareth to Bethlehem is about 70 miles as the crow flies. It would have been at least an 80 mile journey by foot on the dirt roads.

A typical caravan traveled about 20 miles a day. That would have made this journey a four day journey. However, Mary was in her last trimester of her pregnancy when they went on this journey. Tradition says that Mary rode on a donkey while Joseph walked. The Bible never mentions a donkey, but for Mary's sake I hope that there was a donkey for her.

I have four children. My wife is a pretty tough lady. She gave birth to all three girls and without pain medication. I know crazy. I pleaded with the doctors to give her some pain meds but my voice doesn't count in the birth room.

Even though my wife is a tough lady, she would have thought that I was nuts for asking her to go on a journey like the one he and Mary took.
·      There were no rest stops along the way, no fast food places to stop and eat, no motels or hotels.
·      They would have slept on the hard ground, made do with the food they were carrying, and it would have been pretty darn cold.

So the question has to be asked, "What the heck were Mary and Joseph thinking when they went on this journey together? What possessed them to make to take Mary along?"

Ahh...We forget what it's like to live in a small town, and we cannot forget about the controversial circumstances around Mary's pregnancy.
·      Sure Mary. An angel appeared. 
·      Sure Mary. I'm sure the three months while you disappeared while engaged to Joseph had nothing to do with you showing up pregnant.

You see, the spontaneous whispers that would erupt whenever people saw Mary and Joseph, the finger pointing, and the downright rude comments that were made about them were worse than the thought of a week long journey on foot to Bethlehem. Mary couldn't imagine staying in Nazareth by herself without Joseph there to protect her and shield her. 

Mary insisted on going.

And so was fulfilled what was promised through the prophets: "But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel" (Matthew 2:6).

God uses even gossip and cruelty of the smalltown folk of Nazareth to fulfill his promise to send to us a Savior. There is nothing that can stop God from loving us.

The shepherds were out in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night. An angel appeared to them and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.

What is this good news of great joy?

“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.
·      Savior, Christ, the Lord…
·      The late President Ronald Reagan summarizes the importance of these three words. In reflecting about the life of Jesus Christ, President Reagan wrote:

Meaning no disrespect to the religious convictions of others, I still can't help wondering how we can explain away what to me is the greatest miracle of all and which is recorded in history. No one denies there was such a man, that he lived and that he was put to death by crucifixion. the miracle I spoke of? Well consider this and let your imagination translate the story into our own time – possibly to your own home town.

A young man whose father is a carpenter grows up working in his father's shop. One day he puts down his tools and walks out of his father's shop. He starts preaching on street corners and in the nearby countryside, walking from place to place, preaching all the while, even though he is not an ordained minister. He does this for three years. Then he is arrested, tried and convicted. There is no court of appeal, so he is executed at age 33 along with two common thieves. Those in charge of his execution roll dice to see who gets his clothing – the only possessions he has. His family cannot afford a burial place for him so he is interred in a borrowed tomb. 

End of story? No, this uneducated, property-less young man who...left no written word has, for 2000 years, had a greater effect on the world than all the rulers, kings, emperors; all the conquerors, generals and admirals, all the scholars, scientists and philosophers who have ever lived – all of them put together. 

How do we explain that?...unless he really was who he said he was.

So what do you see in that manger?  What do we hear?

The child in the manger is God declaring unto the world, “I love you!”

Notice what the shepherds do as soon as they hear this good news of great joy.

“When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’ So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.” (v.15).
·      Wait a minute! Did you see that?
·      These dirty, smelly, earthy shepherds broke all the rules and protocol of baby visitations.
·      I know. I’m a pastor. I’ve done this before.
o   First you take a shower
o   Put on clean fresh clothes
o   Then when you get to the hospital, you check with the nurses.
o   After getting their permission, you knock on the door.
o   Then you wash your hands
o   And only then are you ready to visit with a baby and the mommy of the newborn!

But look at these wise guys! They just barge in – in all their filth and grime, and smelly nastiness, they just barge in!
·      Jesus was born in an open stable.
·      There were no doors. There were no locks. There were no barriers of any kind to keep anyone out.
·      That’s no accident.
·      God’s good news of great joy is for all the people.

Regardless of your past, your failures, your sins. God loves you!

The baby in the manger is God declaring unto the world, “I LOVE YOU!”

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whosoever should believe in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.

Let me close with something I wrote a few days ago. It’s called Christmas Reflection – The One Who was Born to Die.

Every human being ever born has been born to live.
That’s the goal of life – to live, to truly live.
But not a single person has every truly lived. Not a single one could truly live.
Until…until, God sent the one who was to be born in order that he might die.
Because it was through his death that all might come to life.
So on that evening long ago, Jesus was born to die,
In order that all might live.

Merry Christmas!

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