Saturday, January 1, 2011

Jesus Is Welcome Here

Indeed Jesus is welcome here.
Welcome relief from the messages we normally receive.
Messages that tell us we are not rich enough, not good looking enough, not smart enough, and not worthy enough.
Is it not a welcomed relief to hear the message this night of the Angels, “To you this night is born a savior”?
To see the majesty of God dwelling not in palace, not in the grandeur, but in a simple teenage mother, and father.
Not in royalty or religious splendor but with shepherds.
Jesus is a welcome relief from all the things in our life that we are trying to work towards.
That is why we love this story so much, because it is simple.
It is a story about things we can easily understand.
We can understand a Mother’s love.
We can understand a Father’s care.
We can understand having to look for a place to stay but not finding it.
Perhaps Joseph forgot to make the arrangements in advance.
I know that I have done that once or twice in my day.
What we see in Jesus is hope, joy, and love.

Indeed Jesus is welcome here.
In your life this Christmas what is it that makes you worry?
What is it that makes you feel inadequate?
Into our failures, our worries, our vulnerability, our sufferings Jesus comes.
Perhaps this night you are worried about your job.
You are worried that the economy is not going to truly recover.
Perhaps someone you love is serving in the military and is overseas.
Perhaps you are worried that your plans will not work out.
Maybe you or someone you love is dealing with sickness or death.
Maybe tonight you don’t feel like you are worth anything.
Whatever is going on in your life God this night has entered in to our lives, into the history of the world.
Here in the manger wrapped in cloth is a baby the hope and light of the world.
Here in this beloved story we hear angels declare, “Glory to God in the highest”.

Indeed Jesus is welcome here.
This week I have been doing some running around filling some last minute Christmas request for people who are having a hard time.
In each case what I have been thinking about is that in the midst of these lives is Jesus.
In the midst of trouble and sin is Jesus.
In the midst of the stores were people are buying presents eagerly anticipating the joy they will bring is Jesus.
In the mother searching for the perfect gift for her children is Jesus.
I guess that Christmas is a hectic time, but it is also the time when Jesus comes into the chaos.
Not to tell us that everything is wrong, that we should think or feel different about Christmas but redefining the meaning of what we are doing.

On that first Christmas there are lots chaos and lots of things going on.
There is a census ordered by the political authorities.
There are plans to be made for traveling.
Then there is a birth.
There are shepherds hard at work in the fields.
There are Mary and Joseph with their own fears of being parents for the first time.
What makes the scene calm and bright is the glow of God.
“Peace” is the words from the angels, and we feel it not because everything is fine, but because Jesus has come into our lives.

This year I really enjoyed the work of Christmas.
I enjoyed being with my wife as we cooked and cleaned for Christmas festivities.
I enjoyed the chaos of getting our tree, putting it up, and decorating it.
I enjoyed sitting on the floor wrapping presents for the people we love.
I enjoyed taking my kids shopping so they could pick out a present for their mother.
In each of those things I saw and felt God working in the midst of them.

I am not sure it is useful to rail against the over commercialism of Christmas because it is the world that we live in.
It is a world so loved by God that he gave us his son to be our savior.
And Jesus presence in our world, in our lives is what changes everything.
It is what takes it from chaos to calm from fear to peace.
Jesus takes what is sin and makes it forgiveness.
Therefore we can embrace Christmas, all of it, instead of feeling guilty that we are not being more holy.
Because the Christmas story tells us that the holy shows up in what is thought to be unholy.
God shows up to shepherds in a manger, to a teenager mother, in a baby, to you and me.
What brings calm into our lives is not our actions not rejecting Christmas, not rejecting consumerism, but the redeeming grace of God.

Jesus is welcomed here.
Into our lives filled with busyness, with shopping, parties, and trees the savior is born.
So where has Jesus been for you this Christmas?
Where have you welcomed Jesus into your life so that he can save and redeem your life?
The theologian Meister Ekhart said, “What good is it that Mary gave birth to Christ so many years ago if we do not give birth to him today?”
In faith welcome Jesus into your life, because Jesus will bring calm and peace into your life.
What are the parts of your life that need saving?
What are the parts that need redeeming?
Jesus is welcomed here.

This week on NPR I was listening to segment where people would call in and tell stories about gifts they received.
All of the stories were heartwarming and really inspiring.
One of the callers told of when she was in second grade.
She noticed that the biggest present under the tree that year was for her.
It was from her godfather.
It was a globe and a Graham’s guide to the galaxy.
She said that her godfather “really got her”.
She still has the book and today she runs the Christa McAuliffe planetarium here in Concord.
She said it was the perfect gift.
Tonight we have been given the perfect gift.
God knows us so well that he gave all of us what we need.
Whatever it is that has been going on in your life God sent his son to save us, to give us peace.
What a perfect gift.
Jesus is welcomed here because Jesus is the perfect gift for us and our lives.

Jesus takes away the sin, guilt, fear, and worry.
And Jesus replaces it with peace calm.
With a silent night in a stable with teenage parents, and shepherds that visit.
Jesus replaces the darkness of the world with light.
As Isaiah foretold, “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light.”
Tonight the darkness has lifted and God has given us the perfect present, the one we all need the one that sheds light on our lives.

So tonight open your hearts, minds, and spirit and in faith welcome Jesus Christ your savior into your life.

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