Monday, December 28, 2015

Christmas Story

Our choir sang the song, “There has never been a night like this!”
It is true that this night is wonderful, beautiful, magical, because there has never been a story like the one we share tonight.
That talks of God’s glory, majesty, and love.
What is it about this story?
What is it that makes it so important to us?
Why do we write songs about it?
Why do we make up plays about it?
What draws us here tonight to hear it again?
We should admit from the start that this is a story in opposition to other stories.
Because even at the time of it’s telling there are other stories competing for attention.
Consider that nowhere is there any Roman historian who wrote about Jesus birth.
If I could put it in modern terms there were no news cameras there, no mention of it on Facebook or twitter.
It would seem on the surface of all things to be insignificant.
A baby is born, is generally not news, unless it is a baby from some famous person or royalty.
This baby is born in a unassuming way in a manger, in a little town of no real significance.
Jesus birth really does not mean anything.
But it does.
It means everything.
The story has gone on for two thousand years.
It is here tonight for us to marvel over and receive grace and hope from.

Luke’s Gospel tells us that Jesus was born in the middle of another story where an empire ruled the known world.
Jesus was born among a story of military might, and lots of petty despots.
Jesus story is counter to the popular narrative.
Jesus story tells us of poor shepherds, of angel singing “peace on earth”.
Jesus story tells us of good news for all people!
The Roman story told us there was peace because of military might.
The Roman story told us that it was good news if you were a Roman citizen.
The song that Phil sang at the start of worship tells us that Jesus was born among a troubled time.
That Jesus was born in a weary land, filled with people that wanted to kill him, filled with a counter story.
And we too live in a weary land.
I don’t know about you but I often feel weary with all the things going on in the world.
I feel weary because the story we often hear is about how horrible things are.
The story we hear is of exploitation of people and of the earth.
We hear a story of violence, hatred, and greed.

And perhaps that is why we love this story.
It is counter programming for us.
In our world that is torn apart by political dissension.
In our world where we are told that a strong military makes us safe, but we don’t feel any safer.
In world where there are nightly news reports of bad news.
We still need a story that tells us of good news and true peace.
 We need to know that in small places that no one is paying attention to, mystical, spiritual things are happening.

We need this story, and that is what keeps us going.
That is why we come to hear it.
Why we sing it.
Why we put on plays with cute kids.

I must say that I have been one for keeping the story straight.
That Luke’s telling of the story is different than Matthew’s for theological reasons.
But I am also aware that the story that most of us know is not only from Luke or Matthew it is from both.
Growing up before we could open our gifts we had to read the Christmas story.
And the story we read was a mash up of Luke and Matthew’s Gospel.
It had both shepherds and Wise men.
It had the stable and the manger.
It had angel’s appearing and the star.
I have come to see that as part of our need for this story.
It is not enough to know Luke or Matthew’s we want to understand this story from all the angels.
It is why we make up songs that are not 100% Biblically accurate, but that get at what the story is trying to tell us about our lives and what God was doing through the birth of Jesus.

Because what the birth of Jesus means is mind blowing, and quite frankly impossible to fully understand.
To think that the Lord of heaven and earth would become human is an amazing thought.
To think it would happen in this way is even more amazing.
If God was going to come to rule, why not come as a emperor?
In fact, that was the story of Rome that the Emperor was god on earth.
That people should worship the Emperor because he had conquered foreign lands.
The story we love does not make sense.
It is why many disparage it as a fairy tale.
In fact, one atheist group put up a billboard that read, “Dear Santa, all I want for Christmas is to skip church. I am too old for Fairy Tales.”
Many people they can’t understand why God would come to earth in such a way.
If God were to come to earth it would be bigger, grandeur, better known.

But all of that misses the point.
The fact that it happened in this way is the point.
God is not interested in the same story as the Roman Empire.
God is interested in the story of a savior coming to show us another kingdom of heaven filled with love and peace.
God is interested in using people like the shepherds who are not very interesting.
God is interested in using stories of the ordinary becoming extraordinary.

This is the story of the union of heaven and earth through the love act of God.
It is the story that we love and we can’t get enough.
It is the story we keep telling.
It is the story we keep re-inventing through plays, books, and song to help us understand it better.

Tonight we hear that story again.
We remember God’s extraordinary, amazing love through shepherds, two poor people, a baby born in lowly circumstances.
And we remember that the story we often hear in the media, in political speeches, on television does not have to be the only story.
There is one greater, and with deeper meaning to us.
It is the story of God’s good news for all people.
It is the story of God coming down to earth to reside with God’s people.
 Let us leave here tonight as the Shepherds did after hearing this amazing unbelievable story, “glorifying and praising God for all we have heard and seen, as it has been told to us.”

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