Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Light of Christmas

“All flesh shall see the salvation of God.”
As Christmas gets closer I think it becomes harder and harder to see the salvation of God.
We get busier and busier.
Decorating, buying, hosting, and cooking.
All things that we do for this season, but it also makes it hard to see through the material part of Christmas to the spiritual part.
I was thinking a lot this week about how we see Christ in this time of year.
Today in this second week of Advent we are talking about light.
Light is about having something made visible to us.
When the light shines something we couldn’t see before become illuminated so we see it more clearly.
I am not a scientist, but as I understand it light exists as tiny particles that make possible the illumination of things.
God exists in the same way.
God exists in little ways that make God’s presence in our lives more visible, so that we see our salvation.

I want to start this morning with people whose Christmas will not be joyful and merry, people who will not have a glitz of a Christmas celebration.
Those who have no kids and Santa will not come.
There are people who will be alone.
What does Christmas look like to them?
I want to say that in some ways they are the lucky ones.
Because if we don’t have all the trappings of Christmas then maybe Christmas can be about what it really is about.
It is about God coming to us.
It is about the mountain and hills being made low, and the crooked made straight.
It is about the reality of God in our lives.
In other words without anything that we would equate with Christmas it still comes.
God’s light still shines without any presents, food, or decorations.

Then there are the others of us.
Those of us who Christmas does have all the trappings.
Christmas is full of presents, the food, the decorating.
What does all that mean?
This is not a sermon about the evils of commercialism.
I don’t like to shame people about how they celebrate Christmas, because it seems like another way to make Christmas about following rules instead of what it is supposed to be about God’s gracious invitation to see our salvation through the birth of Jesus Christ.
So this sermon is about is about how the light of God comes to us in Christmas no matter what we do or how we celebrate it.
How do we see the salvation of God this time of year?
The truth is that I am going to go crazy this Christmas just like all the other Christmases.
I am going to buy a bunch of presents for my kids that they don’t need.
I am going to cook my Swedish meatballs.
I am going to put up a tree and put lights up around it.
I am going to play Christmas music nonstop.
Does that mean that I am not really celebrating the spiritual part of Christmas?
For those of you who are in that reality let me offer some suggestion of ways that these Christmas traditions can help us see God’s salvation.

The things we do for Christmas that seems material can have spiritual meaning for us.
For me buying a present is a holy thing.
It is about thinking about the person whom I am buying for.
It is about thinking what they like to do, and who they are as a person.
For me hosting my family on Christmas Eve is more than merely having some people over.
It is a holy time of joy.
I really do enjoy the process of making food, of setting up, of having people over our house.
I really do enjoy being together with family.
It brings really great joy and happiness to my life.
When all of you come to our house for our open house it is one of the great times for Vicki and I.
We enjoy preparing together the meal that you will eat.
We enjoy cooking together.
One of the things I love is sitting in my living room and looking at the tree while listening to Christmas music.
It reminds me of home, of God’s love, of light that shines through dark nights.

You see right in the middle of your Christmas time that always seems too crazy and too busy there are moments to reflect on why we do these things.
There are moments in them to remember that in the middle of a busy and crazy life God is there.
And that is really the message of Christmas that in the middle of darkness God’s light shines through Jesus so we can see our salvation.

In Luke’s Gospel this morning we have a list of people that places Jesus coming in an historical time and place.
“In the fifteen year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontious Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was rule of Galilee, and his brother Phillip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah…”
God comes in the middle of difficult times, in the middle of life.
If I could recast Luke’s introduction in our Gospel this morning into our times it would read like this…
“In the seventh year of the presidency of Barack Obama, when Maggie Hassan was Governor of New Hampshire, and James Bouley was mayor of Concord, and Byron Champerlin was counselor of ward 4, during the Bishop of Jim Hazlewood, the word of God came to the people of Concordia Lutheran Church.”
This year today, God has spoken to us; God’s light has shined so we might see our salvation.
In the days when John came to prepare the way for Jesus things were not so great.
Just as one example, Pontious Pilate was a tyrant; he would have people crucified for everything and nothing.
The historian Philo described Pilate as, "vindictive with a furious temper", and was "naturally inflexible, a blend of self-will and relentlessness".
He writes that Pilate feared a delegation of the Jews might send to Tiberius because "if they actually sent an embassy they would also expose the rest of his conduct as governor by stating in full the briberies, the insults, the robberies, the outrages and wanton injuries, the executions without trial constantly repeated, the ceaseless and supremely grievous cruelty".
This is to say nothing of Herod who was equally as ruthless and evil.
I say this because this week we again had an act of evil done to people in our country.
We had another shooting, by intolerant people out to create terror.
I don’t want to down play what is happening in our country or in the world.
I don’t want to say that it is not evil and scary, because I know it is.
However, in this advent time I want us to know that the light shine in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.
That in these dark times of terror, violence, intolerance, political division we too can see our salvation through the light of Christ.
See God.
Look for God, because God is here.
God is in the middle of it all.

So if your Christmas is going to be without the tree, the presents, and the big meal I want you to know today that God is with you.
If your Christmas is busy and crazy and has the tree, the presents, the big meal I want you to know today that God is with you.
If you are worried about our world, about the violence, about the hatred, I want you to know that God is with us.
Because Christmas is not based on how we celebrate, or what is going on the world, the lord’s coming and the preparation for that coming are the initiatives of a gracious God who wants you to see your salvation.
May the light of God make that God visible to you this Christmas season.

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