Monday, December 24, 2018

Christmas Past, Present, Future

This week at bible study we were talking about how we would have love to have been there.
We would have loved to hear Zachariah give his prophecy.
We would have love to been moved by the Holy Spirit to realize this new thing God was doing.
We all feel this way at certain times in our faith journey.
If I was there it would have been so great.
This morning I want to say that we are there.
Everything that was available to the characters in the Gospel is available to us.
We know everything that Zachariah, Elizabeth, and Mary know.
To some extent we know even more.
We know that Jesus will be the promised one.
We know that Jesus will save us.
The only question we have is the same one they had is do we believe it?
Are we open to the Holy Spirit working in our lives?

My wife this season was talking to some of her colleagues at work and they were talking about traditions.
What Christmas tradition do you have?
To her surprise her colleagues had almost none.
It is surprising in our house because we have like 50 million.
(OK not that many...but a lot)
For example, we eat certain ethnic food to remind us of our ancestors.
Every year I go with my mom to Worcester to get Swedish food that we eat on Christmas eve.
Every year as we drive down Greenwod St. to Helen's Bakery my mom points out the landmarks.
"Here is the house that Aunt Austry lived in."
"Here is the house that Aunt Marie lived in."
"Here is the Church that your great Grandfather was the pastor of."
The women at Helen's Bakery knows us because we come every year and get 13 loaves of Swedish Rye Bread.
Every Christmas we open gifts one at a time the youngest going first the oldest going last.
Every Christmas day we have an Italian feast with Vicki's family.
We eat the gravy from the recipe that Vicki's grandmother taught her, the one brought over on the boat from Italy.
For us these traditions are important to root us in our past.
In that way every Christmas is the same.

But we are aware that Christmas also changes.
Kids grow up.
You celebrate in a different house.
We used always go to Winthrop Mass on Christmas day to spend time with Vicki's grandparents.
They have died, and so now we celebrate at her parent's house.
I am sure some of you have gone through this.
You used to host Christmas, have all the family to your house, and now you go to your kids houses.
You get married and you start eating Italian food on Christmas day, or start opening your presents on Christmas morning instead of Christmas eve.
Or maybe you used to have big celebrations, but now it is just you and a couple of friends.
Christmas changes.

The year that we have had often times dictates our Christmas.
Are we employed?
How is our health?
Did someone we love die?
How do we feel about the world we live in, and where it is going?

Christmas also points us towards the future, it reminds us that next year will be different.
It reminds us that things are moving and changing all the time.
Sometimes that is good, and sometimes not so good.

Our Gospel for this morning is rooted in that same thing.
The prophesy that Zachariah says is rooted in the words of Isaiah, Malachi, and the psalms.
It is rooted in the traditions of his ancestors.
It is not new.
But it points to the changes happening in the present moment.
It is the fulfillment of God's promises.
And it point us towards the future of what God will do through John's life.

You see you and I we are in the time of prophecy.
We are in the time of great awakening.
We are in the time of God.
Because we are always in that time.
God is always rooted in our past, speaking in our present, and making promises for our future.

The only questions are we open to it?
Can we hear it?
Can we see it?
Can we believe it?

Because the truth is this that many people missed the birth of Jesus.
Not many were there.
Not many were looking for it.
They were doing what we do.
Going about their lives, working, complaining about the government, loving, dying.
The people in our Gospel this morning they too probably didn't fully understand the significance of all that was happening in their midst.

Because while we walk in the darkness, God provides for us a great light.
God provides for us a light that shows us a way to be in the world.
It is a way of good news, joy, and promise.
It is the way of God.

I know that I some point I have said in a sermon that the reason we have faith is because we were not there that first Christmas.
We didn't hear Zachariah tell us that John would lead the way for Jesus to come and save us.
We were not there when Mary and Elizabeth sang songs of joy.
We were not there when Zachariah first heard the good news of his son being born.
We were not there when the promise was given to Mary.
We are here now, together today.
And the truth is that God stills shows up.
God is here today with you and me.
Here in the worship service that we share.
God is speaking right to you.
God is acting to bring light into your darkness.
"Because of the tender mercy of our God,
whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of Peace."

For me God shows up in traditions that root me to my past.
God shows up this Christmas to help me find joy now matter my circumstances.
God shows up at Helen's bakery, here this morning, and in words spoken through others.
God will show up for you too.
Other things will change this Christmas.
Our circumstances, and how we feel about life will change.
We can always be assured of this God will show up, just as he did for Zachariah, Elizabeth, and Mary.

This Christmas be open to what God is doing.
It is rooted in the past, speaking to you today right now, and giving you hope for your future.

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