Christmas Eve Sermon / Dec. 24, 2007 / Rev. Carol Kniseley
Text: Luke 2: 1-20 / Title: Destined to Be a Savior
Of all the stories told in the Bible…the Christmas story has to be one of the best known. Show any child between the ages of two and five a picture of a baby lying in a manger…and I guarantee that the next words out of that child’s mouth will be: baby Jesus. Children relate to someone that looks like them…much like we relate to someone who merely talks our language.
For example, not too long ago a movie was made about a boy who from birth wasn’t like any of the other children in his town. Although mentally he was remarkably smart for his age, physically…he lagged behind. Whereas other children’s bones would continue to grow and mature…his would not, causing his overall height to be stunted from birth. And yet the most remarkable feature about this child was not how he looked to others…but how he perceived himself through their eyes.
Something deep down inside of him told him that he was born for a reason…and that one day…he, Simon…would be a hero. All throughout the movie he continues to tell his friend, Joe, that God had chosen him for some “special reason” known only to God. It was Simon, then, who spent the majority of his time trying to figure God out…and to receive an answer to his only burning question: what is my destiny?
Finally…in a very moving part of the film…Simon finds himself smack dab in the middle of an accident involving a school bus and a number of younger children. As the bus careens off of the road and into a freezing body of water…the scene becomes one of absolute chaos and desperation. Against all odds, and with precious time ticking away, it is Simon who remembers something very telling. As he once told his friend, Joe, the reason younger children listen to him when he speaks is because they relate to him and his size. In other words, they see him…as one of them. And they trust him to do the right thing.
It is Simon who eventually convinces the kids not to be afraid…and to trust that he will show them a way out of their dire circumstance…no matter how bleak it may appear. One by one…Simon leads each of the children to safety…only to forfeit his own life in the end. To those whom he rescued, Simon Birch became a real live hero…not for his sake…but for theirs.
When people heard that Jesus was from the town of Nazareth…remember what they said? Can anything good…come from there? Imagine, then, what they would have said if they had known that he was born in a stable of all places…with animals standing all around and stinky shepherds looking on.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. I personally have nothing against shepherds in general…it’s just that I strongly doubt that any had time to clean up their act (literally) after hearing from the angels on high…and then hightailing it to the booming metropolis of Bethlehem (as in NOT) to see what they saw. What they saw…LOOKED to be…nothing more than a newborn babe…like millions of babies born every single day on this tired old earth.
How could they have known…that this one child…this one tiny speck of bone and flesh with ten fingers and ten toes…was born for just one reason, and one reason alone. Whether he himself knew it or not…he had come to save his people. Can we even begin to imagine what ran through that tiny mind of his as he lay there in a feeding trough filled with hay? What did he see, I wonder, in the myriad of faces that confronted him?
When Mary, his mother, picked him up and held him oh so gently…did he sense how very young she truly was? How she had never once experienced the love of a spouse which made her giving birth all the more draining. She was drained both physically and emotionally…not fully comprehending all that the angel had said much less how it all “appeared” in the eyes of her neighbors. All she knew for sure…was that the time had come for her to deliver a child…and that this child would be like none other.
When it came to spying Joseph, we can only imagine what baby Jesus thought of his funny looking…hair. So long and so bushy…with a smackling of gray, and yet…there was something more. Could one so new to this world even sense how agonizing it was for Joseph to even be there; to being seen and not heard…to just being there, in the father’s place, but not, somehow being the real father. Able to do nothing and say nothing that would help, it became Joseph’s “job” to simply stand and wonder what all of this might mean for his beloved Mary…and the child…that was not his.
When his gaze finally turned to the Angels, it wouldn’t be too hard to surmise the joy at first spying those wings…those marvelously HUGE wings! What? No angels? Of course there were angels! Attend any child’s Christmas program…and I guarantee you will see more angels than you know what to do with. An Angel appeared first to Mary…then to Joseph…and finally to the stinky shepherds who (we are told) were out there…standing in the field watching over their sheep by night…when a whole host of angels lit up the entire sky singing the latest version of “Glory to God in the highest!” Man oh man…if that wasn’t enough to get your heart pumping and your feet churning…then there was only one thing left to consider.
That at the end of the day…it was all just another “story”…that by some miracle has managed to survive some 2000 years after first being told. And who do you imagine did the telling? It was those wonder-filled shepherds who dared to open their mouths and spread the good news of Immanuel, “God with us…as we…have never experienced God before”.
And if perchance, like Simon Birch, we begin to sense that God has chosen us for a special reason known only to God…then we are absolutely right. Like Mary, Joseph, the Angels, and the Shepherds…we DO have a part to play in this everliving story. Namely: to carry the baby out into the world…that the world itself might be saved. Which is precisely why the Angel made it crystal clear so that no one would miss it:
‘His name shall be called Jesus…the one…who saves’.
To which we joyfully reply on this Christmas Eve, 2007: thanks be to God!