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What a great crowd gathered here this morning for worship! Last Sunday we were like many congregations in the area who canceled worship service due to the inclement weather. Last weekend’s snow gave many of us an opportunity to slow down our pace in the busyness of this Christmas season. Some would say that this busy season began on Thanksgiving Day. Perhaps we have heard it said that nothing slows us down more or captivates our attention like the soft, deafening sound of a whisper. In daily conversations at work, school, or home, when we suddenly hear someone whisper, our ears usually try to tune in. Many times in our lives everything that is soft and still escapes our attention.
Our Christmas story from the gospel of Luke tells us that Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem to register for a census issued by Caesar Augustus. While there, Mary gave birth to a child. Nothing unusual happened except that this child was born among animals and had a stone cattle trough for his first cradle. As I think about the birth of Jesus, I realize that God seems to have whispered into the history of humankind. The census season like our Christmas season was loud and fast. The birth of Jesus like millions of other babies went unnoticed. The birth of our Savior was not first proclaimed in Caesar’s halls or in King Herod’s palace, but to humble shepherds in the fields. Jesus entered our world beneath one of the least inviting roofs in Bethlehem–born in a stable with all the sights, sounds, and smells. God came to us, not as an adult, but as a child, as an infant.
As parents or grandparents we appreciate the sights and surprises of Christmas morning through the eyes of a child. Many here today I’m sure are looking forwarding to seeing the reactions of our own children or grandchildren or even great grandchildren Christmas morning. When we think about children, we know that all children have very similar traits.
- Children are trusting. Children learn quickly how to trust people. Children learn to trust their parents, their brothers and sisters, teachers and friends. They follow paths they have not crawled or even walked before, trusting in someone to help guide them in their journey.
- Children are also dependent. Children come into the world as very dependent and needy people. They need shelter, food, and of course our love.
- Children are also vulnerable. Children need the protection and care of their loved ones.
Being vulnerable is a part of our human existence. I believe that children and even adults feel most vulnerable at night and in the dark fearing the unknown that they cannot see. Ironically, much of what happened on Christmas Eve took place at night. The shepherds traveled at night to see the baby Jesus. Jesus himself was born during the night. Earlier in our service we sang the beautiful carol, “O Little Town of Bethlehem” which described Bethlehem that night Jesus came to us, “Yet in thy dark streets shineth, the everlasting light.”
In thinking of everlasting light, I recall reading that in ancient Greece in many of the running competitions that took place they instituted a rule about being declared the winner in such an event. The runner who won the race was not the person who crossed the line in the shortest amount of time. The winner of the race happened to be the runner who crossed the finish line in the least amount of time with their torch still burning.
In relationship to our lives, often we are so busy with activities in life that we are in danger of allowing the torch of our spiritual life to become extinguished. The Christmas season can be a difficult time for those who carry the burden of hard work, stressful family situations and personal loss. But we should remember that Christ came into our world to lift up all who are bowed down.
Jesus used the words of the prophet Isaiah to announce his mission on earth:
He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
Today I hope that we recognize there is an everlasting light available to us through our relationship with Jesus Christ. He can light our paths in those times of darkness and always brighten our spirits.
My hope and prayer this morning is that each of us who are gathered will allow the light of Christ to shine brightly in our lives and in the year ahead!
May God bless your Christmas celebration!
The Rev. Dr. David A. Marcus, Jr.
December 17, 2017