Monday, December 27, 2010

Day After Christmas Sermon

Matthew 2

1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”

3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
5 So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:
6 ‘ But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;
For out of you shall come a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.’”[a]

7 Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”
9 When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. 11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
12 Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.

Luke 2:8-20

8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold,[a] an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
14 “ Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”[b]

15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. 17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely[c] known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.

Before we had Karis, Jennifer kept turning the channel to TLC and Discovery Health. She did this in order to watch shows about childbirth. You would be surprised how many of these shows are on television. There is this show about these female doctors that are all best friends and have an obstetrics practice together. There is a my first baby show. There is that show with that fundamentalist family called the Duggars that home schools their kids and has 19 children now. And then there is the “I’m Pregnant and….” Series. “I am pregnant and I am a drug addict”. I am pregnant and I am homeless. I am pregnant have ocd. You know…freak show kind of stuff.

We also went to a class about childbirth. Actually, we went to about half of it, got frustrated, waited for a break from it, and snuck away, went to Dairy Queen, and went home.

Then came the day that we went in to have Karis. And while there were some similarities to these shows, there are a lot of things that are a lot different. For instance, when Jennifer was induced, we spent about ten to twelve hours waiting for something to happen. On television, it you don’t see a lot of people just sitting around watching the Today Show and ESPN for hours. We did. In Jennifer’s case, when you have an epidural, you expect it to work. It usually happens that way on the television. In real life the epidural didn’t work. At least, it did not work right. We were led to expect the doctor to arrive at least 15 minutes before the child is born. He didn’t.
In the training and the tv shows you expect to be able to stay in the birthing room long enough to recover instead of the nurse pushing you out of the room on a timeline as soon as the doctor walks out saying “I’ll give you twenty minutes, but then you better get out of here”. I am not sharing any of this to complain. I am just wanting you to see, our ideas in popular culture about childbirth and those first few moments of becoming a parent are much different in real life are much nicer, much tamer, much more romanticized than what it is like in the real world.

When you go to classes, watch television shows, and listen to all the people who often offer you unsolicited advice about your childbirth experiences, they often tell you about being awash in this sense of delightful love the moment your child is born. I cannot deny this. I have dreaded having children most of my adult life. But when I held baby Karis and looked into her eyes it melted my heart.

However, there is this other feeling that comes over you as you become a parent. It comes a few moments after the “I love my baby more than I could imagine moment.” It is the “Holy Moley, what in the heck did I get myself into?” moment.

Now I share all this because if I felt this way with our little precious cargo, I cannot imagine the thoughts, concerns and expectations that Joseph and Mary were dealing with that Christmas morning.

Not only were they having a child, conceived by the Holy Spirit, and born to a virgin. They were having this baby while they were on the road in the barn or garage of a fleabag motel several days journey away from anyone they have ever known.

In that little stable lied a baby that was born to save the world from their sins. In that stable lied the Messiah. In that stable laid God in human form. And Mary and Joseph were charged for caring for that child in that stable. They must have listened to it cry, watched it wiggle and giggle, and thought, “Holey Moley, what in the heck did I get myself into” as well.

And then, as they were in Bethlehem, trying to get their feet underneath them and their stable in order they had two groups of visitors. I am sure they might have had a few more visitors in that stable, but scripture records two sets of visitors.

These two groups of people could not have been more different. One group was a group of raggedy shepherds. The other group to visit was a group of well-educated nobleman with an eye for astronomy and it relation to miraculous and holy events.

The pictures that we see in a nativity scene have the shepherds and the wise men there at about the same time. Most people believe that this is not the case. Rather the shepherds came to Bethlehem the night of the birth, and the magi came a while later.

What is interesting though, is not who were with Jesus, but what those folks that were with Jesus teaches about who Jesus is, and what his mission in the world is.

First, let us look at the shepherds. The shepherds were poor. The shepherds were dirty. They were ceremonially unclean according to Jewish law. They were most likely uneducated. They had a job that nobody else would really be that excited about doing. They were hard workers.

The shepherds, it appears were nearby. They were Jews. And they were on the bottom rung of the ladder. They were awaiting a Messiah. Most likely they were near the same areas where King David grazed his flocks as a shepherd, but they were far from Royalty.

The shepherds were at work when all of the sudden angels appeared in the sky. The sky lit up and they were afraid. They thought they were seeing the great white light that signified the end of their lives. But they were not. The angels told the shepherds that they had good news of great joy. They said that the Savior was born. And that he was lying in a manger. And that they would find him swaddled up in cloths. Then the angels announced that Jesus had come to bring peace, and show God’s goodwill toward men. Then they left.

And they came to the manger. And they told people why. And everyone was in awe. They had nothing but a story to bring. Nothing but worship to offer.

The wise men, as we have come to know them, were radically different from the shepherds. The shepherds were from nearby. The wise men were from far away. The shepherds came to the manger because the angel told them to. The wise men came because of a star in the sky that they had studied in conjuction with prophecies. The shepherds were poor and uneducated. The wise men were wealthy. The shepherds had no gifts. The wise men had gold, frankensense and myrr. The shepherds were of low standing. The wise men invited to dine with the king by the time they made it to Jerusalem. The shepherds were Jews like Jesus. The wise men were most likely Arab Gentiles.

These differences tell us this: Jesus came to save everyone and love everyone. You may be rich. Jesus came to save you from your sins. You may be poor. Jesus offers his love and forgiveness to you as well. Jesus came for the well-read and the illiterate. He came for those nearby and faraway. He came for Jew, and Arab, and you and I. The good news of Jesus coming to earth is good news for everyone.

The similarities with the visits tell us something as well. One thing that you will notice is that both the shepherds and the wise men were outsiders to the religious establishment. The shepherds were rough fellows that worked a rough job that everyone looked down upon. People looked down on them. Yet, Jesus sent them an invitation to his first birthday party.

The wise men were not Jews. They were not a part of the people of God. They were on the outside looking in among the religious establishment as well. Yet, Jesus welcomed them to his humble nursery of a feed trough and straw. People would not think Jesus came for “those people”. But he did. He came to save everyone, not just those who parents went to church or who came from the right family.

Both visits emphasize that Jesus’ mission is to invite outsiders in. To reach those who may not have felt like they fit and belonged, even at church. He came to offer love to people that most of his peers thought he should just ignored. He came to save one and all from their sins.

The other similarity is the response of everyone that arrived at the manger after that Christmas morning. Awe. Marveling. Wonder. Glorifying. Praising. Worship. They praised God for what he was doing. Shepherds praised God. So did the noblemen. Foreign kings visited that manger. So did the guy who wandered under the stars with the animals. They were all moved to worship.

The Bible even says Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. And it seems appropriate that we should do the same. We should believe God’s word that Jesus has come to be our savior. We should respond to the miracle of his birth by having faith that he came to love US and DIE for us. We should worship God for this amazing thing he is doing in the world. And we should keep the truth and wonder of what has happened close to our heart, and ponder and wonder at how amazing, wonderful, good, and completely unpredictable God is. And we should praise Him once again. Amen.

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