“A Baby Changes Everything” ~ Sermon for December 24, 2017

January 2, 2018

“A Baby Changes Everything” ~ Sermon for December 24, 2017

Please pray with me.

Ever-faithful God, through prophets and angels you promised to raise up a holy child who would establish a household of peace and justice. Open our hearts to receive your Son, that we may open our doors to welcome all people as children of God, and establish your household in our time. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen.

Sermon

From 1 John 4:11:

Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.

This is the season of love and I have to pause and acknowledge the incredible outpouring of love this community has shown in the past week for the Rydingsword family.

Meals, cookies, presents, money, companionship, friendship, shared-grief…all in abundant supply.

This is God’s love in action. This is what a faith community is all about.

Watching Sarah with her five children is a perfect illustration of the incredible strength of a mother’s love.

In this Christmas season we often talk about, sing about and wonder about Mary’s love for her baby, Jesus.

It is a love that is only exceeded by God’s love for us.

Meister Eckhart a 13th century philosopher, theologian, and mystic said:

“We are all meant to be mothers of God.

What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly but does not take place within myself?

And, what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace if I am not also full of grace?

What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to his Son if I do not also give birth to him in my time and my culture?”

Our bible stories, especially this Christmas story, are meant to help us imagine our own relationship with God.

As we accompany Mary and Joseph on their journey, we are able to envision ourselves on a journey through a strange land, perhaps apprehensive about the future.

As they seek a place to belong, to feel safe, we are reminded how often we look for refuge, longing for a shelter from life’s storms.

When we hear of the shepherds and kings following a star of wonder through the night, we recall those times in our own lives when something has drawn us deeper into the sacred realm.

Tonight’s story is meant to remind us that ‘a baby changes everything!’

The bible is rich with stories of unlikely births: Sarah and Abraham; Hannah and Elkanah, Elizabeth and Zechariah and now, this night, Mary and Joseph.

Each one of these babies changed the life not just of their parents, but of the community around them as well.

Each one of these babies was a miracle – the work of God.

Whether or not you have ever had a baby, you certainly have witnessed the changes that babies bring.

A baby needs someone to provide care.

A baby will not survive unless someone is thinking about food and shelter.

A baby must be responded to when they cry out for help.

Having a baby humbles you.

As a mother, you surrender control – first of your body, then of your heart.

A baby reminds you that miracles happen.

When you look into a baby’s eyes or feel their tiny hand wrapped around your finger you know what joy feels like.

You realize that this gift of life is dependent on you to survive.

It doesn’t feel like a burden, it feels like a privilege.

A baby demands your full attention.

You must notice what is needed; notice when something changes.

Isn’t a baby a great metaphor for our dependence on God?

Wasn’t it clever of God to come to us in the form of a baby?

You see, my friends, in God’s kingdom we are the babies.

We are dependent on God for our very being, for our breath, for our life.

We are dependent on those around us for food and shelter, safety and refuge.

Our lives are intertwined into community so that each one recognizes the importance of another.

Just as a baby cannot survive on its own, we cannot survive without community.

We gather to remind each other that God’s promise of eternal life is available to all.

We gather to draw energy from one another to meet the challenges of life, to learn new ways to look at things.

We gather so that we notice.

The message for Christmas Eve is clear and simple: in Christ, God comes to us.

There are so many ways this can be – and has been – understood: God’s presence is not far off, but close and accessible;

those who are first involved in this coming are poor and excluded people – shepherds, women, and foreigners – which demonstrates God’s commitment to justice.

But, perhaps at the heart of all this is the question of seeing.

Isaiah calls Ahaz to ‘see’ God’s work – God’s light shining in the darkness – on behalf of God’s people.

The Psalmist invites all the earth and all peoples to see God’s glory and majesty, to recognize God’s coming in justice and righteousness and to respond in praise;

The shepherds are invited to see the Christ child, and in this event, see God’s coming to them and to all humanity.

If God comes, but we are not open to the visitation, if we have closed eyes and hearts, the coming can do nothing for us.

However, when we allow our eyes to be opened, we discover God’s coming in every moment and place.

Just think, if any of the biblical couples had ignored God or rejected God’s action in their lives – where would we be?

By saying ‘yes’ to God, by allowing ourselves to be babylike, we experience the greatest gift imaginable.

Christmas is a time to notice the people around you.

Count your blessings and pray for those who have less.

Understand that you are needed to build God’s kingdom on earth.

Our United Church of Christ has embarked on a multi-year campaign called Three Great Loves.

The goal of this campaign is to heighten our awareness – to help us notice others.

The Three Great Loves are Love of Neighbor, Love of Children and Love of Creation.

We are committed to finding ways to live out our call in these three areas.

I hope that you will join us as we endeavor to live out our mission, spreading God’s love throughout the world.

Each gift you bring, each kindness you bestow, is capable of changing the course of history.

Ultimately, what the incarnation tells us, dramatically and powerfully, is that Christ came not just to get us into heaven, but to bring heaven to this earth.

To the extent that our lives reflect this heaven – to the extent that we become more Christ-like and just in our own daily lives – we are the blessed ones to whom God has, once again, come.

Anytime you are having doubts about God’s power or God’s existence, simply seek out a baby.

Hold that baby, look into their eyes, smell their head and you’ll know that God’s spirit is working within and among you.

Back to Meister Eckhart:

If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.

My friends, I wish you a holy and joyful Christmas.

May you find peace in your hearts and may God’s love follow you wherever you go.

Let us pray.

Loving God,

This night holds so much for us;

People and places from long ago are brought near in memories redeemed;

Our present companions, as well as present cares, are held in tenderness.

O God, we would hold the whole world in our hands, turning it round and round, so that your light would shine everywhere on everyone with hope and peace.

As it is, we utter this prayer instead—let our light shine in the shades of night;

Hold those we love and all the world in your sure and tender hands, as a mother holds her newborn child.

Let your face shine upon us with peace.

Gather up the past, the present, and the future into your eternity, where all is reconciled and you are all in all.

Hear now our prayers for those whom we love.

For those who are sick, we pray for healing.

For those who mourn, we pray for comfort – for the Rydingsword family;

For those who are lonely or lost on this holy night, we pray that our love might touch their hearts.

O God, we long for peace in our hearts, in our homes and in your world.

We turn to you now in the sacred silence of this Meetinghouse with the prayers of our hearts. …

Jesus taught them to pray together in these words: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil. For yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory now and forever. Amen.

 

 

 

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