here is my sermon for Christmas eve...if you go to Aurora, don't cheat and read it. ;) Peace to you...and MERRY CHRISTMAS!
ACN – 12.24.06 – B. HULL SOMERS
ACN – 12.24.06 – B. HULL SOMERS
When my brother and I were still very young – I think Dean was five and I was six - our older brother, L.D., went away to college. It was awful…our little kindergarten and first grade minds and hearts could not understand someone leaving us like that. There were tears as we watched the plane disappear into the cloudy day at SeaTac. Even though he was faithful to write us letters from the east coast and then from around the globe, we missed him.
It caused quite a stir in our classes at school as well…one kindergartner in Dean’s class came home and declared to her mother that she was never going to college. When asked why she replied because you have to go far away and you can’t come home until Christmas!
It was hard to have him leave, but – as with anything that you cannot change – we got used to it. The excitement came, however, when it was time for him to come home. We would prepare as though a celebrity was coming into town. My mother went out and bought huge reams of paper and markers so big and pungent that you lost brain cells just opening them. We made signs and would spend hours on them, drawing and writing and getting marker all over our little fingers – WELCOME HOME L.D….with flowers by me and army guys or basketball players drawn by Dean….then we would hang one of the signs on our garage so that when we came down the driveway he saw it….and we would take one with us so that when he got off the plane, he was greeted with style.
Now this was WAY WAY WAY before 9/11 so we could go all the way to the gate to greet him when he came back from that other, strange country called Boston. When he got off the plane he would see the sign, come toward home, and be enveloped in his family’s love.
There is something about welcome signs that are an invitation – they are a declaration of hospitality…just in case you didn’t know you are WELCOME here...you are HOME here…come in…you are loved…we are glad to see you!
As I was reflecting on this text this week I kept thinking of how we could be a welcome sign for Christ…I was thinking about how smart I was and what a great and interesting perspective it would be for our Scripture this morning…
Then God woke me up at 4 a.m. on Wednesday morning with another idea. Don’t you love it when He does that? Couldn’t He have told me this some other time???
But honestly, God wants our attention so He waits for when He can get it and for some of us – busy as we are – it has to be awakened from slumber.
So here I was at 4 a.m. – not sleeping – and God said…about the sermon…no no no…it is not about EARTH giving a welcome home sign for heaven…it is about HEAVEN putting up a welcome home sign to earth. Those angels who were rejoicing and telling of my arrival were not welcoming ME – I own this place…I created this place and everything in it…they were welcoming YOU unto me.
The angels were welcoming humanity to salvation. The angels were inviting people to experience LIFE in me…they were declaring WELCOME HOME fallen world…your salvation has come. He is here….His name is Jesus.
Throughout this text we see, through the account of Christ’s humble birth, people experiencing the welcome home of Christ. First it was Mary and Joseph…who were, no doubt, still shell shocked by the whole ordeal. They were the first to experience the presence of God in flesh. God had prepared them, but no one can be truly prepared to welcome the Most High like that. How awesome and exciting and scary and confusing it must have felt for them…but how hopeful to look in His face and see the eyes of the Ancient of Days who would save them.
Then it was the shepherds – their welcome home sign was written across the sky by a thousand angels – immediately declaring to them and to the world that this Savior is for ALL people – all walks of life…not just for the rich, the theologically astute, or the socially important…but unto YOU salvation has been born this day…He will be the great shepherd of the sheep…and you will be His sheep and because of Him, you will have hope.
Then it was old and respected Simeon – who was full of the Holy Spirit and moved by the Holy Spirit…unto whom God had promised would see the Messiah before He died…who then prophesied over Jesus. Saying – THIS is the One. This is the One who will be Life and redemption for both the Gentiles and Israel.
And finally in our text this morning, Anna – a faithful woman of God whose life’s purpose was to praise God – who fasted, prayed and praised all day every day….she immediately recognized God in the flesh and did what she did best – PRAISED GOD for His goodness…
All of these experienced the welcome home of Christ…they were amongst the first to encounter Him and SEE Him for who He is…it is beautiful to see so many different perspectives and ways of encountering Christ and yet all with the same end – praise and thanksgiving…and recognition of the Gift.
This morning as we celebrate His birth we experience again the welcome home…we feel the invitation…we feel, although we may fear to believe, that we are loved, that we are welcome somewhere…that we are family, that we are home…in Him.
Some of us this morning, however, are tempted to not embrace this invitation. Why is it that during holiday times when we are supposed to be celebrating that so many of us are tempted toward feelings of sadness? The enemy is working overtime to try and steal our joy, steal the recognition of the GOODNESS of God and we fall into that trap. The blessing that is in your bulletin this morning speaks to common feelings of frustration, negativity and loneliness during this season…of how even in these happy times we are tempted to focus on the things that are going wrong in our lives.
It is from a prayer book called, Kneeling in Bethlehem by Ann Weems and it reads, “Not Celebrate? Your burden is too great to bear? Your loneliness is intensified during this Christmas season? Your tears seem to have no end? Not celebrate? You should lead the celebration! You should run through the streets to ring the bells and sing the loudest! You should fling the tinsel on the tree, and open your house to your neighbors, and call them in to dance! For it you above all others who know the joy of Advent. It is unto YOU that a Savior is born this day, One who comes to lift your burden from your shoulders, One who comes to wipe the tears from your eyes. You are not alone, for He is born this day to YOU.”
Do not be tempted to focus on your brokenness – but instead, this morning, this year, embrace your salvation. Know that He is born to YOU this day…to the grandmas and the grandpas, to the singles, to the divorcees, to the moms and dads, to the children and grandchildren, to the widows and widowers, to the college students and teenagers, to YOU.
This is our promise. In Christ we have salvation. For He came…born in a lowly manger, immediately inviting people into hope….he came to live, to minister, to heal, and to sacrifice Himself so that we might have life. For although we are celebrating the birth of Life today, as Christians - we are always Easter people. We proclaim that He is our salvation because He took on our sin, our grief, and everything else that keeps us far from God and He died….He died to conquer death and rose again the third day. We are Easter people full of the promise of the resurrected Christ…today celebrating that He came to set us free.
So as you hear those familiar words in the next couple of days – Merry Christmas – let your heart soar…know that as you hear those words, they are a declaration that you are invited to share life with the One who formed you from the clay. Remember as you hear that phrase what it means to celebrate the coming of the Messiah…it changes everything – it changes you…it makes all things continually new and it is offered to you every day – every hour…as often as you need it SALVATION IS HERE and His name is Jesus.
Jesus Christ came in the flesh to welcome us into Life…that night, with the star and the angels and the shepherds…it was not a welcome from earth toward heaven but an invitation straight from HEAVEN for us.
This morning you may not see a host of angels singing Glory to God in the Highest, you may not go home to see a sign on your garage, but know that – in Christ – you are welcomed, invited, and loved. Welcome Home.
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
BENEDICTION: THE PRAYER OF MARY….OF AN OPEN AND WILLING HEART TO RECEIVE CHRIST…MAY IT BE OUR PRAYER TODAY.