Well, Merry Christmas everybody!
As you can probably imagine – a big day like today and it's pretty natural to want to write the biggest, bestest sermon ever. No doubt you all are probably hoping for the bestest, shortest sermon ever! But, I hope you can cut me just a little slack.
This is, after all, one of the two biggest days on the Church calendar. This is, after all, the incarnation of God. Our worship is filled with some of the most amazing songs ever written. The birth of Christ has inspired an incredible amount of music throughout the centuries.
With all the heartfelt, magnificent sentiment surrounding the image of a small baby, laid down to sleep in an animal's feed-trough, in a small out of the way town. A newborn baby who is also King of kings and Son of God. With all of the images which evoke our inmost being, we have the fundamental fact that God became human.
That, basically, is the incarnation. That is what we are celebrating tonight and tomorrow.
But, that is, in fact, what we celebrate every Sunday. And, if we put forth a little bit of effort, it's what we celebrate every day.
Of course, it's not that easy – not that easily done and certainly not that easily stated.
Because even though we have great reason to celebrate the incarnation, to celebrate the birth of the Messiah, we must never forget what comes later on. We must not forget Good Friday, when all hope seemed to be lost, when Jesus lay dead in the tomb. But, we must never forget Easter morning either. We must never forget that day that God decisively emptied one man's tomb – when God put his "stamp of approval" on Jesus' ministry.
But, as if that wasn't enough, we must also never forget Pentecost either – that day when the Holy Spirit was decisively poured out among the first believers – when the first Christians were baptized by the Holy Spirit.
That certainly seems like a lot to keep in mind. Don't we, can't we, just give ourselves over to the celebration of the birth?
Well, I've been thinking about this and it really seems to me that if we celebrate Christmas without also remembering Easter and everything else, then we really become not much different from many pagans.
That is, if we look to the birth of Christ as the birth of a hero that saved us from death and brought light into the world, and if we leave it at that, then we're not too much different from so many pagans. How many of you remember the Greek myths? When I was in school, part of the curriculum was studying the Greek myths. And so, it seems to me, that if we put all of our focus on Christmas, then Jesus becomes just another Perseus, Theseus, Belleraphon, Hercules or any of the other great figures from Greek mythology. Jesus becomes just another heroic figure born from a male god and a human mother.
But, in considering these other great heroes, one crucial thing occurs to me. Whereas Hercules, Jason and his Argonauts, Odysseus, Achilles and all the other heroes sought out and made great names for themselves, Jesus' name was great even before his birth.
Isaiah foretold that a son would be given to us and this child's name is Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. All the great heroes of Greek mythology made great names for themselves. Jesus had his great name even before his birth.
And, then strangely enough, he spent nearly his entire earthly ministry doing just about everything he could to NOT be that great name. He hung out with the poor – he healed them and fed them. He hung out with undesirables – he broke bread with outcasts and sinners. And, then as if that wasn't enough, he died a miserable death on a cross. According to standards the world still holds dear, the things Jesus did were not what "heroes" typically do.
Now, I'm not saying that we shouldn't celebrate Jesus as a hero. I'm not saying that we shouldn't rejoice at the birth of the Son of God – the incarnation when God became human.
What I am saying is that we be as clear as possible as to what sort of amazing hero we have. A hero – whose body was broken. A hero – whose blood was shed. A hero who was raised from the dead to show us one thing – that God truly is love.
So, let there be Joy to the World. The Lord is come. He rules the world with truth and grace and makes the nations prove the glory of his righteousness and wonders of his love. Yes, indeed, the wonders of his love. Amen.