NOTICE TO ON-DEMAND WORSHIPPERS
This service has been filmed during the period we are worshipping online only while our building undergoes repairs needed following storm damage. During this period and due to equipment limitations, we are unable to hold a complete worship service.
It’s In the Details – Wesley Covenant Renewal Service
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer, and may you see fit to use me as a vessel from which you pour out your Divine Word.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Before we begin, I want to talk a moment about Christmas.
You all know the Christmas I’m talking about, don’t you? That one we rushed into and through. That one we uttered a silent prayer of thanksgiving for having survived it. That one some of us – no names mentioned – are going to be trying to pay off until the next one comes along.
You’re right. That’s not the Christmas I’m referring to, although I’d hazard a guess that’s the one we pay more attention to and are more likely to talk about.
No, I mean the real story of Christmas. Not the short form we share on Christmas eve, either. I mean the whole story of Christmas and especially the details we tend to gloss over because pastors only have 20 minutes to deliver their message or the kids won’t sit still for longer than a few verses from Luke or Matthew. That Christmas. I worry that we may be failing to see important parts of God’s plan in all this that are hidden in those details. Let me explain.
Alana Levandoski wrote a song sung through the eyes of the innkeeper that turned Mary and Joseph away. In it, she sings, “What am I to say? What have I to prove now that I missed it? It was right in front of me and I told it to move on. There was no room. I saw the silence of the poor. I saw what they were after … we all do. I had a business to run. I had a plan I was to master. We all do.”
When it comes to the meaning of Christmas, I worry that we are too often guilty of becoming like the innkeeper Levandoski describes. That our busy-ness and our “plans” stop us from seeing the details in God’s amazing plan He laid out 2,000 years ago, a plan that continued to repeat throughout Christ’s life and ministry, a plan Christ called us to carry out on his behalf throughout our lives, and it is an incredible plan if you look closely at the details.
God … all-powerful, almighty, Creator of the earth, sky and universe God who could have … with a mere thought … manifested Himself on earth in any way or manner or under any circumstances He wanted … that God … intentionally chose to arrive as a tiny, fragile, vulnerable infant that would be, for at least a few years, 100% reliant on a woman … a very young woman … a teenaged girl … who, had Joseph turned God down, would most likely have been stoned to death for being pregnant and unwed.
God intentionally chose to come into the world through a bloodline that had been reduced over time to little more than a religious minority living under the rule and at the mercy of an Empire that oppressed them for their refusal to follow the religious beliefs the Empire declared were the law of the land.
God knew then as He knows now everything that was going to happen, yet God intentionally chose to enter our world from within a family that was, by order of the government, forced to leave the home they knew, Joseph’s job, Mary’s family, and return to the place where Joseph was born.
God intentionally chose a family that God knew would soon be forced to flee for their lives, to become refugees, because the leader of the empire feared the Christ-child so much, he ordered all children two and younger to be killed.
God intentionally chose to notify only a handful of poor farm workers tending sheep in the hills and a few foreigners hundreds of miles away about the birth of the King of kings, Lord of Lord, Prince of Peace … no one else, not the masses, not the world.
God intentionally chose to enter humanity in the lowliest of circumstances … in a stable, a room meant for keeping animals with only his mother and Joseph present for his birth, and to be laid in a manger normally used for holding hay and grain for livestock.
Think, for a moment, about God’s very intentional choices in modern-day terms – that he came into the world through a family being deported back to the father’s birthplace, a family that is now homeless and that will soon become refugees fleeing for their lives from a vindictive, power-hungry government leader, a family that is oppressed for following a religion the government doesn’t like or approve of, and that no one knew of his arrival but low-wage workers and what were, at that time, scientists.
Remember what Simeon foretold to Mary and Joseph that day in the temple:
“This boy is assigned to be the cause of the falling and rising of many in Israel and to be a sign that generates opposition so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed.”
When Simeon named Israel, he wasn’t referring to the modern-day nation-state fighting over Jerusalem. He was talking about a group of people that all believed in and worshiped God, only God.
Ladies and gentlemen, Sisters and Brothers, we are a part of what has grown into the modern “Israel” Simeon named and, as such, we must think about whether we will be counted among those that fall or those that rise, and must critically examine our innermost thoughts as well as our words, deeds, and actions. While we are, indeed, saved by grace and while grace is a freely given gift from God delivered through belief in God, while we are redeemed by God’s sacrifice of Christ on our behalf, that isn’t the end of our story. It’s the beginning.
Christ called those that believe in him to follow him, to be his hands, his feet, to carry on his work and his ministry, a ministry that was definitely not limited to those last seven days and dying for us on the cross!
This morning as we join together in the Covenant Renewal, think on these things. As Howard Thurman, an African-American author, philosopher, theologian, and educator, wrote:
When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are gone home,
When the shepherds are back with their flocks,
Then the work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among people,
To make music in the heart.
Christ’s life, his ministry, established the work of Christmas that needs to be done and set out the manner in which we are to do that work.
Lord, I pray, that if we are doing that work, we continue, and if we are not doing that work, if we, like the innkeeper, have missed the details, that we acknowledge our mistake and work to do better from now on, for there is still much work to be done.
And all God’s children said, Amen.
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