Scripture: Isaiah 9:6, Luke 2: 8 -14
Jill A. Kirchner-Rose, MDIV, DMIN
December 25, 2016
This morning I would like to play a rousing game of Christmas trivia! It is a holiday tradition of mine and I would like for you to take part in my holiday tradition. Since both sacred symbols and secular symbols mingle in the marketplace this time of year: Bethlehem and the North Pole, the Angel Gabriel and Rudolph, the Heavenly Host and Santa’s reindeer, nativity scenes and Christmas trees – all mingling together – I will ask both secular and sacred questions. And the winner of each question will receive a candy cane – which is a symbol itself of both the sacred and the secular. Candy canes were originally straight, white sticks of sugar candy, a sweet Christmas treat. Later in the 1600’s, in Europe, a choirmaster made the sticks of candy bend into the shape of a shepherd’s crook. Later, red stripes were painted on the candy. White represents the purity of Jesus. Red represents God’s love. And if you turn the candy canes upside down, you see the letter “J”. “J” stands for Jesus. Candy canes are both a secular and sacred treat.
- During a Charlie Brown Christmas, Lucy was kissed once during the show. Who kissed her?
- In an effort to keep from melting, where did Frosty the Snowman travel to and how did he get there?
- On the tenth day of Christmas, what did my true love send to me?
- Santa Clause is also known by his saint name. What is it?
- Which archangel announced Jesus’ birth to Mary?
- In which 2 gospels does the nativity story appear?
- According to the gospel of Matthew, how many wisemen were there?
- What gifts did they bring?
- What relation did John the Baptist have with Jesus (mentor, friend, disciple, or cousin)
- The angel said to the shepherds, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy for all people, born to you this day in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign for you.” What was the sign?
It is that sign that most intrigues me. The Savior of the World, Immanuel (God with us) comes as a helpless, vulnerable, frail baby born in a cattle shed because there is no room in the inn? Immanuel is wrapped in swaddling cloths – that is wrapped in rags rather than royal robes. Lying in a manger. Remember a manger is not a crib, but a trough for animals to feed. Born not in a palace but in a hovel. Not surrounded by servants and tranquility – but by animals and noise? I imagine that the ground is hard, the hay scarce. Cobwebs clung to the ceilings and a mouse scurries across the floor. A more lowly place of birth could not exist. Indeed, the event that divided history and even calendars into two parts probably had more animals than human witnesses Yes, this baby Jesus looks like anything but a king.
Jim Scantlin sang this morning, “What kind of King with a destiny so great would be born to such a simple birth?” What kind of King is this?
Jesus was born on the wrong side of the tracks in Bethlehem of Judea, an area we now know as Palestine. Born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He was not met with the elaborate grandeur of our celebrations today. What kind of King is this?
His simple birth matches his simple life. Jesus’ life was of relatively short duration, only thirty-three years. Thirty of those years he worked as a carpenter. And at most for three years, he was an itinerant preacher. He never owned a home. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place he was born. He never did one of the things that usually accompany royalty or greatness. He had no credentials but Himself (Poem “One Solitary Life”)
Oh, what kind of King is this? And yet, and yet, as the author of “One Solitary Life” writes, I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that were ever built; all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of humanity (sic) upon this earth as powerfully as has that one solitary life.
Oh, what kind of King is this? Lives touched by his life were never the same. When people looked at Jesus they were somehow able to see beyond him, and even through him. They saw in his life the Source of all life that expanded their lives. They saw in his life the Source of love that transcended human limits. They found the courage to live fully, to love wastefully, to be all that each could be (Bishop John Shelby Spong, “A Christmas Meditation”). What kind of King is this? The Christmas invitation is simple, “Let us come and adore him.”
May we adore him this Christmas Day by making room in the inn; making room in the crowded inns of our hearts so that he may be born. Making room for the kinds of people for whom Jesus came to love.
Let us make room in our houses of worship to welcome those whose beliefs may differ.
Let us make room in our legislative houses to welcome those in need of refuge.
Let us make room in our cities to offer shelter to the homeless.
Let us make room in our hospitals to care for the mentally ill.
Let us make room on our agendas to respect the environment.
Let us make room in our hearts to comfort the poor, the vulnerable or the profiled among us.
Let us make room in the inn. (Words adapted form Rev. Traci Blackmon’s 2016 Christmas Letter to UCC Churches). This babe in the manger grew up and told a story about a certain king.
The king will say to the servants, “When I was hungry, you gave me food. When I was thirsty you gave me something to drink. When I was naked, you gave me clothing. When I was a stranger you welcomed me.” The servants will ask, “When did we see you hungry? Thirsty? Naked? A stranger?” And the king will say, “Truly, as you did it to the least of these you did it to me.” Let us make room.
I invite you this morning to take a piece of cloth and to lay it in the manger symbolically to welcome the baby Jesus into the crowded inns of our hearts, and to make room for those he came to love. For the King says, “As you did it to the least of these, you did it to me.”