Last night the funeral home here in Alex City, Radneys had a memorial service for the families who have lost loved ones this year. I did not want to go....but I went...and I am so glad I did. My associate pastor, Kevin Payne, delivered the following message. He is a very funny man...and at a time when I did not think smiling was possible....I smiled...and because I did I just had to share it with you today. So I hope you enjoy the story. It is based on scripture from the book of Luke 2: 1-20 and entitled, "A Christmas Like No Other."
"For many of us, this Christmas will be a Christmas like no other. This is because this is the first Christmas we are experiencing after having to say goodbye to a loved one. I am going through this, as last Christmas Eve my Granny died. She always made Christmas so special. And this year, to say the least, is different.
There are many in my congregation for whom Christmas is a mixed bag of emotions. There are widows and widowers for whom Christmas is a melancholy experience. There are those who feel as though they are on an emotional rollercoaster, as they have children or grandchildren who makes the season so joyful; yet are also saddened because they no longer have their parents in which to share and celebrate all the glad tidings of Christmas morning.
Christmas is always a time of gathering with family and friends - and when, because of death, they are no with us, it can make us feel as though we might be crushed under the weight of sadness.
Christmas seems to rush in, interrupt our routines, get our schedules all out of order, bring up feelings that cause us to be anything but joyful – BUT, if we stop, just for a moment, look past ourselves, and truly behold the miracle that we call Christmas, we will see that out of the whole world, we have the most reason to celebrate!
Christmas does interrupt. Look at the text in the gospel of Luke – see what happened at the first Christmas.
Here Joseph is carrying his wife, who is, to say the least, “great with child,” to go register in order to pay their taxes to an government that has invaded them. While Joseph is having to deal with the IRS, Mary leans off her donkey and says those three little words every husband who is going to be an earthly father both longs to hear and, at the same time, strikes terror into their very hearts “Honey, it’s time.”
Talk about an interruption! Joseph hasn’t even made reservations, and there is only one hotel – after all, Bethlehem isn’t as big as Alexander City, and they only have the Bob White Motel, and it is already filled to capacity. Everyone who was born in Bethlehem has returned home from all over Judea, Syria, Palestine, the Ancient Near East, and Bethlehem, just is not that big!
Joseph is able to get a place for them in the stable – the garage, the parking deck. But, it is warm; there is clean straw, and a slightly used manger, which will work just fine.
Can you imagine what is going through Joseph’s mind right now? Here he is, the God-chosen, angelic message delivered, earthly father of God (we forget about that. Check out Matthew 1: 18 and following.) and God’s son is about to be born - in a stable. He thought he had time to get there, register, and get back with Mary. But no! It is now, right now, that Jesus, the Christ, the promised Messiah, the Savior of the World – our Savior, is going to be born.
I am sure this was not on Joseph’s time, not the way he planned it, not on his schedule. But it was right on God’s time, right when God decided, where God chose it to be.
The Christ was not coming into the world to be born in comfort, in a home. In fact, later he would be the one to say that foxes have holes, and birds have nest, but the Son of Man has no where to lay his head. He was not coming to be served, but rather to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
As Joseph got Mary in the stable, comfortable, and, maybe with a little help, who knows, the scripture does not say, helps Mary to deliver and Jesus is born. As the Breath of Heaven takes his first breath as a human, another interruption occurs.
There are some shepherds out doing their job – the same way they do every night. They are keeping watch over their flocks. Some are sitting around a little fire; some are standing looking over the heard, when all of a sudden an angel of the Lord appears to them and interrupts their ordinary night with some extraordinary news!
It scares the begebbies out of them! But the angel says Do not be afraid, for I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today, a Savior has been born for you, and he is the Christ, the Lord.
The word that is translated as “good news” is the word euangelion – it is the word we translate “gospel.” This isn’t just any old good news – this is the gospel proclamation – the Savior is born – “Joy to the world, the Lord has come, let earth receive her king!”
But wait – there is more!
Just as the Angel of the Lord finishes describing we can find the baby born – wrapped in cloths, lying in a manger, the gates of heaven swing open wide and the entire angelic chorus with all the heavenly host appear and praise God singing Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, on whom his favor rest.
The shepherds go and see, just as they were told. They find Joseph and Mary, and the Messiah, the Babe of Bethlehem, and tell them all that they had been told. And I imagine Mary, looking tired, but ever so lovingly into her husband Joseph’s eyes, hearing all that the shepherds told, remembering her own journey, from the angelic message to her asking her to be the Mother of God; to Joseph’s telling her about his vision and angelic message, all the way to what has brought them here.
As she and Joseph, as they had been instructed, names the child entrusted by God as God to them, calling him “Jesus,” or also “Emmanuel” which means “God with Us.”
Maybe you have heard this story a thousand times before, but right now, hear the Good News again anew. A savior has been born for you, and for your loved ones who have gone on. Today, a Savior is given for you so that you will never have to say goodbye ever again. Jesus the Christ – Emmanuel – God is with you. And, because of the Great Love of God displayed at Christmas – nothing will EVER be able to separate you or those you love from His great love – not sin, not death, nor the powers of hell, because in the hands of that little baby in a manger in Bethlehem, holds the key to eternity.
We celebrate, and we, as Peter says, do not grieve as those who have no hope because we are reminded, as Christmas interrupts our routines, gets our schedules all out of order, and brings up all manner of feelings, that Today, a Savior has been born for us, and he is the Christ, the Lord.
This Christmas will be a Christmas unlike any other. And we celebrate and give thanks to God because of the gift of life given to us this holiday proclaims. Let us join with the angelic chorus and all the saints of heaven singing Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, on whom his favor rest. As we, with our loved ones who are now a part of the saints, tell the gospel – good news that we have a Savior that destroys death – Jesus Christ is born! Merry Christmas!
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen."
For those of you who are hurting this year...may you have hope in your heart!
To Joey, With Love....WINNER!
10 months ago