Sunday, December 30, 2018

Sermon for 30 December 2018

The readings for this morning were:

Old Testament Lesson: Exodus 13:1–3a, 11–15
Epistle Lesson: Colossians 3:12–17
Gospel Lesson: Luke 2:22–40

Sermon was based on the Epistle Lesson.

Sermon for Christmas Eve 2018

The sermon was a letter written by Pastor Tom, read aloud.

“But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.” Micah 5:2

Dear God,

It’s me, Tom. But I guess you probably knew that already, part of the whole you being God thing. I’m writing to you tonight in hopes that this letter will get to you, even with so many letters to Santa being written this time of the year. It’s not that I’m a skeptic… or a Scrooge… but maybe just a little jaded, and tired, and in need of a little pick me up. I guess I’m writing to you rather than to Santa mainly because this, after all, was your holiday, your holy day, first… before Santa and his elves and the mall ever got a hold of it!

The thing about Christmas, God, which really strikes me, is how big everything seems to become. To hear Luke tell it in the Bible, Christmas is really about how you made big things small, so that we could comprehend them. Most of the time, for me, though, it’s about how I make small things big! I take this one day on the calendar and make it the largest event of the whole year! No other date on the calendar comes close, especially if you’re a kid (or in retail)!

My expectations always seem to grow to enormous proportions at Christmas. Remember when I was eight, and just had to have that toboggan? Or when I was fifteen and my life would be complete if only I had that darkroom setup –with enlarger, developer and chemicals? Or when… well, you know the rest, all of those small things that I dreamed would make all the difference in the world if only I could have them. I suppose my expectations have changed regarding Christmas, but they sure haven’t shrunk! I still expect more – more contentment, more satisfaction, more happiness, more gifts.

Maybe this Christmas will be different. Maybe this Christmas kids will be so overjoyed at the first present they open that they’ll actually forget the other packages lying under the tree, and they won’t throw it into the pile as they reach for the next one. Maybe if I buy this thing for this person, it’ll make up for the way I treat them, or ignore them, or take them for granted the other 364 days of the year.

Somehow, Lord, I manage to put an awful big hope on one small gift. My expectations get so big, Lord! I expect my life to be conflict free, my parties and gathering to be Martha Stewart worthy, my bank account to not be under attack. For everything in my life to be sweetness and light.

But it’s not just my expectations, or my credit card balance, that gets bigger at Christmas, but then you already know that. For some reason, Lord, this time of year always seems to tempt me into making huge the things that ought to be small, if I could just keep them in the proper perspective.

My anxieties grow larger. In the dark of late December, Lord, I get to thinking about another year gone, and the fact that I’m already this old, and “what have I done with these precious years”  and “is this where I’d imagined I’d be at this age?”… and it’s all going by so fast!

My pains and my losses always seem more magnified this time of year, too. Lord, why is it that every loss, every failure, every shortcoming seems to grow in my consciousness at Christmas? My lost loved ones, my failed relationships, my bad habit of selfishness, my fear of weakness and illness and getting older. My lack of trust in you… I have a way of making them big to the point of overwhelming, when in fact they should be so small, in light of what you’ve done for me, and all you’ve given me.  My fears balloon. Fear of the future. Fear of failure. Fear of hardship.

I know this might sound sort of whiny to you, God, and I apologize for that. But I want to be honest with you. My intent in writing to you this Christmas wasn’t to depress you, but rather to thank you.
Specifically, I want to thank you for Christmas and all that it means. My tendency to make small things huge isn’t your fault, and all of that garbage would overwhelm me if not for the fact that you, in your infinite wisdom, decided to make great things small… for me.

You, the creator of all things, came into my world in the smallest of places, Bethlehem, a backwater village out in the middle of nowhere. You, the Ancient of Days, came to a working-man carpenter and his bride-to-be, people of no greater position in society than me. You showed yourself first to shepherds, boys of no real social station, with the stink of the field on them. Most importantly, you wrapped your infinite self in the fragile, very mortal flesh of a baby. When you did that, coming to me in the smallest, most vulnerable form imaginable, you made it possible for me finally to receive you.  Christmas reminds me that in your coming first to the small places, there is now no place that is too small for you to visit. As sure as you were found in a manger, you must also be in my kitchen, in my bedroom, in my office, even in my car!

Christmas reminds me that as sure as you first revealed yourself as the promised Messiah to a bunch of scraggly shepherds, you most certainly will reveal yourself to me, even in the midst of all of my doubts and fears!

Christmas reminds me that with every present I unwrap, there are 1000s of other gifts from you that I fail to even recognize. 100s of these same gifts that I take for granted. And so few that I stop to thank you for. Yet in your love for me, you continue to shower them on me.

Christmas reminds me that in your work of making great things small, you aren’t finished yet. You have taken my sins, which, if I am honest with myself, are very great and many, and reduced them to nothing at all when Jesus took them to the cross. He gave his life for me. His great life, for my small life. His great holiness for my great sinfulness. You have even taken the grave, that small hole in the ground that I make out to be the greatest of bottomless caverns, and you’ve made it nothing but a blip on the screen, a small door through which your people pass to a life that lasts forever!

So… Thank-you, Lord Jesus, for your birth, for Christmas. Help me tonight to receive it, and you, with the faith of Mary and Joseph, with the wonder of the shepherds and with all of the joy of the angels.


Sunday, December 23, 2018

Sermon for 23 December 2018--Fourth Sunday in Advent

The readings for this morning were:

Old Testament Lesson: Micah 5:2–5a
Epistle Lesson: Hebrews 10:5–10
Gospel Lesson: Luke 1:39–56

Sermon was based on the Epistle lesson.

Sermon for 16 December 2018--Third Sunday in Advent

The readings for this morning were:

Old Testament Lesson: Zephaniah 3:14–20
Epistle Lesson: Philippians 4:4–7
Gospel Lesson: Luke 7:18–35

Sermon was based on Matthew 1:23 and John 1:12 & 13.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Sermon for 9 December 2018--2nd Sunday in Advent

The readings for this morning were:

Old Testament Lesson: Malachi 3:1–7
Epistle Lesson: Philippians 1:2–11
Gospel Lesson: Luke 3:1–20

Sermon was based on the Epistle Lesson.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Sermon for 2 December 2018--First Sunday in Advent

The readings for this Sunday were:

Old Testament Lesson: Jeremiah 33:14–16
Epistle Lesson: 1 Thess. 3:9–13
Gospel Lesson: Luke 21:25–36

Sermon was based on the Old Testament and Gospel Lessons.