Daily Archives: December 25, 2010

Christmas Day Message 12.25.2010

You can follow this link to Good Shepherd’s website where the audio is posted.

    John 1:1-14 • December 25, 2010

Brothers and sisters in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus. Amen.

Merry Christmas.

As I’ve been thinking about the Christmas story, I was drawn deeper into the amazing ways that this story of Jesus begins in the tiny town of Bethlehem. I was thinking about the impact that this one event has had on the whole course of human history. And what was most amazing is how incredible it is that, within a half mile radius of the manger, there were literally hundreds of people who were absolutely clueless about what was happening right in their neighborhood. People all around were wrapped up in the little details of their lives – what they were eating, where they were going to sleep, who was in town. While at the exact same time, eternity was breaking into time. God was entering the world.

Maybe things in the first century weren’t all that different than they are today? I mean, the Christmas season starts, at latest, in September and builds into a consumer frenzy in November – maybe it’s OK that it all comes to a crashing climax on Christmas Eve. We’ve mailed our cards, bought our presents, and given our parties. We’ve sung the carols, enjoyed the meals, and shared the gifts. Now, let’s relax. Let’s put away all this stuff, clean up the mess, and enjoy that welcome sense of relief that comes with a job well done. It’s time to move on. I mean, come on, New Year’s Eve is barely a week away!
But have we stopped long enough at this time of the year or any time of the year for that matter, to absorb what it means to believe that God comes to us in a baby named Jesus, Immanuel, God with us.

All I want to say on a day like this is STOP! Can we just stop for a minute? Can we stop long enough to get past the lights and shopping and running? Can we stop long enough to actually experience the peace of Christ’s presence in the world? Can we stop long enough to experience the impact that the birth of Christ offers the world as John sheds light on in his gospel today?

John says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John is picking up on a uniquely Greek concept of “the word.” It’s often revealing to look at the Greek origins of words like this in the New Testament. If we look at the Greek word for Word in John’s gospel, it is the word “logos” from which we get our word, “logic.” The divine Logos. Philosophers regarded this as the first principle that lies at the heart of all that is good, true, and beautiful in the universe. John is laying the groundwork that Christ was with God before the creation of the universe, and that he was even involved in the creation of the universe. The thought of God with us in Jesus before the creation of anything unveils an understanding of Christ’s presence in the world that revolutionary still today.

It is this word, says John, that took flesh and moved into the neighborhood. The idea of God taking on flesh through Jesus was not a onetime event for John – but part of an ongoing process, beginning with Jesus and continuing through every follower of Jesus from that time on.

The Greek word for flesh is the word, “sarx.” This Greek word doesn’t simply refer to our skin and bones and parts of our bodies that we can feel and touch. The word, “sarx,” refers to the totality of who we are; it refers to our mind, body, emotions, and spirit – everything that makes us who we are.
At this point you may be thinking, cool, thanks for the short Greek lesson Pastor Craig, but what does this have to do with anything related to Christmas. It’s important because we believe that our God didn’t simply stay in the safety of heaven. We believe that God didn’t choose to live in some sort of eternal suburb, away from the suffering and struggles of life that we all share and experience during our life in this place. God came to earth to share in our joys and sorrows, in our times of anxiety and peace, our struggles and victories, our suffering and strength.

We sometimes miss the reality of God with us that we celebrate at Christmas. Our attention at Christmas is centered on things that have little to do with the Christmas story. The Christmas story is not about buying a new turtleneck for Uncle Norm – although it may include a gift like that as a token of our love for him. The Christmas story is about the redemption of the world. The Christmas story is about singing praises to our God, who created us out of dust. The Christmas story is about God who became human, with us. And it’s also our Christmas story as followers of the new born savior.

I don’t know why you are here today, though I’m glad you are and I’m thankful that the weather is a little better than it was last year on Christmas Day. Maybe you’re here because you feel a sense of obligation. Maybe it’s just a tradition for you to worship on Christmas Day. Maybe your spouse made you come. Maybe you’ve experienced a significant loss in your life this past year and you are trying to capture that old feeling that Christmas used to bring to you. I don’t know why you’re here, but I do know that there is good news for you today. For all of us. The good news is not that the Visa and MasterCard bills won’t come for another 30 day or that all of the holiday parties and preparation is finally over so we can rest. The good news is that the God of all creation, the One who created you and loves you, knew that we could never find our way to God, so God went on the quest for us.

Today and in the days to come, let’s stop and give thanks for that good news. Usually when a baby is born, we like to hold the little one. This baby, this child born in a manger, came to hold us, to embrace us with a love that wakes us up and makes us new each day. Many missed the gift of God’s love for them given through this child in the tiny town of Bethlehem. Many still don’t notice that gift today. A gift that changed the world forever. A gift that you and I have been given, so that we can share it with others. Let’s pray that God coming to us and embracing us with his love through the Christ-child – is a gift that we will share with everyone we meet in the coming year. Amen.


Christmas Eve Message 12.24.2010

Here is my 2010 Christmas Eve Message. Merry Christmas!

You can follow this link to Good Shepherd’s website where the audio is posted.

    Luke 2:8-20 • December 24, 2010

Brothers and sisters in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and our savior and lord Jesus, who is the Christ. Amen.

I want to begin by offering a Christmas insight in the spirit of one of my favorite contemporary theologians – David Letterman. The top 10 things to say about a Christmas gift that you’re not quite sure about –
10. Hey! There’s a gift.
9. Well, well, well…
8. Boy, if I had not recently shot up 4 sizes, that would’ve fit.
7. This is just perfect, for wearing in the basement
6. Gosh, I hope this never catches fire!
5. If the dog buries this, I’ll be furious!
4. I love it, but I fear the jealousy it will inspire.
3. Sadly, tomorrow I enter the federal witness protection program.
2. To think I got this gift on the year I vowed to give all my gifts to charity.
And the number 1 thing to say about a Christmas gift that you’re not quite sure about. … I really don’t deserve this.

When we hear the Christmas story as we just did during worship on this most holy of days, do we hear it as a boring old over-romanticized theatrical production that we’ve heard a million times before – or do we hear it again as if this was the very first time. Do we hear it like the shepherds in the field heard it on that first Christmas? They were struck with fear when the saw the glory of the Lord around them, but an angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, I’m bringing you the good news of a most unexpected gift. A gift for all people, not just a select few, but for everyone.” They seem to drop everything they are doing and head out without fear to find Mary and Joseph and the gift that the Lord had made know to them through angels. A gift that they didn’t deserve. A gift that you and I don’t deserve, but a gift we have received anyway. We gather together as a community of faith in worship glorifying and praising God for all that we have seen and heard – through a gift that we don’t deserve.
What do you mean I don’t deserve the gift? I’ve worked hard, I’ve given a little of my time to volunteer and shared some of my money with others this year. I’ve treated others well, most of the time. I’ve share my love with those around me, at least when they weren’t annoying me. What do you mean I don’t deserve the gift?

I heard someone recently say that they think this Christmas will be the best Christmas ever. I think that is a great attitude, but for a Christian, the best Christmas ever was the first Christmas. The gift that you and I were given on that first Christmas is the best gift any of us will ever receive and we really don’t deserve it.

The best Christmas ever is what I think the writer of Luke’s gospel wants us to remember as we celebrate today. He wants us to hear the Christmas story like the first time, every time we hear it. Luke wants us to see the faces of the shepherds, to see the faces of Mary and Joseph and the animals, to see the face of the baby Jesus and to find ourselves once again filled with awe and wonder, to find ourselves realizing that we too might glorify and praise God this Christmas Eve for all that we are being invited to experience because of the life of the Christ child born on that night.

I don’t believe that Luke wants us to simply be fascinated by the Christmas story’s romantic quality and splendor. Luke is inviting us to explore the Christmas story’s depth and the unconditional and unmerited love God has given us in the gift of this child. This gift calls us to live beyond setting aside a few hours each year to remember its significance or working really hard at getting God to pay more attention to us than he does to our neighbor.

A theologian with a little more weight and clout than David Letterman is C.S. Lewis.

C.S. Lewis was visiting some of his friends who were begging him to play cards with them. Lewis hated playing cards, especially playing cards for money which is what his friends wanted to do. He finally said to them, “OK – How much money do you want to win from me?” He pulled out his wallet and put some bills into their hands and took the fun right out of the card game. Lewis was making an analogy that in our human games of wheeling and dealing there are some who will be winners and others who will be losers. In the gift of Christmas, God enters our bloody world of winners and losers, and offers the most incredible prize of a savior for everyone – winners and losers.

I don’t know why you are here today, though I’m glad you are. Maybe you’re here because you feel a sense of obligation. Maybe it’s just a tradition for you to worship on Christmas Eve. Maybe your spouse or grandmother made you come. Maybe you’ve experienced a significant loss in your life this past year and you are trying to capture that old feeling that Christmas used to bring to you. I don’t know why you’re here. What I do know and believe is that we are given a gift today. A gift for all of us. And it’s not the gift that the Visa and MasterCard bills won’t come due for another 30 day or that all of the holiday parties are finally over so we can get back to real life again.

The gift of Christmas is not given to those who deserve it the most or have worked the hardest to be good this year. The gift of Christmas is not found in anything that divides us into winners and losers over a game of cards or the journey of life. The gift of Christmas is that the God of all creation, the One who created you and loves you, knew that we could never find our way to God on our own in a world dominated by winners and losers and sin, so God went on the quest for us.

May that gift, the gift of a Savior born today richly bless and keep you on this day and in all the days to come. And may you be confident knowing and believing that the gift we celebrate today in the savior Jesus is greater than any gift you deserve or will ever receive.

Merry Christmas! Christ our savior is born! It truly is the best Christmas ever. Amen.