Sermons

"God's Love for All: The Meaning of Christmas": Sermon for Christmas Eve, Year B

"God

Dec 24, 2017

Passage:Luke 2:1-20

Preacher: The Rev. Dr. Robert Pace

Series: Christmas

Category: Love, Hope, Faithfulness

Keywords: christmas, fear, hope, light, love

Summary:

As we listen to the beautiful birth narrative of Jesus from Luke we feel comfort and warmth from the familiarity in its telling. Yet we must ask, how do we make this "feel-good" story part of our lives? How do we put it into "action" into our "everyday?" This sermon shares ideas about how we do this. It discusses the "real meaning of Christmas."

Detail:

In the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

One of my favorite things about hearing the Luke version of Jesus' birth narrative is that it brings real warmth and hopefulness into our lives.

There are so many little twists and turns in the story. Joseph and Mary have to go to Bethlehem for a census-taking...but this sets them up for Jesus to be born in the city of David! Shepherds are simply tending their flocks nearby...but they have a fearful, but wondrous experience of the divine. They gain hope in the midst of their fear! Mary gets to see others confirm what she had been told by the angel... her baby... this child Jesus is special--the hope of the world!

One of the questions that may be difficult for us to ponder, however, is: how does this special story translate from the pages of the Bible to our everyday lives?

Here we are here on this most Holy night, and we love hearing this story repeated and cherished. How do we make sense of the "feel-good" in Luke and put into "action" in our lives?

When I taught history, one area that always interested me was wondering how soldiers throughout history have celebrated Christmas--the birth of our Lord--even when the darkest days of war have been upon them.

One of the most celebrated stories about this topic is the often-repeated tale from World War I, known as the Christmas Truce. French, British, and German soldiers acknowledged a cease-fire in the week leading up to Christmas 1914. They ventured out of their trenches. They exchanged items with each other. They even sang carols to mark the savior's birth.

But this isolated event in one war was not, perhaps, the way soldiers in all wars experience Christmas. War is horrible. War is deadly. War does not usually pause--even for hope.

And that's sort of like how our lives are, right? We like to think we truly get to pause intentionally for Holy Days--and perhaps we can. But we still need to acknowledge that our "everyday" weighs on us. Our "everyday" might not allow for "cease-fires" and "slow-downs." So where is the "hope" of Christmas there?

A better illustration to answer that question might be a story from American soldiers in World War II Italy.

By December of 1943 the American forces in Italy found themselves in terrible conditions. They were in a standstill against the Germans, who were holding positions in mountainous terrain. American soldiers were cold, wet, and bogged down in muddy foxholes and trenches along treacherous roads and craggy outposts. The fighting was horrible and the conditions were miserable.

Nothing felt "Christmassy" about that December for them. There was not going to be any Christmas truce in this war. And to make matters worse, not only were supplies short, but when soldiers received precious packages from home, it seemed that family and loved ones just didn't get what these G.I.s were going through. These mud-caked, miserable men kept opening boxes from home containing crisp white shirts, polka-dot ties, silk socks, and bedroom slippers. Mom and Dad just couldn't conceive of the darkness into which their sons had been sent.

And then, as Christmas Day approached, the men in these foxholes all heard that the army was at least going to supply turkey and "all the fixins. " But even that went bad--refrigeration for these thousands of meals had broken down somewhere along the way. Most of the soldiers did not receive the meals. But those who did, regretted it for the next several days.[i]

But in these midst of all this misery was the story of Dudley Glover and Joe Glenn and the package they received that Christmas. Sitting there in their foxhole, Glover and Glenn opened the box from home, not expecting much they could use...as had been the experience of many of their fellow soldiers.

 Indeed, when they first peered in, they saw a pair of socks. But then, they noticed the socks had something inside them. In each sock was a bottle of Coca-Cola. This was amazing! This was a taste of home. This was something beyond the foxhole and the war and everything else. Glover and Glenn immediately opened the first bottle and drank it straight down. They decided to save the second bottle until they could find some ice somewhere along the way in a village.

But word started to spread up and down the line about the bottle of Coke. Men started to offer money for the bottle. Soon a bidding war ensued.

This gave Glover and Glenn an idea. They knew there were a lot of casualties in their unit alone. This meant that a lot of children back home were not going to have their fathers return after the war. So what if they raffled their Christmas Coca-Cola off, using the money raised to help the children of their fallen compatriots? Each raffle ticket cost twenty-five cents, and soon the pair raised $4,000. The Coca-Cola Corporation heard about the raffle and added another $2,000 to the pot.

A sergeant won the raffle. He didn't drink the coke--but shipped it home as a keepsake. Glover and Glenn formed a committee that used the proceeds to create scholarships for the children of the men killed in their unit.[ii]

They brought hope and inspiration to all the men who participation in the raffle. They brought light out of darkness.        ...........

In the darkness, in the fields, where the shepherds tended flocks, light shone upon them. Fear gripped them. Terror seized them.

They had little hope in that moment. All seemed lost. A field outside of Bethlehem. A foxhole outside of Monte Cassino, Italy. A dark night of the soul in Amarillo, Texas.

That is the nature of the good news of this Holy Night. In the darkness of our lives comes not a cruel emperor to judge us or to rule us.

Into the darkness comes the savior, the healer, the mender of souls, the reconciler, the creator, the Messiah, the Lord.

The Angel told the shepherds their sign would be to find the child wrapped in bands of cloth lying in a manger. This sign was a humble reminder of God's embrace of all people--not just the powerful.

The multitude of heavenly hosts praised God. They praised God for this most holy sign and this most precious action.

The shepherds' fear in the darkness turned to joy.

In the midst of the darkness we turn to light. We embrace God's love in our actions and our love of others. We overcome our fears with our love. LOVE transforms the world.

The Good News that Jesus brings us on this most holy night is the message of God’s love.

Jesus was born to proclaim to ALL God's salvation. We are to see in that Christ child the reality of reconciliation and renewal with God. Jesus is the Prince of Peace.[iii]

So on this Holy night, in the darkness of our fears, in the shadows of our concerns, and in the gloom our anxieties, let's rejoice in the light of God's countenance as we realize this, the meaning of Christmas.

Amen.

 

[i] Duane Schultz, "Not a Very Merry Christmas," World War II Magazine (December 2017) available at http://www.historynet.com/not-a-very-merry-christmas.htm .

[ii] Andrea McLeod, "The Priceless Story of a $6,000 Bottle of Coca-Cola," Coca-Cola Journey Webpage, August 5, 2015, available at http://www.coca-colacompany.com/stories/the-priceless-story-of-a-6-000-bottle-of-coca-cola .

[iii] Some of these ideas from: "A Meditation for Christmas: The Actions of Christmas v. Celebrating" Christmas 1999, available at http://www.lectionarysermons.com/Dec24&99.html