Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Incarnation as Love

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 42:1-9
Scripture Lesson: Luke 2:1-20
Sermon: "Incarnation as Love"

Baby Books - I held up Isaiah and Sophia’s baby books and read from various things...Showed pictures of ultrasounds, Stephanie's belly, and the kids as babies.

Glimpses of Life (past & present) - I shared more stuff from the books. Prices of Gas, food. It records how we felt...One story that I related to as I looked back on what I wrote...

Mrs. Nolen Cash relates this story which many parents can relate to..."With the due date approaching for the birth of our first child, my husband was becoming increasingly fidgety. I had slight pains one evening, but assured him that they were not serious. I was in the den, relaxing, when I heard him shaving. Then he began to throw on his clothes.
" What are you doing?' I asked.
"'You can sit here if you want to,' he said, but I'm going to the hospital!'"

Reflections of What’s Important - we took time to record and keep stuff because it was an important event in our lives. It helps us focus on what our role as parents is and isn’t.
Asking Questions - Did I do right? What could I have done differently. Have I been a good father? What will my children remember about me? What parts of me will they pass on to their children?

The Backward Baby - But today we share about a baby story that is backward...

The Christmas Baby - Christmas is all about a baby. From the pregnant mother, expecting father, waiting wisemen, and bewildered shepherds, they all are secondary to the baby. Not just any baby mind you, this baby, the Christmas Baby is Jesus, the Christ, the long awaited Messiah. Usually when we celebrate births, we talk about new life, yet this life is beyond time and ancient beyond comprehension. A planned conception of countless millennia. Truly the hopes and fears of all the years were met in Thee that night.

Baby Love - I remember waiting for Isaiah and Sophia to be born, and I remember a love that began swelling and swelling. I remember when they were born that I loved them beyond what they will comprehend for many, many years...And while I’m sure that Mary and possibly Joseph were connecting with the unborn child, this child came loving us. This child was conceived in love...not a human love; rather in God’s love. This baby came loving and to be love.

The Baby’s Book - Unlike our children, Jesus was born with his book already started [lift up Bible]. A story of humanity and God...of God’s continual reaching out to us. Jesus’ baby book extends to our beginning and walks through our lives, our dreams, our fears, our failures, and our greatest moments. This Baby book, like most baby books, tells us as much about ourselves as it does the Child.

Glimpses of Life - As I mentioned earlier, baby books show us glimpses of life, share important reflections, and force us to ask and/or answer tough questions.
The Fairy Tale - Most of our nativity sets are complete fairy tale. Serene, peaceful, perfect. Let’s talk about reality: An unwed mother, a teenage pregnancy, a poor couple, no doctors, no place to stay, and animals eating the baby’s bedding.

Talkin’ Smack -
From the newspapers in 1965: "He didn't deliver what he promised last year," a 12-year-old Halifax, Nova Scotia, boy said after he socked a department store Santa on the jaw and kicked him in the shins. Even under the best of circumstances, the birth of a child brings with it many apprehensions.

Yet, God, I believe has a lively sense of humor, and I think that through the writers of Luke he talks some smack for all to hear: Throughout Rome there were inscriptions carved on the base of stone statues of Caesar Augustus. The nephew and adopted son of Julius Caesar, Augustus, brought Pax Roman, Roman Peace. By conquering anyone who opposed Rome, he brought “Peace.” On these statues, was carved, “Caesar Augustus, bring of peace and Savior of all the world.” God takes on Caesar Augustus kicking him right in the shins: Jesus is the Savior of the world. Jesus is the one who will be the Prince of Peace. And Caesar’s own census was merely a tool for the birth story of the true King...King Jesus.

Important Reflections
Christ’s Reign - It’s important that we learn from the story just who is in charge here. Not Caesar, not Rome, not the president, not America. God is in charge, and God shares that reign with no other...not even YOU!

The Audience
A second reflection for us should be that God’s audience for this event consisted entirely of outsiders, of social outcasts. Smelly shepherds, an unmarried couple, an insignificant village in an insignificant province. God’s expression of Lordship is different from ours, and God’s glory is different from ours.

Christmas Is For Times Like These
Ann, along with her two small sons, went to live with her parents in Texas for the duration of World War II, while her Air Force husband was busy in Europe. It was Christmas time and mother and grandparents were making great plans for the boys. The tree was up and decorated. Gifts were bought and hidden away. The excitement, the gaiety, the beauty of the season seemed to push the sorrows and separation of war aside for a time.
But only for a time, for just a week before Christmas Day, word came that Daddy would not only be away for this Christmas, but for all the Christmases that were to come-he had been killed in action.
Ann went away to her room and closed the door. Grandpa and Grandma talked quietly and wondered. Finally they decided to set the tree out and take down the decorations, since sorrow had replaced their joy.
Ann came out of her room after a while and saw the empty space where the tree had been. "Why, Mother?" she questioned, "What have you done with the tree?"
"Daddy and I set it out. It seemed out of place with you so brokenhearted."
"Oh, but Mother, let's bring it back in. Christmas was made for such times as these!"

...And for people such as these...the Christmas story is for those who NEED salvation. Those hurting, reeling, sick, desparing, grieving, alone, ashamed, nobody. And Christ the Lord comes bearing the gift of God: Salvation of not only soul, but of life.

Asking Questions - The Christmas story, just like the baby book, forces us to ask questions of ourselves...
  • Do I really follow the Christ Child?
  • Do I really live Christmas all year long?
  • Do I really believe God loves the world?
The Empty Gold Present
We often learn the most from our children. There is an old story about a man who punished his 3-year-old daughter for wasting a roll of gold wrapping paper. Money was tight, and he became infuriated when the child tried to decorate a box to put under the Christmas tree. Nevertheless, the little girl brought the gift to her father the next morning and said, "This is for you, Daddy."
The father was embarrassed by his earlier overreaction once he realized the gift was for him. He opened the gift, but his anger flared again when he found that the box was empty. He yelled at her, "Don't you know that when you give someone a present, there's supposed to be something inside of it?"
The little girl looked up at him with tears in her eyes and said, "Oh, Daddy it's not empty. I blew kisses into the box. All for you, Daddy." The father was crushed. He put his arms around his little girl, and he begged her forgiveness. He kept that gold box by his bed for years. Whenever he was discouraged, he would take out an imaginary kiss and remember the love of the child who had put it there.
In a very real sense, each of us has been given a gold container filled with unconditional love and kisses from God.

God has sent his one, unique child, Jesus to be the Gold Container that holds and offers God's love to us. A promise that we can keep with us everyday...A promise that we can count on...

Incarnation as Love
For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. - John 3:16

May the Christ Child be born anew in your hearts this morning, this Christmas, this year, this life. May you experience the Love of God that gives himself to you, and may your life be forever changed.

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