Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Message 2008

This sermon was delivered on Christmas Eve 2008 at St. Patrick's Church in Amherst, NY by Rev. Kevin L. Baker

Why I Love Christmas Lights


· Merry Christmas, everyone. This is a beautiful time of the year. It is a time to celebrate family and friends, it is a time of warmth, a time of peace, and a time to enjoy Christmas lights.
· As a priest and ambassador of heaven, today I would like to help us pull off all the paper, bows, and ribbons that decorate the true gift of Christmas and simply behold the simple gift that started it all.
· After cutting through all the hype, marketing, and the commercial Christmas, inside all the trimmings is the actual Christmas gift.
· Here is the gift. Jesus left heaven and came to earth as told by St. John the Apostle in the first words of His Gospel. God himself lived in the womb of Mary, blessed among all women.
· Then, in the dark of night on a Judean hillside near Bethlehem, a bright star and angelic lights of heaven filled the sky announcing that God himself had been born as a human being.
· He came to the earth he created to live among us; to make himself known to us so we would never have to doubt that he exists or that he cares about us.
· At the core of John chapter 1, the Christmas Gospel, is a story about Christmas Light. Like most of you, I have been enjoying my ride home at night looking at Christmas lights at the darkest time of the year.
· Although many people are trying to eliminate the religious significance of Christmas, the very existence of all the lights points to Jesus Christ.
· St. John says about Jesus being born at Christmas , 9That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.
· In God’s world, Light represents God’s glorious presence of inapproachable light, Light is His love shining out from his heart. Light is everything good—love, the source of life, and ethical truth.
· Darkness is the antithesis of life. It is evil, wickedness, sin, death, and the absence of God’s Light.
· St. John’s Gospel begins by telling us that John the Baptist was chosen by God to tell the world that into the darkness of this world, the Light of Heaven had arrived to shine and bring a new day.
· Isaiah had prophesied this day 700 years earlier in Isaiah 9:2 "The people who walk in darkness Will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them."
· How do we personally experience the dark? Author Joyce Rupp says darkness manifests as:
1. A time in which the energy and focus of life is almost completely funneled into physical, emotional, or psychic pain.
2. An experience of being buried in deep sorrow and grief.
3. A discouraging and empty inner sojourn when nothing seems valuable or worthwhile.
4. A stage of spiritual desolation in which there is no sense of God's presence and little or no desire for things of the spirit.
5. A battle of indecision and struggle, when the unknowns and fears of the future press painfully on decision to be made.
6. A fog-like state when life is confusing, unclear, and seemingly impenetrable.
7. A situation with evil and atrocity which threaten to overpower or annihilate.
8. An excruciating time of helplessness in which one feels paralyzed or powerless to alleviate the pain of another.
9. An on-going negativity which brings with it a constant state of frustration, irritation, and dissatisfaction.

· Jesus came into a world filled with darkness. But when Jesus comes the darkness hides.
· John tells us that Jesus is the Word that was in the beginning in Genesis. The Word that said “Let there be Light and there was Light” now came into the world as a person.
· The sad words of the Gospel this evening tell us 5And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
· So many living in dark times don’t realize Jesus is the Christmas Light .
· He wants to shine the light of heaven into your dark world. My prayer is tonight you will see the Christmas Lights and understand why Jesus came on that first Christmas.
· For many, Christmas is a time of more intense darkness. Some of us have lost loved ones and miss them intensely during the holidays stricken with grief.
· For some Christmas is a time of deep sadness because their lives have not followed the plan they set out for themselves and their children. Dreams have died.
· Marriages have failed. Careers have been disrupted by sickness or sudden unemployment.
· Families have been wounded by addictions, and good people have suffered wrongs.
· Remember John’s Christmas message about the baby Jesus , 9That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. John says Jesus is the Light for each of our lives.
· Christmas means that Jesus is here in the dark to bring light. He cares. He loves. He gives hope.
· The real cool thing is Jesus wants to make each of us Christmas Lights too. Once the Light of Jesus shines in our hearts, we become Light bearers; the Light of the World
· The Church is really one big string of Lights that Jesus is hanging all over the world.
· Peter says God’s Church is a group of people God called out of darkness into His wonderful Light.
· Daniel the prophet said3 Those who are wise [a] will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.
· Tonight, may we live in a dark world of recession, uncertainty, loss, worry, depression, poverty, pain, sickness, hunger, war, suffering, and sadness.
· Jesus has been stringing his lights--the people of God--all over the world and the power of the Holy Spirit is the switch that turns on the Lights.
· Singer Lauren Christy wrote, The truth is here, So come on hold me tight 'Cause I was not a child afraid of darkness But an Adult Afraid Of The Light.
· Tonight if you are afraid of the light, of becoming a Christian, hear the message of Christmas, "And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings...which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:10,11).
· Did you hear what the Christmas Angel said? FEAR NOT. FOR UNTO YOU IS BORN THIS DAY A SAVIOR. Do you know what Christmas means?
· Jesus came to this world for YOU. He came to be YOUR Savior. Don’t be afraid to come to the child in the manger and bow before him. Come like the Shepherds and Wise Men and worship Jesus.
· At Christmas, Jesus comes to all living under the power of darkness; to those who are weary.
· He is reaching out. He is giving us the opportunity to come of out of darkness and live in Light.
· Are you worried and afraid in this recession? Come to Jesus and tell him and Light will come.
· Are you living in depression, suffering, and sadness? Ask Jesus to come into your life.
· I want to close by reaching out to anyone here who has trouble believing that Christmas could really be all about Jesus Christ.

There was once a man who didn't believe in God, and he didn't hesitate to let others know how he felt about religion and religious holidays. His wife, however, did believe, and she raised their children to also have faith in God and Jesus, despite his disparaging comments. One snowy eve, his wife was taking their children to a service in the farm community in which they lived. They were to talk about Jesus' birth. She asked him to come, but he refused. "That story is nonsense!" he said. "Why would God lower Himself to come to Earth as a man? That's ridiculous!" So she and the children left, and he stayed home. A while later, the winds grew stronger and the snow turned into a blizzard. As the man looked out the window, all he saw was a blinding snowstorm. He sat down to relax before the fire for the evening.

Then he heard a loud thump. Something had hit the window. He looked out, but couldn't see more than a few feet. When the snow let up a little, he ventured outside to see what could have been beating on his window. In the field near his house he saw a flock of wild geese. Apparently they had been flying south for the winter when they got caught in the snowstorm and couldn't go on. They were lost and stranded on his farm, with no food or shelter. They just flapped their wings and flew around the field in low circles, blindly and aimlessly. A couple of them had flown into his window, it seemed. The man felt sorry for the geese and wanted to help them.
The barn would be a great place for them to stay, he thought. It's warm and safe; surely they could spend the night and wait out the storm. So he walked over to the barn and opened the doors wide, then watched and waited, hoping they would notice the open barn and go inside. But the geese just fluttered around aimlessly and didn't seem to notice the barn or realize what it could mean for them.

The man tried to get their attention, but that just seemed to scare them, and they moved further away. He went into the house and came with some bread, broke it up, and made a bread crumb trail leading to the barn. They still didn't catch on. Now he was getting frustrated.

He got behind them and tried to shoo them toward the barn, but they only got more scared and scattered in every direction except toward the barn. Nothing he did could get them to go into the barn where they would be warm and safe. "Why don't they follow me?!" he exclaimed. "Can't they see this is the only place where they can survive the storm?"He thought for a moment and realized that they just wouldn't follow a human. "If only I were a goose, then I could save them," he said out loud. Then he had an idea.

He went into barn, got one of his own geese, and carried it in his arms as he circled around behind the flock of wild geese. He then released it. His goose flew through the flock and straight into the barn--and one-by-one, the other geese followed it to safety.

He stood silently for a moment as the words he had spoken a few minutes earlier replayed in his mind: "If only I were a goose, then I could save them!" Then he thought about what he had said to his wife earlier. "Why would God want to be like us? That's ridiculous!" Suddenly it all made sense.

That is what God had done. We were like the geese--blind, lost, perishing. God had His Son become like us so He could show us the way and save us.As the winds and blinding snow died down, his soul became quiet and pondered this wonderful thought. Suddenly he understood why Christ had come. Years of doubt and disbelief vanished with the passing storm. He fell to his knees in the snow, and prayed his first prayer: "Thank You, God, for coming in human form to get me out of the storm.


No comments: