It has been a long time since I have posted to this blog, so I figured my return should begin at Christmas. Please find below my Sermon in verse for this Christmas Eve 2014. This sermon was shared at Faith Lutheran Church in Spicer, Minnesota where I now serve as Lead Pastor. It is my plan to share my Passing Thoughts into the New Year with reflections on the Daily Texts for 2015. Enjoy and Merry Christmas!
Have you ever wondered or have tried to conceive,
Why we gather together each Christmas Eve?
We get our families all dressed up and looking their best,
Then we fill up the pews, and gather with the rest.
The rest of our friends, with neighbors and strangers,
To hear this story of the babe in the manger.
Have your ever stopped for a moment just to contemplate,
Why the whole world seems to pause and remember this date?
Are you like me, who wonders about this moment in history?
Reflecting on Mary and Joseph and this most divine mystery.
A mystery so deep that is almost too wonderful to believe,
That our Heavenly Father would choose a virgin to conceive,
To conceive and carry God’s only son,
And that a girl named Mary was God’s chosen one.
Yes, Mary was the one upon whom God’s favor did rest,
But have you ever wondered if she was the best?
God sent a messenger to Mary, Gabriel was his name,
And as he first addressed her, “Do not fear”, he proclaimed.
“For God has favored you and his presence is near,
He has a purpose for you, dear Mary, and his promise is clear.”
Gabriel proclaimed, “For you have been chosen to carry God’s child”
And so started the promise, for Mary, who was meek and so mild.
But perplexed by this greeting, she asked, “How can this be?”
“I’ve never been with a man. I’m a virgin you see.”
“And I am pledged to a man named Joseph; I’ll soon be his wife,
And now you expect me to carry new life?”
“This marriage can’t begin with me being pregnant and un-wed,
What will people say? They will all shake their heads.”
But Gabriel spoke words of comfort to Mary,
“God’s plan for you is really not scary.”
“For from on high God’s Holy Spirit will come upon you to rest,
And you will carry his Son, Mary you are up to the test.
And to offer up assurances so that she would believe,
Gabriel spoke of her cousin Elizabeth, and how she had conceived,
A child at her age, even though she was quite old,
And that child Elizabeth carried, would be a preacher so bold.
“You see,” he said to Mary, “though it seems a little bit odd.”
“Nothing is impossible for our Fatherly God.”
“And the path you will walk, God will walk too,
His presence to strengthen and help see you through.”
Mary accepted the promise, and sang loud and clear,
A hymn to God’s glory, of God’s blessings so near.
“My soul proclaims your greatness,” she sang in confident voice,
“You have looked upon me with favor, and in my spirit I rejoice.”
So maybe we gather together to hear about Mary,
Who was chosen by God for a baby to carry.
Maybe her story reminds us that God calls us to see,
Not what has happened, but what things can be.
Possibly we see in Mary’s acceptance of a call from above,
That we too are invited to carry God’s love.
This could be one reason people gather in churches tonight,
To be assured that we, like Mary, are called to bear God’s holy light.
And have you wondered about Joseph, to whom Mary would be wed?
Can you imagine the thoughts, which ran through his head?
Wondering what he should do with a pregnant fiancé,
What would people think, what might they say?
For people could be judgmental, and rumors might fly,
It was clear his intended was pregnant, that was hard to deny.
Such a situation could be shameful, and bring much disgrace,
Being pregnant before marriage was quite out of place.
Joseph worried and wondered what to do next,
The news of this pregnancy had him perplexed.
Joseph thought the only solution was a quiet divorce,
But then came a vision from heaven to keep him on course.
In a dreamy like vision an angel appeared,
Who told faithful Joseph there was nothing to be feared,
For the child was conceived from God’s Spirit Holy,
And the son born to Mary would save the meek and the lowly.
Now the child Mary carried would give the world life,
So Joseph should stay by her side and take her as his wife.
Joseph remained faithful, and took Mary as his bride.
He pledged to her that as her husband he would abide.
Maybe tonight you are wondering about Carpenter Joe,
And the promise he made, so long, long ago.
To remain faithful to Mary, who soon would give birth,
To a son, he would name Jesus, who would bring peace on earth.
Is it possible that you see yourself in Joseph’s sandals?
That somewhere along the way you’ve been caught up in a scandal.
And seeing that Joseph was strengthened for this incredible task,
That God strengthens you too when he comes to ask.
To ask you to serve, to play a role in the God’s holy story,
To let your light shine brightly, and give God the glory.
Maybe Joseph reminds us that faith is about God and not us,
And when God comes calling we simply must trust.
And what about Bethlehem, have you wondered about that place?
Why God would choose to little known Bethlehem to reveal his grace?
Should not the Messiah have arrived in a town of renowned?
Like Holy Jerusalem, where the temple was found.
Have you wondered like me, about the location of this birth.
That Jesus our Savior was born in a shack with a floor made of earth.
It seems so curious and so incredibly odd,
That a stable out back would serve as the nursery for the child of God.
Imagine for a moment, if you are able,
The noise and the smells, which came from that stable.
There in the stable with the goats, cows and sheep,
Mary gave birth to God’s only Son and then rocked him to sleep.
Then the new baby was wrapped up in soft cloth and laid in a manger,
Could the birth of a king sound any stranger?
Born right there in the midst of the smells and the mess,
Was Jesus our Savior our heavenly guest.
Now maybe there is something about where this took place,
That fills us with hope in the possibility of grace.
Isn’t it in the mess of life’s living where we most need to see,
That Jesus has come for you and for me?
Isn’t that what Emmanuel, God with us, means for us today?
That in the midst of the mess, God comes to stay.
To stay with us and love us even though things are not always so neat.
Into life’s mess God brings us joy, and we have it complete.
Maybe as we gather together tonight,
We let our minds wonder off to that warm stable bright.
And we see ourselves there looking in on the scene,
Beginning to now understand what Emmanuel means.
It means God comes to us in the helpless and hopeless moments of life.
It means God understands our stresses and strife.
It means God makes his home where we need him to stay,
Even if it means in a broken down barn filled with straw and soft hay.
Maybe you’re wondering about the rest of the story,
Of shepherds and angels singing of Glory.
Shepherds seem like a strange lot to be the first to hear,
Angels singing songs of good news and great cheer.
Shepherds were often viewed as a low social cast,
They were the least, the lowest, and most often the last.
So it seems kind of strange that shepherds would be the first,
To be there on the scene when angels did burst!
Burst into songs of peace and good will on the earth,
As they flew and sang out the news of this birth.
The birth of the Savior, the Messiah, and King,
And it was first to poor shepherds this good news they did bring.
Imagine that… Good News first came to the lowest and last,
That the Messiah, foretold by the prophets of a long ago past,
Had been born in the city of David, who once was a shepherd boy.
And now these poor lowly shepherds received good news of great joy.
Then those poor shepherds ran as fast as they could,
And arriving at the stable they stopped and they stood,
Taking in the whole scene just as they were told,
Was a baby all warm, pink, and precious just few hours old.
There with the baby were his parents, Joseph and Mary,
So they told them about the message that they angles did carry.
As they spoke, they told how his birth was to be a brand new start,
And Mary treasured each word, and pondered them in her heart.
Maybe you have been wondering about shepherds tonight,
And how God invites the last and the least to witness to the light.
Can you imagine yourself all alone, in an isolated place?
Only to be surrounded by Angels whirling through space.
Then they tell you good news that you just have to share,
So off you go, be bold if you dare,
Tell your friends and neighbors about the birth of the king,
Of the promise of new life and forgiveness he brings.
Is it possible tonight your thinking of the innocence of a baby?
And how in this story you are wondering that maybe,
The most precious gift of Christmas comes from heaven above,
As we find it in Jesus who embodies God’s love.
Possibly we see in this baby promises which only the Almighty can keep,
That this child born in a stable would be the Good Shepherd of sheep,
A Good Shepherd who feeds and protects us in strife,
Who for the love of his sheep would lay down his life.
For in the midst of the hustle and bustle of this most busy season,
There are times we fail to remember that Jesus is the reason,
We sing all the carols and burn candles bright,
And why we gather to worship on this Christmas Eve night.
As we are now gathered in this sanctuary illumined by light,
May the love of our Savior be with us tonight.
May we know that on this night as we ponder his birth,
Jesus has come and brings peace to the earth.