The Gospel: Luke 2:1-20
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for see-- I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
"Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!"
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us." So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
Prayer: Lord, you have promised that when two or three gather in your name you will be present with them. We depend on that promise today and pray that you will move among us. Lord, we pray that you have inspired Mike's preparation, that you will enliven his presentation, and that you will empower our application. Amen
The Message: Lord, you have promised that when two or three gather in your name you will be present with them. We depend on that promise today and pray that you will move among us. Lord, we pray that you have inspired Mike's preparation, that you will enliven his presentation, and that you will empower our application. Amen
On Thursday, as I was reading the Daily Office Morning Prayer service, as part of my personal devotions, I was really struck by these two verses from 1 Peter:
"Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls." 1 Peter 1: 8, 9
"Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him..." Wow!
I found those two verses very thought provoking.
As I thought about it, I realized that part of the reason I found them challenging was because of how relevant they are to me right now. Those two verses were not only true for the people who first read them in the letter we now call 1 Peter, but they are also true for me, for us, here and now.
We haven't seen him, and we don't see him now, but we believe in him. And not only that but we rejoice, with an indescribable and glorious joy, in the promise we have from him of our salvation.
For me that sums up Christmas and our celebration tonight beautifully. We are here because despite the fact that we haven't seen him, and we don't see him right now, we do believe in him and we have gathered to celebrate his birth.
But, that raises a question for us doesn't it? How have we come to know what we know about Jesus and Christmas?
Well, the easy, perhaps simple answer is, we have heard the story. We have heard it many times and we have come to believe it. We have decided it is true and we want to celebrate and share that story with others.
Another devotional piece I read this week was from the Brothers of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist examined this concept of stories and storytelling and how it impacts our lives. I would like to share a section from that mediation.
In his meditation "On Being Forged, Shaped, and Fostered" Br. James Koester says: "We have heard it before. In fact, some of us have heard the Christmas story so often, that like Linus in A Charlie Brown Christmas, (by Charles Shultz) large swaths of it can be recited from memory. Perhaps we can’t recite it word for word in the idiom of the King James Bible, but we know the story cold. If our inner Linus has not memorized it, we can certainly tell the story in our own words, and little would be lost. In fact, in telling the Christmas story in our own words, some parts it might even be embellished, the details highlighted, the emphasis personalized."
He then goes on to say: "Some stories have the power to shape our identity, forge our imagination, and foster our sense of belonging. When those stories are told, we are not a passive audience. We become co-creators in an ongoing story that changes us. The stories we tell at Christmas force us to ponder their meaning for our lives. And, if we let them, they invite us to give away our heart."
Did you hear that last couple of sentences: "The stories we tell at Christmas force us to ponder their meaning for our lives. And, if we let them, they invite us to give away our heart."
My prayer for us all, this Christ Mass, is that as we hear the stories of Christmas - of the coming of the Christ Child - that we would be like Mary and ponder these things in our hearts, and then like Linus be prepared to tell the story ourselves in our own words to those who we know around us who need to hear the story.
In that process I hope we will find that we do indeed ponder the meaning for our own lives. That, as we hear the story and tell the story to others, that we might find ourselves responding to the invitation to give our lives away to Christ.
Our Communion Hymn this evening is "What Child is this?" How do we answer that question, for ourselves, tonight?
Will you be impelled to go and tell, everyone you meet, like the shepherds were? How will hearing the story, again this year, of Jesus coming as child impact your life this week?
Bishops & Father Mike