Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Christmas Eve Joint Service

Children's Sermon

To start the sermon this evening, I'd like to have all the children, and children at heart, join me at the front of the church. 

Good evening.
Are you all excited about Christmas Eve?
(Yes!)

Do you know the story for tonight?

A long time ago, there was a little boy who was born who was named Jesus. 
Jesus was God's Son.
And when he was born,
Angels from heaven told a bunch of sheep and shepherds that he had been born 
and to go visit Jesus
and then to tell everyone else.

See angels are messengers
and their job is to bring people good news

So I need your help tonight.
Have you seen the Creche over there?
It is a picture of the story I just told you.
It has Jesus as a baby, and his mother and Joseph and angels...
but it doesn't have all the sheep.
I brought a whole flock of sheep with me tonight to be part of the story, 
but they scattered all over the church! 
See they have been here before and they decided to wander all over.

So, You all are going to have to be like the angels
Go find the sheep and bring them to see Jesus.
I want you to tell any sheep you find that they need to see Jesus.

We are going to bring all the sheep up here to the front, in front of the creche.

We can be like the angels
what do the angels in the story do?

They tell the sheep and the shepherds
about Jesus!

Can we tell other people about Jesus?
(yes!)
How exciting it is that he was born?
(yes!)
Can we be angels, messengers telling people good news?
(Yes!)

Thank you all for your help!
Be an angel this Christmas season, tell them about the good news of Jesus!
Here is an angel to help you remember.
What is your job?

Go!

transition to pulpit

Lets be honest,
the rest of you wanted to be finding sheep and getting angel stickers,
didn't you?

Well, I'll tell you,
you too can still be an angel
you too can still go share the good news with God's sheep
out there in the world.

Also, I have enough stickers for everyone, 
see me after the service if you'd like one.

The Christmas story speaks for itself.
We come together 
to celebrate this story of Jesus' birth
over and over and over again
year after year
you'd think we would know the story by now
get tired and bored of this whole Christmas thing
but we don't
because we need the reminder
year after year
of the great love
which God gives us.

We still have governments which like to control and change our lives
disrupting our plans and dreams
I assume Mary didn't really want to have her baby in a barn
and to have to lay him in a manger
his first day in the world
She probably had had arrangements with her family and the local midwife in Nazareth
but the government doesn't care that she is going to have a baby
so off they go to Bethlehem.

We still live in a world
where travelers, refugees, and visitors
find themselves with no place to go
because others are not hospitable
whether out of fear or anger or scarcity.

We still live in a world where thousands of babies are born
each year
in non-sanitary situations
because of lack of health care, money, or education.

We still live in a world
where the differences between light and darkness
make huge changes in people's lives
and where angels are needed to share Good News
because no one else is there to do it.

Thankfully, despite our continuing brokenness
God continues to be born into our world
coming each year as Jesus,
born in a manger,
and coming each day,
into our hearts through the power of the Holy Spirit.

When I think of this story
as a metaphor
when I think of where 
we 
belong in this story
I see most human beings being one of three characters:
Sheep
Shepherds,
or Angels.

Interestingly enough
I counted
there are 8 sheep in the Tiffany Windows,
1 shepherd,
and 13 angels.
In case you get bored, you can check my counting.

The sheep are the people out there that hear the message from the angels
but don't listen to it,
can't really hear it
some of them appear at the nativity scene in Bethlehem,
but they are really only there as tag-alongs
they came because the shepherds came
but they have no idea what is going on.
We might have some sheep with us today
those here out of family obligation, tag-alongs,
not believing, not paying attention, but present.

The shepherds are the people who have heard the good news and believe.
They want to see this good news in person. 
I'm sure we have many shepherds here tonight,
people who have come to see Jesus
here, as a little baby boy,
born and living in the church.

And then there are the angels
they are the ones who go out and tell the good news
They don't need to hang around and stare at Jesus
they recognize him
they rejoice in his presence
and then they go share that with everyone!
We may even have some angels among us
those whose real Christmas celebration 
is not here
but out in the world
where they share the good news with others
rejoicing in the great love God has shared with us
and wanting everyone else to share in that same joy.

Any of us could be angels.
Messengers to another
sharing good news about and from God
What do you think it took for those angels to share this message?
I mean, for a human being to be so excited
requires no shame, no worries about being vulnerable
no holding back out of shyness or fear
Those angels are bold!
They are excited!
They have GOOD NEWS!
after all
who wouldn't want to hear this message
but we know
not everyone is open to hearing the message about Jesus

I mean, the first response to the angel even showing up
was terror.
That's the world those shepherds lived in.
Really, that's the world we live in.
Someone comes with great light and good news
and our first response is
terror.

So much so that it is plainly apparent.
The angel's first words are
"Do not be afraid"
Much of what was qualified as good news
then and now
is not always good news for all of us.

However, this message
is good news for all of us.

Say if we were to go out into the world
if we were to be an angel this day
sharing good news of great joy
some of the people we tell
might be terrified
some of them might be mystified
some of them might not listen,
but some
some might listen
someone might believe
someone might see Jesus for the first time
as a baby
as their savior
someone might find joy and peace and love
experiencing those wonderful emotions
for the first time in their lives
isn't that worth the story

We can all go out and share the good news
actually you're much more likely to experience God out there in the world
beyond this room
than here
though my hope is that you'll experience it in both places
experience
the love
the joy
of Jesus' birth.

I'd like to end with a prayer, 
written by Robert Louis Stevenson, 
the famous author who wrote Treasure Island 
and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. 
He wrote this for Christmas Day. 

"Loving Father, Help us remember the birth of Jesus, that we may share in the song of angels, the gladness of the shepherds, and the worship of the wise men. Close the door of hate and open the door of love all over the world. Let kindness come with every gift and good desires with every greeting. Deliver us from evil by the blessing which Christ brings, and teach us to be merry with clean hearts. May the Christmas morning make us happy to be Thy children, and the Christmas evening bring us to our beds with grateful thoughts, forgiving and forgiven, for Jesus' sake, Amen!"