Windsor Community United Methodist Church
Thursday, December 12, 2013
Mike Turgeon Inside the box: “Jesus” 12/24/11
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 at 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!‘ Luke 2:1-14
Inside the box: Jesus
How many times can you tell the story of Jesus being born? The story doesn’t change.
I visited with Dorothy Craven a couple of times this week. She has been recovering at a Healdsburg rehab facility with breathing difficulties. Dorothy is 96 years old. Those of you who remember her know how devoted she was to this ministry and this church, one example of her faithfulness is the fact that she sang in the choir for 45 years.
Well, during my first visit I was standing next to her bedside as she woke up and when she recognized me she began talking about Christmas, I guess it’s been on her mind. Her mind is still quite sharp. She spoke of teaching Sunday School to the 12 year-olds. She said anytime after Labor Day, she could start telling the story of Jesus’ birth. Dorothy said, “they never get tired of hearing that story.”
No, the story of Jesus’ birth doesn’t change, it changes us. It is the story of hope in the midst of darkness.
Between the years 280 and 343 AD, one can only imagine the darkness of that time. And during that time in the region that is now know as Turkey, there lived a man who studied Greek philosophy and the doctrine of the Christian church. He was about as well-versed in matters of faith as anyone during his time. He was able to speak about his faith in a way that made it easy to understand. And because of this he became a valued source of knowledge to many in the church.
But he is remembered not for what he said or what he wrote in his life, but for what he did in his life. Funny how that works, isn’t it?
This man became so well known and respected in his day that he moved right on up in religious circles and he was appointed to be the Bishop of Myra.
He became not only a wise and trusted authority, he gained a reputation as a generous soul as well, and his reputation grew widely. In his role as Bishop, he became known as a defender of the innocent, protector of those who had been treated poorly by society.
It was for all these reasons that the church eventually recognized him as a Saint.
One of the stories that’s been told about this Saint that increased his recognition beyond his own territory and time was the incident in which he responded to a quite poor villager, a man who was so desperately poor that he finally decided that his only hope was to abandon his daughters in the marketplace because he was simply too poor to feed them.
Upon hearing of the man’s plight, the bishop went by night to the miserable hut where the man lived and flung a bag of gold into his window without being seen by anyone.
Clearly, this Bishop understood what it meant to give in response to the many blessings and gifts that God had given him!
Of course this is the legend of Saint Nicholas
and it has grown some since then, but it is based on the fact that Bishop Nicholas understood what it meant to be changed by the Christ child who was born on Christmas day.
Inside the box: Let it reign
Will there be similar legends that will grow and expand based on the lives that we are leading? Probably not. Our actions likely won’t transcend time like St. Nick, but could our encounter with Jesus at the manger make a difference to someone in our life? Is there a better time than Christmas Eve to be asking this question? For no matter how many bags of gold we fling at Christmas, Christmas still exists as the time of re-birth.
Will Christmas survive us?
A television interviewer was walking the streets of Tokyo one year at Christmas time. Much as in America, Christmas shopping is a big commercial success in Japan. The interviewer stopped one young woman on the sidewalk, and asked, "What is the meaning of Christmas?"
The woman laughed kind of sheepishly and said, "I don't know. Is that the day that Jesus died?" Could it be that there was some truth in her answer. (Donald Deffner, Seasonal Illustrations, San Jose: Resource, 1992, p. 16.)
A little boy and and his sister were singing their favorite Christmas carol in church the Sunday before Christmas. The boy concluded the hymn "Silent Night" with the words, "Sleep in heavenly beans." "No," his sister corrected, "it’s not beans, it’s peas." (Michael P. Green, Illustrations for Biblical Preaching, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993, p. 57.)
Christmas will survive. Christmas will survive because of what we received on this night.
If humanity’s greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator; If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist; if our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist; but our greatest need was forgiveness, and the ability to forgive, so God sent us the saving grace of Jesus Christ.
Does this story still have the ability to change you?
Are you able tonight to open your heart to what has happened in our midst? Even if you are able to let go of some of the hurt and pain that the world inflicts, even if just for a little bit and just for tonight, then the Christmas story continues to be more than merely the telling of the birth of Jesus. It becomes then your story as well. It is the story of God's grace revealed, then and there, as well as here and now.
We have spent much time in the last few weeks obsessing about gifts; tonight let us focus on gifts beyond measure in dollars and cents and monetary value.
How would our world look were we to mend a quarrel, dismiss suspicion, tell someone “I love you?” Give something away--anonymously. Forgive someone who has treated you wrong, if only in your heart. Turn away anger with a soft answer. Visit someone in a nursing home. Apologize if you were wrong. Be especially kind to someone with whom you work. Give as God gave to you in Christ, without obligation.
Yes, we live in a dark time, but as long as we live, and as long as this story is told, then there is hope, inside and outside the box.