December 17, 2020 (Week 39)
What is the significance of a birth that happened so long ago, in a place so utterly unimportant to us today, that we should remember it? Why do so many people feel so badly that our Christmas is going to be so very different this year? Isn’t Christmas going to feel so terribly empty this year, when family and friends cannot gather as usual? When people can’t even go to church together?
Lots of questions to be sure. I would invite you to observe something with me, as we seek to understand these, and other questions many of us may have experienced…. We, God’s children, seem to have an unfailing capacity to make everything about us. Naturally, if it isn’t evidently relevant for us, we won’t pay much attention to it. But my contention is that we go beyond that. We have an obsessive need to be wholly selfish. Everything must be important to me personally, in order for anyone to have any expectation that I’ll pay attention to it at all. That is how many of us live.
It might do us well to remember that the gift we celebrate at Christmas is God’s gift to us, not our gift to God….God’s gift. A gift from God…to us. In fact, it is God’s gift of God’s self, to each and every one of us. Do you hear that? God became incarnate, that is, “took on flesh,” and became one of us, so that we might have life. That distinction is important in that our selfishness can blind us to the wonder of the gift.
Try to think of it like this story: “I am a baker. I was taught to bake by my father and have loved every minute of it. And now, I bake bread every day, starting at 3 am, so that my family can have the means to live. It’s my job, but it’s also my calling. I love to bake bread. Now imagine that one night I decided to go on a party and rather than going home in a timely way, to make my way directly to work. But on arrival, I discover that my ability to bake anything has evaporated. I made a decision that impacted my calling…it kind of ruined it. My bakery plunges eventually into disrepute and the business is going under. I am beside myself with self pity and anger toward the world and toward God. How can this happen to me? Into the mess that I’ve created through my own irresponsibility, my father once again comes and despite his disappointment, he decides to save me from imminent disaster. He abandons his retirement, his savings, even his own health to help me. He comes into the bakery with me, and invites me to follow his directions again. To follow him again. And in so doing, he saves my bakery. He saves me. How can one even measure such a gift? Surely, what God has done in this gift of God’s self to us at Christmas puts our selfish considerations into perspective, doesn’t it?”
Our congregation is connected with children in Africa who have no families with which to celebrate Christmas. There are families in our midst who have nothing to offer one another this year as a gift. There are indeed many, who haven’t sufficient food for any sort of normal “celebration” at all. And it is sad in a way, to be sure. But brothers and sisters, all of us need to remember that God’s gift of the child in the manger is for everyone. Every single one, no matter how invisible they think they are, or how little value society places on them as individuals, is the single most important recipient of this infant Jesus, God’s gift to us! No one is left out, and every one receives God in their lives. This gift is God’s gift for you!
On behalf of my family, and the staff and church council here at Incarnation Lutheran Church, I want to wish each and every one a blessed Christmas, and a very Happy New Year! 2021 will be different, but it will be full of challenges and delights that God invites us to see, and to feel, and it all starts with this….For Unto Us a Child is Born!
Merry Christmas sisters and brothers!
- Before worship, around 9 am, Darrell and Nancy Datte host our after worship coffee/donut fellowship time (BYOC/D) on Zoom, and look forward to welcoming everyone in our community. Please think about joining in and saying hi to your brothers and sisters. That gathering can be found here: