For December 25, 2016 and January 1, 2017
Click here for the Lectionary Lab Live podcast
This week’s post includes a little “double duty.” You will find Dr. Chilton’s sermon for Christmas Eve/Christmas Day included below, whilst the Lectionary Lab Live podcast we have posted is a bonus broadcast of our comments from 3 years ago and covers the texts for the First Sunday after Christmas — in this case, January 1, 2017.
We hope it’s not all terribly confusing, but we’ll be back for Epiphany and a brand new broadcast for January 8. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Christmas Eve/Christmas Day December 24/25, 2016
Isaiah 62:6-12; Psalm 97; Titus 3:4-7; Luke 2:1-20
“Life is a series of adjustments to reality.” Who said that? I did. Over, and over, and over again throughout my children’s growing up years. It is a truth I learned the hard way. One year I was absolutely certain what I wanted for Christmas. Like little Ralphie in “A Christmas Story,” I wanted a BB gun. I had seen it advertised on TV, I had seen one in the store, several of my friends wanted the same gun. It was magnificent, it was wonderful, it was going to change the world and my place in it. I absolutely, positively had to have the “Daisy Lever-Matic BB Gun” because it was “the ‘Spittin’ Image’ of the Great Model ’94 Winchester.”
Christmas morning came, and I got up, and snuck into the living room, and found my present under the tree, and I unwrapped it, and it was not a Daisy Lever-Matic BB Gun. Instead, I got very fine baseball equipment – a bat, a glove, and a cap. It was a wonderful gift, a wonderful gift indeed. There was just one thing wrong with it – it wasn’t what I had asked for, it wasn’t what I wanted, it wasn’t what I was expecting. I was equal parts happy to have a bat and ball, and sorely disappointed I had not received what I wanted. “Life is a series of adjustments to reality.”
Middle school to high school, high school to college, college to seminary, life as a student to life as a pastor, bachelorhood to married life, double income, no kids (dinks) to parenthood, rural life to city life and back – over, and over, and over again, life has been a series of adjustments to reality. Every time I thought I knew what I was getting into, knew what was coming, knew what to expect – but I didn’t. Reality was always and forever throwing me a curve ball. Life has always been different than what I expected.
Throughout Jesus’ life, from his birth to his death, people were constantly having to adjust their expectations to his reality. Nobody expected the Messiah to be a poor boy born in a barn, raised by working-class parents in a tiny village. After all, didn’t they say things like, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ and “Are you the Messiah, or should we look for another?” and “He can’t be the Messiah, he eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners,” and “Isn’t this the son of the carpenter? Who does he think he is?” Yes, they were all expecting something or someone else, and many were unwilling to accept what they got. They were unwilling to adjust to reality.
With 20/20 hindsight and 2000 years of perspective it’s easy for us modern folk to look back on those biblical people with a bemused combination of superiority and pity. We think that we would have known so much better what God was doing. We think we would have recognized Jesus as the true Messiah right away, the first time we met him, no doubt about it.
Well, probably not. We human beings are just as full of ourselves now as we ever were. And we still look to God to provide us with a superman savior, someone or something from outside ourselves who will rush in and fix everything in one fell swoop – changing the world and our place in it.
Or we attach the will of God to our particular political and economic vision of the future, and look for signs that it is happening so that we can believe that God and God’s kingdom are coming in our midst.
And year after year God persists in giving us what we need, not what we want. God persists in responding to our desire for strength with weakness, our yearning for power with poverty, our aching for achievement with loss and lowliness. While we still anticipate some metaphorical bigger-than-life Messiah, leading a mighty army while riding on a charging white steed, God once again sends us a pregnant teen-ager on a donkey, leading a parade consisting of one very confused middle-aged man, some dirty shepherds and a handful of refugee wizards. “Life is a series of adjustments to reality?’
And the only question is – are we ready to adjust our expectations to the reality of the Christ child who has come to be with us in this world? Are we prepared to make room in our hearts and in our lives for the surprising and unexpected Good News that God has sent to us?
Like the angel said, “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.”
Amen and Amen.