This sermon thinks about Christmas and the way that we are immersed in a Western cultural story which resembles in no way the story of the gospel. This devotional takes the reader into what we know about the birth of Christ and why it’s important to think about that.
Daily Bible Reading:
Monday, December 17. Read Luke 1:26-2:20. 1) How did Mary find out about her impending pregnancy? 2) What was Mary’s reaction to what she was told? 3) Read Mary’s response song in 1:46-55. What does she think about her pregnancy?
Tuesday, December 18. Read Matthew 1:18-25. 1) What do we know, from Matthew, about Mary’s pregnancy? 2) How was Joseph reassured about the pregnancy? From whom did the reassurance come? 3) What do you NOT know about the pregnancy and relationship of Joseph and Mary?
Wednesday, December 19. Read 1 Corinthians 15:3-11. 1) In Paul’s list of important things, what to Paul was most important? 2) Why do you think that was important above all?
Thursday, December 20. Read John 1:14-18. 1) John doesn’t have a Nativity story like Matthew and Luke. 2) What does John say about Jesus (or “the Word”)? 3) What is Jesus gift to the world?
Friday, December 21. Read Revelation 3:6. 1) This is John’s letter to the church at Sardis. 2) What reputation did this church have? What do you think the reason is? 3) What role does memory play in this? 4) What do you think we need to remember today?
Saturday, December 22. Read Luke 1:46-55. This is Sunday’s sermon text.
Prayer for the Week:
Dear Father. On this week of Christmas, we are mindful of the clashing voices we hear all around us. On one hand, there is the greedy, hoarding, selfish voices that think only about what gifts they will get from others. They will hear the voices that exclude, judge, and hate. May we not be distracted or attracted by these, but rather screen them out.
On the other hand, there is the voice of Mary that rings out, crystal clear, your message of love. Scattering the proud and lifting up the lowly, in Mary’s words. This is the sound we want to hear and follow. May we follow your example, lived among us and gave up his life for us.
Father, on this time of remembrance of your journey to the earth and your blessing all those who found you to be desired and wise, we call to mind what the birth of our Lord means for us as we journey through life in the way Jesus’ journeyed. Please bless us and keep us focused on you alone.
In Jesus’ name I pray this. Amen.
Hymn of the Week:
Hark! the herald angels sing
by Charles Wesley, 1739
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King:
peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”
Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
join the triumph of the skies;
with th’angelic hosts proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King”
Christ, by highest heaven adored,
Christ, the everlasting Lord,
late in time behold him come,
offspring of the Virgin’s womb:
veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
hail th’incarnate Deity,
pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
Jesus, our Immanuel.
Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
risen with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by,
born that we no more may die,
born to raise us from the earth,
born to give us second birth.
Devotional Article of the Week:
You can find Christmas in the most surprising of places!
by Philip Gulley
My mother-in-law, Ruby, lives in southern Indiana in the town of Paoli. We spend family Christmas with her. Those good people in Paoli remember what Christmas is all about. Each year, just before Thanksgiving, Herb from the street department hauls the baby Jesus, his mommy and daddy, and an assortment of livestock and shepherds and wise men out of storage and sets them up on the courthouse lawn. The holy family takes up residence on the southwest corner of the square, and no one dares to complain. There are no civil libertarians in Paoli at Christmastime.
But Christmas isn’t official until Wilson Roberts decorates his variety store, which he does the day after Thanksgiving. Each year the same adornments—a cardboard cutout of Rudolph taped to the front window, a strand of tinsel hung over the checkout counter, and a bucket of candy canes left over from the year before sitting next to the cash register. On that day, at precisely 8:50 A.M., people from all over town head to the variety store to start their gift buying. It is a migration every bit as predictable as the Capistrano swallows.
I stopped in a few years ago, looking for a nativity set. The week before, my wife had said, “What this house needs is a nativity set.” So on the day after Thanksgiving, while everyone else was lying around in a turkey-filled stupor, I drove into town to the variety store. It’s a small store in sore need of a liquidation sale. Wilson’s motto is “We have it, if we can find it.” Forty years of merchandise is stacked to the ceiling. It makes for some incongruent discoveries. I once found a poster of Michael Jackson next to a 1959 edition of The Old Farmer’s Almanac.
I went inside and sought out Wilson Roberts. He was sitting in the back of the store, smoking a cigar, his ashes dribbling on the wood floor. “I’d like to buy a nativity set,” I told him.
He said, “Well, I know we have one, if I can just find it.”
He began to look. He looked over by the hair nets and bobby pins. Not there. He looked by the garden hoses. Not there. Then over by the yard goods and notions. No holy family there, either. He looked over near the lawn chairs, then underneath the candy display, which is where he found it.
He dusted off the box, opened it, and took a roll call. One manger, one kneeling mother, one proud father, some shepherds, three wise men, one sheep, one cow, one donkey, and one baby Jesus. Everyone present and accounted for. “That’ll be twelve dollars,” he told me. “How about ten?” I countered. The box was torn, and the cow was missing an ear.
Wilson Roberts squinted at me, shifted his cigar from one side of his mouth to the other, then said, “You got a deal.” So now we have a nativity set. French-made. Genuine plaster from Paris, the box says.
The day I bought the nativity set was the last time I saw Wilson Roberts alive. He died the next year. We drive past his old store on our way to Thanksgiving dinner at Ruby’s. The variety store is closed now. When he died, it died. Then Wal-Mart moved in, and people talk as if it’s a blessing. I guarantee you WalMart won’t have a 1959 edition of The Old Farmer’s Almanac. Don’t even bother to ask.
I think back on Wilson Roberts searching amid bobby pins and yard goods for the baby Jesus. Sometimes our search for the Divine has us poking around in all kinds of corners.
Every year at Christmas, I haul our nativity set out of storage and place it on the piano next to our front door. That way, when we’re scurrying about in a frenzy, honoring the birth of the One who told us not to be anxious about anything, we can pause and remember what Christmas is all about. How that quiet baby came into this tumultuous world, greeted by wide-eyed shepherds and one-eared cows. I swing open my heart and welcome him home.
This comes from a chapter in Philip Gulley’s book, Home Town Tales: Recollections of Peace, Love, and Joy. © 1999 by Multnomah Pub.