My sermon from December 24th, 2011 based on Luke 2:1-20.
This is Eden. Eden Faith Hodges to be more exact. Eden is Corbin and Rebecca’s daughter. She is Caleb and Leah’s baby sister. Yesterday she turned 5 weeks old. She was born on Friday night the 18th of November and weighed 5 pounds, 13 ounces. From what I can tell, she’s perfect.
She has 10 tiny little fingers and 10 tiny little toes. She scrunches her tiny little nose and makes these adorable little grunting noises when she sleeps. As her pastor it was an incredible joy to visit her in the hospital and hold her when she was just a couple of days old. I know that her mom and dad and brother and sister and grandmas and grandpas feel incredibly blessed by the gift that she is.
This evening I wanted to introduce her to you as we celebrate the birth of a child born some 2,000 years ago who would grow to change the course human history. Tonight we remember Mary and Joseph who would have held their newborn son and looked at him with the same affection and care with which Rebecca and Corbin and all of their family look at Eden. Tonight we celebrate the birth of a child. (Give her back)
Like I said, Eden was born on the 18th of November, Friday night the week before Thanksgiving. And while she is an incredible gift to her family, to this church, and to the world – this wasn’t the plan!
You see, the Hodges had a plan. If you know Corbin and Rebecca, you know they had a plan! They were going to spend a quiet thanksgiving together, one of their last events as a family of four. Over those days together they were going to finish getting a new crib put together and painted for Eden. They were going to finish putting together her room. And then, on the Monday morning after Thanksgiving they were going to head to the hospital for a c-section that had been scheduled weeks in advance. Corbin had arranged to be off of work during the week following Thanksgiving. The Hodges had their plan.
Some 2,000 years ago now Mary and Joseph had plans of their own. Initially they had plans to be married and we can imagine what those plans might have looked like and the kinds of things they might have been hoping for and preparing for. And then an angel appeared to Mary telling her that she was going to bear a child. The plans that she and Joseph had quickly changed.
When Joseph heard what was happening, he began to develop plans of his own. The Gospel of Luke tells us that he planned to dismiss Mary quietly. He didn’t want to make a scene, he definitely wasn’t going to seek the punishment that he could have based on the law, but he was going to end their relationship and dismiss her quietly. And then an angel of the Lord appears to Joseph interrupting his plans and inspiring him to stick by Mary’s side. Again, Joseph’s plans changed.
And so again Mary and Joseph begin planning for their life together. Surely it will be different than they had first expected, but they began reworking their plans. As those plans are coming together, near the end of Mary’s pregnancy, they have to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem so that they might be registered for the census. I imagine they had some plans regarding how this would unfold, they would get to Bethlehem, get registered, and then get home to Nazareth before Mary delivered. They likely had plans for where they were going to deliver in Nazareth and who was going to be there. But while in Bethlehem, it came time for Mary to deliver and their plans had to change once again.
The gospel of Luke also tells us about Shepherds and the experience they had that night. I imagine that those Shepherds who were in their fields had plans as well. I imagine that after being in the field watching a flock over the night when your shift ends you want to go home and get something to eat and take a nap or get some rest. And suddenly, there before them, appeared an angel of the Lord telling them to go to Bethlehem to find this child who had been born. And regardless of what their plans had been, Luke tells us that these shepherds went with haste.
Mary and Joseph had plans and they were interrupted. Repeatedly. The Shepherd’s had plans and they were interrupted. It seems that, in many ways, the story we tell and celebrate tonight is a story about interruptions, isn’t it?
Anyone had to deal with any interruptions or changed plans over the last several days or weeks? Anyone sitting here tonight feeling like you can relate with the shepherds or Mary and Joseph or the Hodges?
If you’re anything like me, you have planned to do so many things, but they haven’t all gotten done. Maybe there were cards you wanted to write or things you wanted to bake. Maybe there were some presents that you never got around to buying or things that still need to be wrapped when you get home tonight. I would imagine that in the last several days and weeks most of us have had to deal with an interruption or two and then altar our plans accordingly. It is hard to tell where the time has gone. We are here to celebrate Christmas Eve and tomorrow is Christmas morning. And you know what, it doesn’t matter whether our plans unfolded the way we wanted them to or not and it doesn’t matter whether we got everything done that we thought we wanted to or whether we think we’re ready. Tonight we are here to celebrate.
In fact, in the midst of all of the interruptions and changes of plans we have experienced, we are incredibly blessed with the opportunity to receive remarkable gifts. Again, think about Mary and Joseph. How do you picture them in those moments after Jesus is born? Do you think they’re focused on the fact that they’re not yet married or that they’re not at home or that they’re not in a formal room, but rather in the midst of animals? Do you think they’re focused on all of the things that didn’t go as planned?
I imagine that in those first moments of holding their baby boy, all of the plans that didn’t work out, simply slip away. I picture Mary and Joseph holding the young Jesus and marveling at his ten tiny fingers and ten tiny toes. I picture them watching with wonder and awe as he wrinkles his little nose and makes funny little grunting noises while he sleeps. I believe that Mary and Joseph would have been so consumed by the amazing miracle of the gift that they had been given that all of their unfilled plans would have seemed completely insignificant.
One of the special things that we celebrate today about the birth of Jesus is that his birth was not just a gift to his mom and dad or to the shepherd’s some 2,000 years ago, but that it continues to be a gift to you and to me and to all of our brothers and sisters throughout the world as well.
Tonight we celebrate the one who we proclaim is the king of kings and regardless of what is happening with the mess of politics in our country and around the world, we can celebrate a ruler unlike any other who invites us to a different way of living.
Tonight we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace and the good news that regardless of the stress of our financial struggles or the tension that exists in relationships with family and friends, we have the opportunity to live in relationship with one who offers us meaning and purpose and most of all peace.
Tonight we celebrate Christ the wonderful counselor who can help us deal with and rise above the pain and frustrations we so often experience.
Tonight we celebrate the birth of one who offers us freedom from those things that entrap us and forgiveness for all of the ways that we fall short of who God has created us to be.
In the gift of Christ that we celebrate tonight, we are offered the opportunity to see and to know God in remarkable ways. As the angel proclaimed to the shepherds in the field, we are invited to experience the “good news of great joy for all the people.”
Sunday evening, just a little bit more than a week after Eden was born Heather and Hannah and I took dinner to the Hodges and had the chance to visit with them for a few minutes. As we chatted I asked Corbin and Rebecca if they had done any reflecting over that weekend about the fact that the initial plan was to pack up that night and head to the hospital the next morning to have Eden. We chatted a bit about how all of those previous days, had been bonus days, even though they hadn’t initially been a part of the plan. No matter how hard we work to plan, sometimes things don’t go the way we intend for them to, sometimes things happen whether we’re ready or not.
Tonight, whether you’re fully ready or not, you are invited to welcome the gift of this child. And though this child will grow and live in ways that teach us how to better connect with one another, and will challenge authority in ways that become threatening, ultimately to the point where they will have him put to death, and though we know that he will ultimately die and rise again, tonight we need not be too focused on all that will be. We are invited simply to pause, to breathe, to reflect, and to treasure the gift of God’s love come to be with us.
Tonight we celebrate the birth of the one who came with ten tiny fingers and ten tiny toes to change the way that people understand and relate to God and one another. A child is born. And we are invited to embrace that gift whether we’re ready or not.