Discover Christmas #2
Ernie Davis was an American football running back and the first African-American athlete to win the Heisman Trophy. Under the guidance of coach Ben Schwartzwalder, a hard-nosed coach with high expectations and an obsession for winning a national title, Davis overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles to become an unstoppable running back for the Syracuse Orangemen.
The clip shows the expectations the coach had for Davis. Davis played his entire college career wearing that number 44. He was the number-one pick in the 1962 NFL Draft, becoming the first African American football player to be taken first overall. He was drafted by the Washington Redskins, then almost immediately traded to the Cleveland Browns in December 1961. However, he never played a professional game of football. In 1962 he was diagnosed with leukemia. And at the age of 23 Davis lost his battle with leukemia.
The Ernie Davis story is filled with great expectations. Schwartzwalder expected Davis to play better than the legendary Jim Brown. He also expected to win a National title with Davis leading. Which happened in 1959 when Davis was a sophomore. They won the NCAA Division I-A national football championship with an undefeated season with a 23-14 win over The University of Texas in the Cotton Bowl Classic. Being the first round Draft pick, Davis expected play pro football. Davis’ life and story were filled with great expectation. (1)
And that’s what brings us here today. We are smack dab in the middle of the season of Expectation.
A. Expectations. That’s what this time of year is all about isn’t it. Expectations. Remember that feeling of expectation and anticipation you got when you planned one of those supreme surprises for somebody? It may have been nothing more than hiding around the corner all ready to jump out and yell, “Boo!” Or maybe it was a special gift you couldn’t wait for them to open. And of course there’s the expectation and anticipation of Christmas morning. I still remember the feeling of excitement and expectation as my brothers and I waited for Mom and Dad to wake up on Christmas morning.
That feeling, that ball of excitement in the pit of your stomach spread throughout your whole body and threatened to burst out between the fingers covering your mouth and holding it all in. Remember that? You could hardly contain it.
If you stop and try, you can feel a similar feeling right now. Can you feel it? It’s all around. You can feel it in the air. You can smell it and almost taste it. You can feel it and see it in the candle we lit.
It’s the expectation of this season. The expectation of Advent and Christmas. The tension and excitement build as we wait for this never old, always bold, need to be told event that is about to burst forth upon all of creation.
At times the tension seems almost too great to bear. At this time of year, the whole world stands like an anxious father outside the delivery room door. Nervously pacing, hoping, praying. Concerned for his bride, wondering how his and their life will change. Wondering if he’ll know how to hold the baby. Hoping that it’ll be all right and that the world will be a little better because of this baby.
B. That excitingly fearful anticipation and expectation is exactly what Mary and Joseph felt. They knew something new and good and wonderful was about to happen with the birth of their child. Remember how Mary found out? The Angel Gabriel told her. And remember how she reacted when her cousin Elizabeth found out. It’s recorded in Luke 1:39-55 (NRSV)
 In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country,
 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.
 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit
 and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
 And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?
 For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy.
 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”
 And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord,
 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
 for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
 His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
 He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;
 he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.
 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,
 according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
They knew this wasn’t some ordinary baby. Neither one of their children would ever be ordinary. And that added to their anticipation and expectation. In this season of Advent we are invited to dream dreams and permit expectant visions to dance in our heads. This season invites us to fill the cup of today with a full measure of tomorrow. This season invites us to drink deeply of the expectation and anticipation this season offers. For we are invited to receive the most exciting promise and gift which God has for us. God wants to give each of us a present even though we don’t deserve it. And that gift is a gift of Grace, the Incarnation, Christ, God with us. Salvation, reconciliation, redemption and forgiveness all wrapped up in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger.
A. God did all of that, started all this expectation and anticipation the moment Jesus was conceived.
I read a story about a schoolteacher in England who supervised the construction of a manger scene in a corner of her classroom by her students. The students were excited and enthusiastic as they set up the little barn and covered the floor with real straw and then arranged all the figures of Mary and Joseph and the shepherds and the Wise Men and all the animals. The students had all the characters facing the little crib in which the tiny Infant Jesus lay.
One little boy just couldn’t get enough. He was absolutely enthralled. He kept returning to it, and each time stood there completely engrossed but wearing a puzzled expression on his face. The teacher noticed and asked, “Is anything wrong? Do you have a question? What would you like to know?”
With his eyes still glued to the tiny manger scene, the boy said slowly, “What I’d like to know is, it’s so small, how does God fit in?” (2)
B. That’s a good question. The Incarnation is almost too big for our minds to grasp. We can’t really describe it, words and descriptions are woefully inadequate. Through the birth of Christ God came, not just in human form and likeness but as one of us.
One of us: Flesh and blood filled with hungers and desires, longings and feelings, ambitions and aspirations. One of us: Flesh and blood that got tired and cold and became discouraged and disheartened. One of us: An infant at first, who needed his diapers changed and who had to learn how to talk and walk and go to school. One of us: Flesh and blood, human, just like you and me. How did God do that? How could God still be God and yet be one of us and experience what life from our perspective is like?
That’s one of the mysteries that theologians have been trying to explain for centuries. I can’t do it. I’m not very good at math but even I know that 1+1=2. But in the Kingdom of God, 1+1=1. All I can understand is that God in Christ became one of us. And that excites my soul. That excites my spirit. God took up residence in the flesh. Divinity dwelt in humanity to show us the way to out of the darkness and into the light of salvation. And that sets up a whole other level of expectation.
C. Maybe this will help. Watch
God became one of us so that all of us could live out the best in us through what and who God promised us. That’s the Incarnation.
A. The Expectation of an encounter with the Incarnation during Advent becomes our Motivation. We know that we desperately need to be reminded what God has in store for us; how much God loves us; how much God wants to prosper us through God’s plans for us. We need to hear the Good News of God’s saving love as expressed in this birth, over and over again
Each Christmas season, Charles Krieg, a Pastor in New Jersey, takes his mother into New York City to look at all the decorations and to visit Santa at Macy’s Department Store. The windows of the department store were unforgettable one year.
The first window had a scroll which read, “The Smell of Christmas is in the Kitchen.” The scene was an old-fashioned kitchen with a black stove and food cooking on it; it was so life-like you could almost smell the food.
The second window was titled, “The Taste of Christmas is in the Dining Room.” There was a long table laden with food.
The third window showed a beautiful tree decorated with ornaments and lights, little toys and popcorn strings. The scroll read, “The Color of Christmas is in the Tree.”
The fourth window scroll said, “The Sound of Christmas is in the Carols.” This scene was a group of animated figures singing Christmas carols.
Then came the store’s main entrance. There was a crowd of people going in and out and if you had gone into the store right then and there, you would have completely missed a window. If you ignored the entrance and kept on going, you would have seen one more window.
The scroll in that window proclaimed: “But the Heart and Soul of Christmas is Here!” In this window was a stable with shepherds, wise men, Joseph, Mary, and the baby Jesus lying in a manger.
And that’s what it’s all about. Although we can’t explain it and we have to take it on faith, that manger was the throne of God. And that child, that baby lying there was filled with both the full nature of God and the full nature of humanity. But if we get so caught up in the festivities of Christmas without going as far as Bethlehem then we’ll miss the whole point and purpose of Christmas.
I read about three-year-old Tommy, and his grandfather who were singing Christmas carols together. But instead of singing “AWAY” in a manger, Tommy kept singing “THE WAY” in a manger. And you know what? Tommy was right! Jesus IS the way. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. And through Tommy’s song we get a glimpse of God’s kingdom. And a glimpse of God’s great love for us. We get glimpse of the Incarnation. And it fills us with Expectation and Motivation.
Only a love that exceeds all loves could be so self giving. Only the author of love could willingly enter into this world as one of us and bear what Christ bore on the cross for us and for our salvation.
But because the incarnation has taken place, because Christ came and walked among us, we can face the future unafraid. We know that we can handle the ups and downs of life because we know that we’re not alone. The Son of God is with us. The Son of God has walked the path we walk, and struggled with what we struggle. We know that life has a purpose and meaning and that there is an ultimate destination. And that REALLY fills us with Expectation and Motivation.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.
1. web research
2. King Duncan, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com