A Hollywood Christmas
This is the night of all nights. This is the celebration of all celebrations. This is the moment in history which changes all of history. This is the event that changed everything we ever knew about God. Even though God’s Grace was always present, always available, on this night Grace took the form of human flesh. On this night Grace smiles up at us while wrapped in swaddling clothes.
On this night we realize that everything, and I mean everything has changed. While the world seems to chug on like a Manheim Steamroller Christmas piece the true meaning of this night slips in quietly like a child peeking at their Christmas presents under the tree. In the midst of deafening bacchanalia of our Christmas parties and the blinding sartorial splendor of our decorations the true Light enters almost unseen and unnoticed except for a few shepherds, some Wise Men and murderous, jealous king.
The angels sang while Herod plotted. The shepherds and Wise Men worshipped while Joseph packed and checked out escape routes. And because of these events, we will never be the same and we can never look at one another or look at the world with the same eyes. Listen to what Galatians 4:4-7 has to say about this night. Galatians 4:4-7 (NRSV)
 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,
 in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children.
 And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
 So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.
I. EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED:
A. The movie “A Christmas Story” is one of those classic Christmas movies which captures the flavor of being a child at Christmas. All Ralphie wanted for Christmas was an “Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle!” But everybody, including Santa, kept saying “You’ll shoot your eye out kid!”
The days leading up to Christmas were frustrating and full of misadventures, one of which was constant bullying by Scut Farkus, who he describes as having yellow eyes, and Grover Dill! Farkus’s crummy little toadie. Mean! Rotten! They bullied Ralphie, his friends and his little brother every day after school. Finally, all that frustration built up and Ralphie snapped. He jumped Farkus and began pounding him and, to quote from the movie, “I have since heard of people under extreme duress speaking in strange tongues. I became conscious that a steady torrent of obscenities and swearing of all kinds was pouring out of me as I screamed.”
Ralphie’s mom pulls him off Farkus and takes him home, calms him down and tells him to lay down while she finishes getting everything ready for dinner. WATCH
Because of her actions, Ralphie’s relationship with his mother changed. How he looked at and thought about his mother changed. And it’s the same for us. Because of the events of this night, we will and can never be the same; our relationship with God has changed and we can never look at one another the same way again. We can never look at the world with the same eyes.
B. Because of this child wrapped in swaddling clothes, because of God Incarnate, God wrapped in the rags of our existence, we look at the world with a changed heart. We look at the world the same way this baby did, through God’s eyes; with God’s heart.
And when we embrace that notion; when we truly embrace the Christ Child in our hearts and in our lives, everything changes. Oh, life goes on, life still throws tragedies, heartaches, trials and tribulations at us, sometimes even harder at first. Life goes on as usual because the world hasn’t changed yet but we have. Because of that change, we are now equipped to face those tragedies and trials differently.
This baby whose birth we celebrate grew to be a man who gave his life for us on the cross. He bore the sin of the world to set us free from sin. He gave his life as the final sacrifice so we can stand clean and pure and whole before God as an heir of the Kingdom. He rose again to give us life eternal with him. And when he ascended, he sent the Holy Spirit to fill us and be with us “always, even to the end of the age.”
II. OUR ACTIONS CHANGE:
A. Because of this baby, we are not alone when we face the tragedies, heartaches, trials and tribulations of life. The presence of Christ is with us to guide us and to empower us to think and act differently, the think outside the box of the worldly answers and reactions. The Holy Spirit guides us and empowers us to think and act like Christ. The Holy Spirit gives us fresh eyes so we can look at the world differently.
Let me give you an example. If you’re anything like me and my youngest son, Josh, you’re still in mourning for the Rangers loss of the World Series. We cringe while St. Louis celebrates. But not everything is roses and sunshine in St. Louis. There is wailing and gnashing of teeth.
The World Series Banner had hardly been raised, the ring had barely been on his finger when to the consternation of St. Louis fans, Albert Pujols, Cardinals first baseman, signed a $254 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim. Fans were infuriated.
They began burning shirts, t-shirts, hats and jersey’s in effigy as a protest. Stores were giving them away to anyone who would take one.
After a conversation with one of his members, Rev. Matt Miofsky, pastor of the Gathering UMC, a colleague who I assisted in performing the wedding ceremony for my niece Jeanine, posted a notice on Facebook and Twitter: “Don’t burn that Pujols T-shirt or jersey! Bring it to The Gathering UMC. We’ll donate it to a charity in Anaheim. Seriously.”
Church member Elaine Kidwell, 74, a lifelong St. Louisan and Cardinals fan, first heard about The Gathering’s jersey recycling effort on Facebook and declared it “a very cool idea.”
“It’s a great way to put a positive spin on something that’s been very painful for all of us,” Kidwell said. “I think Pujols really sold St. Louis out, and people are really feeling down about it. The Recycle Five Drive is a way to have fun, put a positive spin on the whole thing, and get people laughing about it.”
Matt reported that their congregation has a member who has a friend in the Angels organization and the church is working with the Angels to find an appropriate clothing bank.
Two possible places were mentioned in the article I read. Mary’s Kitchen, which provides services for the homeless in Orange County near Angel Stadium and Covenant House of California, a shelter for homeless youth.
Miofsky said, “So much of faith is about perspective. There’s collective disappointment and anger among some in the community, and part of our job as a church is to help people funnel those feelings into a making a positive difference.”
B. In John 1:14 (NRSV) we read, “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”
In Revelation 21:3 (NRSV) we read: And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them.”
Those two verses describe the very nature of the events of this night. The Incarnation, God with us, God dwelling with us as one of us in the form of Jesus, 100% Divine and 100% human all in one person. One of the basic understandings of science is that two objects can’t occupy the same space. In math we know that 1 + 1 = 2. But in this case 1 + 1 = 1 and this baby Jesus is both 100% human and 100% divine all in the same space.
The incarnation is too big to wrap our puny minds around. But it’s easy to wrap your mind around something as simple and precious as a baby. We’ve all held babies. The difference is, this baby holds the future. This baby holds God. This baby will eventually hold the souls of each and every one of us as He hangs on the cross.
This baby, the Word made flesh; God with us, fills us, dwells in our hearts through the power of the Holy Spirit and allows us to make a positive difference in the world by looking at the world though the eye’s and heart of God.
As heartwarming as the movie A Christmas Story is, this is the true Christmas Story. This is the night of all nights. This is the celebration of all celebrations. This is the moment in history which changes all of history. On this night the Word became flesh and Grace smiles up at us while wrapped in swaddling clothes.
Our hearts have been changed our world has been changed. Because of this night, we will never be the same and we can never look at one another or look at the world with the same eyes.
Tonight, as we share in the Sacrament of Holy Communion, embrace that change. Embrace this child wrapped in swaddling clothes and the flesh of our existence. Embrace the change He brings for us and for the world.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.