This is the text of my Christmas Eve sermon. Text that is in italics are quotations from Luke 2. Text that is in bold italics are quotes from the song, King of Kings by the Toad Lilies.
I REALLY hope that your Christmas shopping is over. But I realize you might not be done because there is always that ONE person. You know what I mean – and if you’re sitting next to them, try not to stare. But everyone has that ONE person for whom, trying to buy any present, let alone the right one, is a struggle, possibly even near impossible.
For me, this was my mom. My dad was easy to buy for. He was an avid reader. He collected figurines of Santa Claus dressed in different outfits. Dad was a duck hunter and deer hunter. Dad was SO easy to buy presents for.
Then there was my mom. I love her dearly, but she was SO hard to shop for. She really didn’t have any hobbies. She did crafts; she would make Christmas ornaments to sell at local craft shows, but she would get her own supplies. She was not a reader, not a fan of anything special, she only collected souvenir spoons and already had several racks of those. I felt bad buying her cooking stuff, blenders, cookers or stuff like that. The only cooking instrument she said she wanted was a George Foreman grill, and how many of those can you give someone?
So I bought her “festive holiday sweaters.” REALLY Festive sweaters. YOU might call them ugly Christmas sweaters, but she treated them just like my horrible artwork from elementary school. She wore them proudly. But that was all that I could figure to get her as a Christmas present.
It is hard to figure out a way to show someone how much you love them. It is hard to show someone what they mean to you. Sometimes, you just don’t know what to do to let someone know that they are special, that you would do anything for them.
We are like that for God. The whole story of the Old Testament is a series of ways that God tried to show all of humanity, but especially God’s Chosen People, the Israelites, how much they were loved.
God chose Abraham out of everyone in the world to receive God’s blessings. God promised to give Abraham and Sarah more descendants than stars in the sky, and to bless them so they could be a blessing to the whole world. God wanted to give them God’s love, and for them to take that love and share it, to give it to others. That way, people would choose to love God because they could see and experience God’s love. But those descendants who became more numerous than the stars in the sky began to sin; they strayed from God’s commands and walked away from God’s love.
God left them to suffer the consequences of their actions, but then God would forgive them and bless them again. Then they would sin and stray and shun God again, and they’d pay for what they did, and God would forgive and bless them. The cycle continued; Lather – rinse – repeat.
And we really can’t look down on the ancient Israelites, shaking our head and saying, “Tsk, tsk.” We do the same thing. We know what God wants us to do; we know that God wants us to take the love, grace, mercy and forgiveness God has given us, and give it to others. In fact, we are commanded to do just that.
The proclamation of the army of angels that appear to the shepherds appears to be a pronouncement. But it can also be read as a command. Glory to God in the highest, & on earth peace-good will toward all people! All it takes is adding a verb here and there.
GIVE Glory to God in the highest, Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength. Meanwhile, here on earth share peace and show good will toward all people! In other words, love your neighbor as yourself; love each other as God has shown love to us.
God realized the Israelites just couldn’t understand what Divine love was like. So God decided to give all of humanity a gift that would express that love. God gave us the gift of God as one of us, God with us, Emmanuel.
God became human. God became a baby. Because God acts in unexpected ways, God became the baby boy of a poor teenage mother. They couldn’t get a room, so God’s gift to humanity was born in a barn, with a feeding trough for his first crib.
King of Kings, lying in a manger - Lord of Lords, so frail so small - Prince of Peace, son of the almighty, came to earth, to give his life for all.
That is how hard we are to give a gift.
To announce the birth, God could have had the heavens ripped open and have the whole host of heavenly angels proclaiming the birth of God made human. And God did just that. The angelic choir proclaimed the Good News of Great Joy, which shall be to all people to a bunch of shepherds. Not to kings or queens. Not to the media. Not to religious leaders. To shepherds. Common people. That is who God had the hosts of heaven proclaim Good News of Great Joy, which shall be to all people.
THAT’S how hard it is to give humanity a gift.
A child born in Bethlehem, in pure humility. He came for shepherds. He came for kings. He came for you and me. Let heaven and earth adore him, let all creation sing, Peace on earth, goodwill to all, hallelujah to the King of Kings.
God wanted the Good News of Great Joy, which shall be to all people to get to ALL people. So the proclamation started at the bottom. The Good News came to the people who most needed to hear it. The King of Kings had to start out at the bottom, sharing love with those who don’t feel loved, those who don’t feel included. So, on behalf of Our Savior, Emmanuel, Jesus of Nazareth, let me say this clearly and plainly: You are loved and valued by your Creator. God loves you.
No matter what you have done, God loves you.
No matter what you have NOT done, God loves you.
No matter who doesn’t love you, God loves you.
No matter who you love you, God loves you.
No matter who has made you think you are unworthy, you are worthy, and God loves you.
God wanted to show humanity how much we are loved. God gave us the gift of God’s son who would deliver us from death and would forgive us of our sins in an unexpected way.
Please share this gift of love with someone who needs to hear that message. Share the message of Good News of Great Joy, which shall be to all people because, to all of us is born a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.
That is the greatest gift we could be given.
Hallelujah to the King of Kings
Merry Christmas and Amen.
Pastor Brian's Page
Pastor Brian Robert Campbell has served at Our Savior's and Emmanuel since August 1, 2011, and began serving Nazareth on December 1, 2015.
Pastor Brian is originally from Saginaw, Michigan. He graduated from Alma College with a B.A. in Business Administration, and worked for the Saginaw Public Schools' Community Education Department for 17 years before answering the call to ministry. He graduated with a M. Div. from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg in 2011. ONE in Christ Lutheran Parish is his first call.
He is the only child of Robert and Charlotte Campbell, both who have entered the Church Eternal.
He is accompanied in ministry by his faithful bulldogge Ananias, who regularly writes for our newsletter. His articles are archived here.
He is a fan of sports teams from his native Michigan, especially the Tigers and the Lions. But we tolerate him despite that.
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