Sermon Given By Pastor John D. Kleist: December 24, 2005, Christmas Eve
Early in the week I was talking with a friend and we asked each other the question we have all been asking each other all week: “Are you ready for Christmas?”
I replied yes, very much so, except that I could not get a good grip on my Christmas Eve Sermon.
She replied, Presbyterian that she is, “that should be the easiest sermon of the year. Just stand up and tell them about the baby Jesus, that’s what they want!”
To which I replied, I always like to be telling the people something new and different.
So tonight I have decided that instead of telling you the old story about Jesus’ birth that you already know about, that I would tell you the story of my birth.
It was a cold rainy December day in 1953. My Father hand just taken my Mother into Bayonne Hospital….. No! Just kidding!
But I think that this threat to bore you with the tale of my birth illustrates nicely a point that we could each take home with us this evening. That “The Birth of Jesus Never Saved Anyone.”
His birth never shook or shaped anyone's life except perhaps Mary and Joseph. It is because of the death and resurrection of Jesus that it became possible and necessary to tell the story of his life, including his birth.
No one is interested in the story of my birth because I have never become anything important. I am not a great artist, politician or inventor. It is only when we become something, that someone will research our birth, write a biography and remember us.
This remembrance will not reflect what was known about us at our time of birth, but will tell the story as of one headed toward something great. The end of the story will determine both whether the story is told at all and in what light it will be told.
Tonight’s gospel lesson on the birth of Christ is a reading back, it is a report given to enhance our understanding of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and what it was that these achieved.
Who and what Jesus was, was largely misunderstood by those who knew him in his life. His life was a dynamic project at work which became apparent only at the end of his life.
Jesus, by dying and being raised from the dead, showed that, for God, there is no such thing as death. We do not need to live in the shadow of death because of Jesus sharing his life with us.
Jesus did not just happen! All along, there had been a purpose to his being alive, a purpose not comprehended at the time but only gradually and later.
That Jesus rescued us so the we could be once again taken up into God’s purpose.
In telling us tonight’s story Luke is telling us about what he understands as the whole purpose of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. What Luke knew in his present, the risen Lord, opened the future to him and helped him to understand and re-image the past.
Luke knew the hard violent death of Christ but his Lord’s resurrection showed him something very gentle, delicate and quite important.
The important plan by a Father God who loves people and wants to involve them in his story.
He wants to make each of us something greater than we could imagine on our own.
That Luke chooses to tell us this delicate story illustrates the hugely delicate project that God works out over a vast expanse of time.
It is not some awesome power that puts things right, but the power of the one who loves us into being and for whom time is of no concern.
When we hear the words: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” We would do well not to think it refers to people in the past, but rather that we are the ones who have seen the light.
Each of us, in spite of being taught by the crucified and risen Lord, has participated in the darkness. Tonight we continue with our own gradual, child-like steps into Christ’s living light.
Tonight we look back at the project of love that came into being. We consider the painful troubled birth, in our midst. The birth of The Truth, which gives us the capacity to learn the truth about ourselves and to tell the truth.
It is so delicate and beautiful that we can scarcely comprehend it. At Christmas we come here tonight to revere the unexpected and improbable nature of God’s project. And we can rejoice in the gift we are given. The gift each of us receives unrelated to our worthiness or our belonging.
It is a gift whose first sign is of a vulnerable God born where there was no room, in a back-water no place town. Honored for the life it turned into, and for our lives that HIS turned around.
Tonight, knowing Easter, we can each kneel at the manger.