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FIRST SUNDAY IN CHRISTMAS

Carole Moore, preaching

 

Good Morning and Merry Christmas!

 

As you know, Pastor LeCroy is in South Carolina for the holidays. He will be back next week.

 

This Sunday is one of the lowest attended Sundays in the church year, falling in between Christmas and New Year's. Everyone is either away with family, resting up from the hectic pace of Christmas shopping and cooking, watching football, or just relaxing in anticipation of the New Year.


On this First Sunday of Christmas, we traditionally have a service of lessons and carols. Everyone enjoys singing their favorite Christmas carols and the Christmas season in church never seems to last long enough.


Our lessons today all relate to "children" --- which seems appropriate for the Christmas season. But they do not mean only "children" in the normal sense of the word.


In Isaiah, it says "The Prophet declares surely they are my people, children who will not deal falsely." Children are innocent; they have no preconceived ideas or notions. They accept everything as it is. They accept everyone at face value. Children do not judge based on past experiences, only on what is happening now.


It was the presence of the Lord which saved people --- it was the love of the Lord which saved them. The Lord reddemed the people of Israel and lifted them up and carried them.


Our Second Lesson from Galatians also refers to children. Paul writes, "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.
God receives us as children, innocent children, and gives us the Kingdom of Heaven. God sent forth His son that we might receive adoption as sons of God.


Did you ever watch children, really look at children when they get excited? Their eyes widen, they start to move up and down with excitement. They can barely keep still. There is a brightness on their faces. hey are really innocent-looking.


Walter and I spent Christmas in Pittsburgh with our family including a great-nephew of three and a half, and a great-niece of one and a half. One of the gifts we give Nate, the three-and-a-half-year old, was a toy construction set. There was a circular track, and on the track a dump truck went to the loading area, rocks dropped into the truck. Then the truck went to a dumping area and dumped the rocks. The rocks ran down an incline into an open area. The truck moved around the track and now a bulldozer scooped up the rocks and put them into the dump truck which then went over to the original loading area and dumped the rocks into the holder. Then the dump truck moved to the front of the track and the whole process began again. There was nothing that Nate had to do; he just sat and watched this whole process, over and over and over. And with a child's innocence he was fascinated by it.
God sent His son so that we might be sons and daughters. We are God's adopted children. He became human through a human birth so that we might be elevated to the status of Children of God. The Son of God became human in order for us to become the Children of God.


Jesus was born into an earthly life, a human life. He became subject to human limitations. he entered a human culture. Christ liberated men and women and opened up for them the freedom, the ability to love God and his neighbor. God gives us freedom through Jesus Christ. God gives us freedom, freedom to love.


The Gospel today (Matthew 2:13-23)relates the fleeing to Egypt of the Holy Family. the Gospel is about the Holy family of jesus. An angel had told Joseph that all of them (he, Mary and the baby Jesus) should flee to Egypt, since King Herod was going to start a search for the baby in order to kill him.


In the middle of the night, Joseph and Mary and Jesus went to Egypt. Notice that nowhere in the Gospel does it mention Mary by name; she is referred to as :his mother."


Why did Herod launch this search? What did he have to fear?


Herod had heard about the strangers in the area, the Wise Men, who came bearing rich gifts. he heard of their idea that a new King had appeared, a King so great that a star had announced his birth. King herod was afraid; he was superstitious and believed in fate. HE was King of the Jews. And he intended to stay King.


Herod called in his scribes and asked them if they knew anything about the prophets and a future Messiah King. Where would this King appear?


The scribes read what the prophet Micah had written centuries before: "From the little village of Bethlehem shall come a ruler who will govern my people Israel." A thousand years before, the great King David had been born in Bethlehem. In the future a new King would come from Bethlehem or at least this new King would be a descendant of David.


Herod asked the wise men to return and tell him about this King after they had found him. But the wise men returned home a different way. Thus Herod did not know what the wise men found.


Herod then sent his soldiers to bethlehem to find this King. He ordered his soldiers to kill all male children in Bethlehem who were two years old or less. But before the soldiers arrived, Joseph and Mary slipped away at night on the road south to Egypt.


After Herod's death, an angel appeared again to Joseph in a dream and told him to take the child and his mother and go to Israel since those who were seeking the child's life were dead. Jospeh took Mary and Jesus and started on the way to Israel.


On the way, Jospeh heard that Herod's son was the new ruler and Jospeh was afraid to go to Israel. Joseph had a dream in which he was warned against going there, so he went to Galilee instead. They settled in a town called Nazareth, fulfilling what the Prophets had spoken "He will be called a Nazarene."


In the coming year of 2008, let us be thankful for all that we have, not only for material gifts, but for the spiritual ones which we all share. Be thankful we have each other and our friends to share with. Be thankful we have a beautiful church in which to worship each week. Be thankful we have lovely music. Be thankful we have an energetic and caring Pastor. Be thankful for ALL of God's blessings. Be thankful we can gather each week to share the "Body and Blood of Christ." Be thanful we know God and His teachings.


Be thankful for everything we have received.


Remember that today's Gospel is about family, the Holy Family. Make sure that our Families are treated with the same love that God bestows on us.


And lastly, as the New Year approaches, let us remember that we are indeed "Children of God." We are created in His image. As children we come to God for guidance, for comfort, as a child would go to one of his parents for guidance, for comfort, for love.


We only have to come to God for that same guidance, that same comfort, and especially that same love.
We only have to ask Him for it.

 

Happy New Year.

Amen.