Summary: An Advent sermon in light of the recent mass shootings.
"Christmas Gifts that Won't Break: The Gift of Love"
Has this been a dark week or what?
The shootings in California are beyond heart-wrenching.
Last month was dark as well with the attacks in Paris and then the shootings in Colorado.
This summer was extremely dark.
A mass shooting took place at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina on the evening of June 17.
During a prayer service, nine people were killed by a young white American boy named Dylan Roof.
Dylan was from Shelby, North Carolina.
He later confessed that he committed the shooting in hopes of igniting a race war.
On Thursday, July 16 a man opened fire right here in Chattanooga.
As details surrounding the San Bernardino, California, shooting gradually emerged Wednesday evening, President Barack Obama told CBS News that the U.S. has “a pattern now of mass shooting in this country that has no parallel anywhere else in the world.”
According to the Washington Post, the San Bernardino tragedy was the 355th mass shooting this year.
And the incident in San Bernardino overshadowed another shooting in Savannah, Georgia that occurred the same day, claiming one life and injuring three others.
On the same day as the attack in Colorado Springs a gunfight killed two and injured two others in Sacramento, California.
On Nov. 23, there were mass shootings in Houston, Minneapolis and Columbus, Ohio.
There were five shootings on Nov. 22.
On Oct. 1, a gunman killed 10 people and wounded seven more at a community college in Roseburg, Oregon.
And The United States Air Force has fired off more than 20,000 missiles and bombs since the U.S. bombing campaign against ISIS began 15 months ago, leading to depleted munitions stockpiles and calls to ramp up funding and weapons production.
In the meantime, hate-filled rhetoric has been shooting across the airwaves and social media at lightning speed.
Loud, dramatic and charismatic radio and t-v personalities stoke the flames of fear and reaction-ism; it makes for good ratings.
Lots of people are scared.
Lot's of folks are angry.
And this makes us vulnerable to charlatans who would lead us down even darker roads.
These are dark days.
These are violent times.
Lots of bad things are happening.
And lots of good people are reacting in some seemingly "crazy ways," with rhetoric unbecoming.
On the night that Jesus was born the world was enmeshed in darkness as well.
Violence and social injustice made life very unstable.
It was at this time that revolutionary and terrorist-like groups were formed.
The Romans and the rulers appointed by them forced back the peasant farmers and the number of landless tenants increased.
At the same time huge estates in Galilee and other places were owned by the Jewish 1 % while everyone else starved.
Violence and oppression was rampant.
Absentee landlords, tenant revolts, debts and debtors, slavery, extortion, corruption, starving beggars, uncaring rich people, day laborers waiting around for employment shaped the landscape.
When the heavens opened and a multitude of angels sang out; when the skies were on fire with glory and God was announcing to the universe that the Savior of the world was laying in a feeding trough in Bethlehem:
All this mess was taking place...
And God chose to tell shepherds--the weakest of the weak, the loneliest of the lonely, the poorest of the poor--people with no power; no political clout.
Shepherds owned nothing, and they were shepherds not because they had chosen this career path...
...they were shepherds because this was the only job they could get.
In Jesus' day shepherds were considered to be at the bottom of the social ladder.
And they often had a bad reputation.
No one in their right mind would ever invite them to a party, or have them over for dinner.
They were the invisible people...
They slept outside.
They lived outside.
They didn't smell good; they didn't look good.
If you ever feel down and out...
...If you ever think that your life doesn't amount to much...
...if you ever feel like an outsider just remember the shepherds.
Remember that God chose to appear to them first!!!
And what did they do when they were told basically: "Your Savor is born today...He is Christ the Lord.
This is a sign for you: you will find a newborn baby wrapped snugly [in a barn. He has been placed in an animal feeding trough.
His parents are young immigrants on the run.
Their stinky baby is the God of the universe]?
What did they do when they heard this?
Did they fall down laughing uncontrollably?
Some folks might.
Some folks probably did.
What did they do?
They said to each other, "Let's go right now to Bethlehem and see what's happened."