Summary: A sermon for the Second Sunday of Advent.
“Christmas Is Not Your Birthday: Giving up on Perfect” (based on Mike Slaughter's book)
How many of you have seen the movie Christmas Vacation starring Chevy Chase?
The movie has become a holiday favorite.
It’s a parody about the false expectations that we often build up around the traditional family Christmas experience.
Many of us can probably identify with the character Clark Griswold, who does everything within his control to give his family the gift of a perfect Christmas.
The movie starts with Clark taking his family into the wilderness in search of the “perfect Christmas tree.”
After a road rage accident, that ends with the family station wagon crashing into a snow bank, the Griswolds set off into the wilderness on foot.
After a long march in the snow, Clark finds the perfect tree, only to realize that he forgot to bring a saw.
From wrestling with strands of Christmas lights that don’t work to suffering extended visits from difficult relatives, the Griswolds continue to face experiences that cause many to think: “Been there, done that.”
How many of you have had the yuletide experience of trying to assemble a bicycle at 2 a.m. on Christmas morning…
…only to learn that you probably should have paid the assembly fee?
Like Clark, our intentions to plan a “good, old-fashioned family Christmas” may not always live up to what the consumer-focused marketing companies have made it out to be.
But then again those visions of Christmas often replace the biblical meaning of “God with us.”
And what a shame if they do.
Because after weeks of preparation, all for the purpose of creating one perfect day in an imperfect year, someone probably will be upset because they didn’t get the present they wanted, a toy is already broken, Grandpa drank too much, and Grandma got run over by a reindeer!!!
The Christmas season can also be, for many, a reminder of painful memories.
These words from a Facebook friend echo this kind of pain:
“The Christmas when my dad left our family was a very sad Christmas.
I was about 6 years old.
My aunts and extended family went out of their way to see that we still had presents and a Christmas tree.
While grateful for the gifts, it was not the presents or the tree that stuck in my mind, but the lesson I learned years later…that God can and will help you get through the dark times in life.”
Has Christmas ever brought the unexpected to your life?
If so, you may know that even in the midst of the unexpected, God shows up!
Sickness, death, divorce, unemployment.
Life gets terribly messy, but in the midst of our mess, God is here!
No matter what we are struggling to overcome, no matter what life issues have come our way, God promises to show up!
And Christmas is God’s vivid reminder that amid uncertainty, God comes to bring us peace, purpose, joy, hope, wholeness and salvation!!!
Have you ever thought about how messy Christmas really is?
I know we often sanitize Christmas by taking Jesus’ birth out of its biblical and historical context.
Christmas card images portray peaceful settings where “the cattle are lowing” right next to “the little Lord Jesus asleep in the hay.”
But in reality, Jesus was born in a stable, a cave where animals were kept.
And wherever animals are kept, there is dung.
And where there is dung there are flies…and I need not go further…
The point I’m trying to make is that walking in the way of Jesus is neither safe nor predictable.
As a matter of fact, it can be down- right messy!
In the first Chapter of Luke we see how complicated the situation of Jesus coming into the world is.
“In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David.
The virgin’s name was Mary.”
How emotionally prepared, do you suppose, Mary—a twelve to fifteen year-old girl was for this life experience?
Gabriel said to her: “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.
He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.
The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”
What part of “do not be afraid” do you suppose Mary didn’t understand?
Do you think the thought ever crossed her mind that her parents might not believe her explanation?
We already know that her fiancé Joseph, rejected her earlier explanations from Matthew Chapter 1.