Summary: A sermon for the 4th Sunday in Advent
Jack Shea, writer and theologian shares his thoughts about how to send out Christmas greetings. Shea writes:
“Some Christmas I am going to send out a Christmas card that will look like this. On the cover there will be three images. The first image will be a star brightly shining but it will be surrounded by darkness. The second image will be an evergreen but it will be surrounded by trees without leaves. The third image will be the traditional one, it will be a child wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger, but the child will be surrounded by a ramshackle stable. When you open the card, inside there will be in very bold print, "Have a Defiant Christmas!"
I’d like to explore those images suggested by Shea for his Christmas card on this Sunday before Christmas.
1—A light shining in the darkness.
As I have thought about my experiences with light this thought has occurred to me: Christmas isn’t about light. It’s about light in the darkness.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. John 1:5 There is a defiance, a rebelliousness, an audacity to the light. It lives in the darkness but the darkness cannot overcome it.
2--An evergreen but surrounded by
trees without leaves.
"What great endurance you have. Because you have stayed awake, I will give you the gift of being ever green….” From Why Some Trees are Ever Green
In the seeming dead of winter when all the other trees lose their leaves, the evergreens stay green and stay awake. The evergreens are audacious—daring and bold. They defy the defoliation of winter. They live and they give us a sense of life.
3-- A child wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger, but surrounded by a ramshackle stable.
For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (v. 6)
The child wrapped in swaddling clothes means that the child is loved. The child is not abandoned, but wrapped and taken care of. The child is laid in a manger, a feeding trough, which means that this beloved child is meant to be food for the world , the bread of life.
Although this is a symbol of love, it is also happens in a place where there is no room for them at the inn. It’s experiencing love in a land that lacks hospitality. It’s an audacious Love.
CONCLUSION: There is much darkness, barrenness and inhospitality in the lives we lead, and we have to, at Christmas time, defy those. The question is, how do we celebrate in a world that is not perfect?
We can display audacity even when the circumstances of our lives are not completely where we want them to be.
The problem is we are often not in touch with this deep, connection to the Divine Source.
Meister Eckhart, a theologian, once said that each person has a vintage wine cellar but they seldom drink from it. We have to find the wine cellar in order to drink from it.
In 2 Cor. 4:7 Paul says, We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.
We find the beloved child in ourselves. We find the light in ourselves. We find the greenness in ourselves and it defies the adverse circumstances of our lives.
My prayer for each one of you, now and forever, is that you will have an audacious Christmas—one in which the day breaks and the shadows flee away.
The people here today at Bridgewater United Methodist Church who walked in darkness have seen a great light; you who have lived in a land of deep darkness— on you light has shined. And so it is. Amen.