Summary: Focuses on the resurrection of Christ as preparation for the Advent Season.
"Prelude to His Birth: The Last Sunday of the Year"
1 Corinthians 15:1-8; 12-19
November 25th, 2001
Today is the last Sunday of the year. I know that you’re thinking that I’ve had too much turkey to eat this last week and have obviously lost track of time. But that’s not true. Well, I did have too much turkey to eat, but I haven’t lost track of the time. Today is that last Sunday in the church calendar. Next week begins the season of Advent, when we focus on the first coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Therefore, the first Sunday of Advent is also the first Sunday of the church year, beginning naturally with the birth of Christ. So, here in the last Sunday before Advent we are at the end of the church year. To be honest, this is a pretty funny kind of Sunday, sort of stuck in the middle of everything. Last Sunday we were talking about Thanksgiving and the holiday week in front of us. Next week we will beginning Advent and our whole emphasis will be on the birth of Christ; the church is going to undergo a massive facelift after the service this morning as decorations go up, starting with the Chrismon tree. But here we are in the middle of the two holidays, winding things up in anticipation of the season in front of us.
But to be honest, this Sunday’s message is crucial to understanding the weeks ahead of us. You know what you are going to hear about in the next month, in sermons, songs, decorations, and the symbols all around you. You will hear about the baby Jesus, born in a manger, come to bring peace to the earth. You will get cards in the mail that proclaim, "Joy to the World." You will hear songs that tell about that Silent Night in the Little Town of Bethlehem. You will see manger scenes which reenact the cave in which Jesus was born (since most scholars agree that the manger was probably located in a small cave). Trees will go up in stores, churches and homes which represent the eternal life that Jesus came to bring. Christmas is a magical time for many people, filled with peace, joy, and love. But we’re not there yet, we’re here at the Sunday before Advent season begins, and this Sunday gives us the real meaning behind it all.
Today, before we boil the figgy pudding (whatever that is) and sing the lovely Christmas carols, before we get to the beginning of Jesus’ life, we have to wrap up the life of Jesus from the year before. What does all of this mean? Why did Jesus come to the earth in the first place? In order to get to the beginning of the church year we have to spend some time at the end. For many people, their entire encounter with Jesus Christ will revolve around the events that will be remembered in the upcoming month. They will remember the beautiful story of a virgin giving birth to a precious child. They will respect the husband who was willing to give his wife the benefit of the doubt and bear the shame of the questions surrounding the birth of his son. People will consider the visitors who came to see the young child: the common shepherds and the glorious wise men. To the majority of the people in the world the story of Jesus is just that: a pleasant story, a myth even. A man was born under incredible circumstances to bring a message of joy and peace to a difficult world. A man lived and urged us all to live better lives. Jesus is up there with Buddha, Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, and Abraham Lincoln; legends who urged us to a better plane of existence. The Jesus that most people will know as the church year begins will never grow up: he will forever remain the child in the manger.
All around the world people are digging out their manger scenes. They will lovingly place all of the figurines on a table or a mantle. The shepherds, the sheep, the wise men, Mary, Joseph. Then, they will take out the baby Jesus and place him with great care in the little manger in the middle of the scene. In about a month, they will pack up all of their decorations. One of the last things they will pack up, not to be seen for another year, will be the baby Jesus: wrapped in newspaper and placed back in the box for a year in the closet. In the hearts of many people the same thing will happen this month. Jesus will be taken out of storage for a month, but when he is placed back in storage he will still be a little baby in a manger with no threat to the world as we know it.