Summary: When we strip away the candles, tinsels, stockings and presents we come to the real message of Christmas for all “for God so loved us”
Sermon: Sending Greetings of Love (Christmas is Weird) Dec 16, 2001
Christmas is just plain weird. I mean have you ever thought about it. What other time of year do you sit around staring at a dead tree in your living room while eating candy out of your socks? And look at the Christmas cards we send.
1. Kitten - eat poinsettas it would die
2. frozen pond - no enough water hardly to have a lake much less skate on it
3. a snowman
4. then you have the family pictures: Dafts, Uncle Donald and Aunt Pat
The first Christmas card as we know it was designed in 1843 by the artist J.C. Horsley. It was about the size of a postcard. From this design one thousand cards were lithographed and hand colored three years later for Sir Henry Cole, first director of the South Kensington Museum. However, it was very well received you see. It pictures a Victoria family celebrating the gentle spirit of the season around a table. They are making a toast to health and happiness for their family friends and nation. Flanking the scene of Christmas cheer and celebration were the biblical concern for clothing the naked and feeding the hungry. Church folks in particular objected to the card for the reminder of benevolence was too graphic and hard hitting.
You know we have done the same thing to the Christmas story. We have taken out the graphic hard hitting rough edges out of the story to make it into this serene gentle story of a cute cuddly little baby. We have made the story easy to swallow, easy to understand. Take for instance the angel in today text that was read earlier during the lighting of the advent candles.
Luke 2:8-9 8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
I want you to close your eyes for moment and image the scene the shepherds are out in the field and an angel appears. We tend to imagine….
We learned last week that Luke was a physician and hence very detail oriented. He interviewed eye witnesses in an effort to make his story as factual as possible. While the angel is not identified here tradition suggests that it was the same angel that brought the good news to Zechariah and Elizabeth and Mary. His name was Gabriel. It is a masculine name. The angel was male not female. And his name means “warrior of God.” Now I don’t know about you but I haven’t seen many dainty petite warriors in light flowing gowns lately. Gabriel was probably a large intimating image of a man in army fatigues with a chest plate and blazing sword. The greek suggests that the angel “stood over them” probably up in the air towering over them.
Middle of verse 9 : And the “Glory of the Lord shone around them” When Moses stood in the glory of the lord his face got sun burn wait a minute that was in the movie the 1o Commandments that’s not scriptural but what it does say is that Moses had to shield his face for the glory of the Lord was so intense. The glory of the lord that shown around Gabriel wasn’t a little candle glowing in the dark. It was like one of those mega spot lights that car dealer or store might have out front to announce a really really big sale and you can see it from miles away as it arcs through the sky. The glory of the Lord was a super spot light radiating out from a large intense being and
end of verse 9 and the shepherds were terribly afraid. Literally “they feared a great fear” I mean they were shaking in their boots and they didn’t even have any boots. I mean wouldn’t you be. I mean maybe that’s why we have tampered with the image of the angel in the nativity story. I mean we are talking about one scary image that came in the middle of the night to a group of shepherds.
And talking about shepherds…in today’s nativity scene - young quite clean clean shaven with cute little baby lamb….in reality low life, no bath, smelled, unshaven dirty, rough looking - rough life showed in their faces…thieves….not sitting around gazing at the sky most asleep while a couple remained on night watch for predators - wolves.
And why shepherds - This is the most important event in all of history, even in all of the heavens. Never before had God gone to earth as a human much less a baby. And who does God send a birth announcement too. Not the king, or statesmen. Not to governors or heads of state but to shepherds. Moses was shepherd tending his flock when he came upon the burning bush. David was a shepherd in the field when he was made king.