Sermon

 December 27, 2020

Scripture Reading Matthew 2:1-23

By now, you would think Joseph was used to getting these angel messages. And maybe he even looked forward to them. I think I would. Would you? Especially if they can help me bridge my fear with something that helps me align with God’s will for life.

Truth is, Joseph needed these warnings. They came just in time to save his sweet family. Jesus was just a toddler when the trouble with the Roman Empire began.

Though he had not personally contributed, his birth was a big part of the rumbling. It was bad enough now to cause Jesus, the Savior of Humankind to become a refugee – being forced from home by all of the oppression and violence.

How does God expect us to usher in more life in the face of what seems to be very destructive stuff going on all around us? Maybe a direct threat to us? The angel messengers remind us Do not be afraid one more time until Jesus himself grows up and reminds us again and again of this message.

And this time, the angels want this family to lose their fear so that can get up and go. So that they can leave those things that weigh them down behind. So they can move into a new year and a new life.

Doesn’t that sound good?

We might not need to leave our homes or our homeland, but we all have something that we need to flee from. Maybe the wrath to come. Maybe the things that are holding us from experiencing the life God intends. Take an inventory as this year closes and get over your fear so we can unload our burden and get on with this message of how this message saved Jesus’ life so he could save ours.

Emmanuel, God with us, offering this new life. So let’s take a closer look to see what it is that our fear might bring instead. It might help us get to that next place. To get up and go.

Our fear brings the opposite of life, which believe it or not is not death. It is something that at first glance might not seem like it, but is probably worse. And that is APATHY.

Someone said there are two kinds of people in the world. Those who say “whatever” and those who say “whatever it takes.” Whatever is an apathetic response. A shrug. Who cares anyway? It is indifference. Whatever it takes is the response of the committed. It refuses to give up or give in. sounds like Joseph doesn’t it? Sounds like Jesus too as a matter of fact, and maybe we can find our way there too.

Christianity calls us to use this mentality.

To leave apathy behind and be ready to get up and go. To experience more life. TO share it with others.

This Christmas story just keeps piling on the unlikely characters. The old people, the virgins, a carpenter, shepherds, and now enter the magi. Those who come from a different place, culture and religious practices.

The magi come looking for a King which is important to what happens next – there can only be one King in an authoritarian hierarchy. This proclaimed “King,” furthermore is born of Jewish parents and so no doubt Herod’s fear is about the uprising of the occupied Jews. To enact a genocide is the ultimate in apathy toward a people’s humanity and dignity. Indeed, to regard a people as less than human is what is required for genocide or oppression in any form.

Here comes the angel to issue a wake up call to Joseph. Flee. Now. This family becomes refuges to save their very lives. And whatever it takes is certainly Joseph’s attitude. Joseph is used to hearing the messages from the angels and so this time, he is ready to act immediately, doing whatever is necessary.

We too need to do whatever it takes to protect life especially of the most at risk people. We need to wake up. To shake off apathy. To get up and act, doing whatever it takes.

A man who has been called a prophet of our time wrote a letter at Christmas that speaks to the Christmas story today. As a matter of fact, to our world situation today. Let’s take a listen to some of his words and see if they connect the dots between long ago, recently and now. Let’s see if they speak to us about overcoming apathy and help us find the new life God offers.

Dr Martin Luther King Jr. wrote this in 1962. Not the I have a dream speech, but definitely a message we need to hear.

He begins…
Greetings of the Season:
When the horizons of man’s destiny loom ashen and somber; when the deafening report of weaponry stuns yearnings for peace; when people are alienated from the outside society, spiritually isolated, and weary of heart; when a child is hungry, a father desperate, and a mother fearful, the beseeching question arises, where can one turn?

Dr. King beckons us to find an answer, and goes on to name some of the situations of his day, political and spiritual threats to our country, world and our own souls. He names the disparity of the times. Many still with us today.

Then he continues…
We, these people, you, all of us must have not only hope for the unknown future but also confidence in our capacity to change the menacing present. Let us put hands and heart, mind and muscle to this task. Let us not give up, for surrender and apathy are nothing but failure.

He continues…
This is a season when we can summon that kind of determination and bold purpose required to create inner peace and to commit external acts of good will. Peace and good will, the simplest and most elusive of dreams, the dreams of this season, begin with the individual before they can be extended to collective man. So let us begin with ourselves.

Dr King ends with a call for us to be truly alive by recognizing the God-given ability in us all to not only live a life of beauty, but with an understanding that all humanity is connected.

He says…
Real brothers cannot kill each other, are incapable of oppressing each other, and are utterly unable to hate each other because they are as one in the embodiment of dignity and respect.

He says if we do not live as brother (and I would add sisters,) we shall perish as divided fools.

That message crosses time doesn’t it? When will we wake up? Get up and go? Do whatever it takes?

Here the angels, and all the people in the Christmas story have come to offer us something that can come only from God. Something that calls us to commit to the journey, to let go of what is harming us, holding us back and continue to embody the message that God gave us in Jesus Christ. A message of hope not despair, peace not denial, joy not worry, love not grandiosity, and life not apathy.

Let’s train our ears to hear the angels among us. Let’s be the messengers of God’s good news through Jesus Christ. And let’s live this life that God offers to all of us.

May God bless you and yours in this new year!

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