I have two sermons to post this morning – the first is my Christmas Eve sermon. We pre-recorded a lessons and carols service and then had a livestream at 8PM. The sermon is from the livestream. Both services are linked below!
Rehoboth Congregational Church
December 24, 2020
A Story About People Making It Work
A couple of weeks ago I was preaching out of the Book of Joshua and I talked about the fact that the story of God is a story about people. In the case of that scripture and sermon, I was talking about the fact that the story of God is a story about those people making choices; the choice to follow God, the choice between right and wrong, etc.
That phrase – “the story of God is a story about people” – is one that has really stuck with me this year, particularly as I have borne witness to the ways in which members of this congregation have stepped up and been the church throughout this pandemic. A closed building has meant absolutely nothing to a group of people who refused to let anything but God’s love win this year.
A group of people who sent cards and thoughtful care packages.
Who made phone calls and socially distanced outdoor visits.
Who sewed masks and surgical caps.
Who offered drive-thru meals and hosted an entire auction and bazaar marketplace online.
Who suited up in as much PPE as Amazon Prime could deliver during Homeless Awareness “Day” so it would be possible to panhandle safely and still raise money for local organizations working with marginalized people in our community.
Who distributed 150 “peace be with you” lawn signs to people in our town and surrounding towns.
Who stood in front of the church in both warm sunshine and cold rain to serve the sacrament of Holy Communion to people from the safety of their cars.
Who gathered every single evening at 9PM for a time for a time of prayer.
Who recorded some of the most beautiful and moving music in their homes for our weekly gathering music and special services.
Who made videos and assembled craft kits so our children could still participate in Church School.
Who logged into Zoom meetings in order to conduct church business even on those days when they were really kind of over the whole Zoom thing.
Who participated in our reimagined trunk-or-treat-turned-candy-crawl so our kiddos could trick or treat safely.
Who kept worship simple, yet accessible.
Who proudly watched the Rehoboth Fire Department hang a banner high above the doors to our building which reads, “300 Years” – knowing that while we are celebrating our history this year, we are also writing a pretty significant chapter of it.
The story of God is a story about people. And it is a story about those people making it work with whatever they’ve got, despite the seemingly impossible circumstances that surround them.
Tonight we gather in this virtual space to tell one of the greatest stories that has ever been told. It is a story about hope, peace, joy and love. It is a story about light – that perfect light – that bursts forth into the darkness. It is a story about the revelation of our incarnational God – Emmanuel, God with us. It is a story about grace being found in the most unexpected ways and places, like in an innocent child, born in a humble manger.
But it is also a story about people. And it is a story about those people making it work with whatever they had, despite the seemingly impossible circumstances that surrounded them.
And so as I was reading the Christmas story this week, there was one verse that really brought me back to this idea that the story of God is a story about people making it work with whatever they’ve got.
And [Mary] gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
“Wrapped him in bands of cloth.”
When he came into this world, the Prince of Peace was not wrapped in the finest linens and laid in a cradle that had been hand-carved out of rare and lavish wood. No; he was wrapped in bands of cloth and laid in a manger.
It was what they had.
And it was enough.
The Christmas story is a story about people. And it is a story about those people making it work with whatever they had.
And it was enough.
It was enough to bring Jesus into this world. It was enough to proclaim to the world that God’s light would overcome the darkness. It was enough to be a harbinger of redemption and healing. It was enough to hold with care a broken world as the angels said, “Do not be afraid.”
It has been one heck of a year. Our world has been turned upside down and then dropped on its side and then left to kind of roll around and around and around and we are all kind of collectively waiting for it to settle back on its axis.
But here is the absolutely remarkable thing about this church – about these people who are telling God’s story right now. When the world was in absolute chaos and we were lysoling our groceries and searching for toilet paper and trying to figure out how to live our lives and do our jobs and educate our children in a world that was – and, in many ways, still is – completely foreign to us, this church did not stop. This church – the people that make up this beloved community – used what they had to respond to God’s call. They made it work. You allhave made it work this year.
And it has been more than enough.
The story of God is a story about you. And it is a story about y’all making it work with whatever you have, despite the seemingly impossible circumstances that surround you right now.
When things first shut down back in March, there was a really strong mindset and narrative surrounding what we were missing and what we could not do. And while that is still there (I really miss hugs!), I also think that, at some point this year, our mindset changed from what we could not do to what we very much still had the ability to do. Our narrative shifted from what we were missing to what we still had available to us.
The story of God is a story about people making it work with whatever they had; and at some point this year we just started to make it work with whatever we had, whether it was an iPhone streaming Easter worship to 300 people or a simple card in the mail to let someone know they were being thought of.
And we did a lot with what we had. In so many ways, as a congregation we moved mountains this year and we illuminated the glory of God’s light, love and grace in ways that really made a difference in people’s lives.
There is a lot about Christmas this year that I am having a hard time with; like so many of you, I am sure, it has not been easy for me to get into the spirit this year. Despite the decorations and the music and the snow and the significant number of cookies I have consumed (thank you to everyone who has dropped them off), it just has not really felt like Christmas.
And yet I am more inspired by this story than I think I ever have been before. I am inspired by the way that it did not take much to bring Jesus into this world. I am inspired by the way Mary used what she had under very humble and somewhat trying circumstances to care for Jesus. I am inspired thinking about the ways that we, as a community have lived out this very same thing this year – using what we have under very humble and somewhat trying circumstances to serve God and to love and care for one another.
And so on this Christmas Eve in the year of our Lord, 2020, I invite you, too, to be inspired. Be inspired by Mary and Joseph and the ways in which they used what they had to bring Jesus into this world. Be inspired by the ways this story teaches us that a lot of really good and lifechanging ministry can be done with actually very little. Be inspired by the ways in which we, as a community, have used what we have to continue to do church and to love one another and to serve God. And be inspired by the ways in which God is continuing to call us to use what we have to proclaim the Good News.
Because it is enough.
When the angel of the Lord appeared before the shepherds, they said:
‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’
It was not much.
But it was enough.
And it continues to be enough today.
So friends, may we have the ingenuity and the creativity of Mary and Joseph as they welcomed their son into this world by wrapping him in bands of cloth. May we, too, continue to look for opportunities to serve in simple and humble ways. May we remember that the story of God is a story about us and about what we are doing with what we have.
And may we trust that what we have is enough.
Any may those around us, like the shepherds who ran with haste to the manger to see for themselves what God had done, see what God is doing in our lives and in our church. And may they glorify and praise God for all they see and hear.
Merry Christmas, friends. Our cries for Emmanuel have been heard! God is with us.
Thanks be to God!