This Magical, Malleable, Life-Changing Story

Hi friends!  I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas!  Here is my sermon from our 9PM service on Christmas Eve.

Happy New Year!

Enjoy …

***

Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
December 24, 2019

Christmas Eve Sermon

This Magical, Malleable, Life-Changing Story

My two-year-old loves watching this show on Netflix called Spirit, which is an adorable animated show about a girl and her two friends who live on “the frontier” with their horses.  My husband and I can’t quite figure out where “the frontier” actually is or what time period the show is set in, but between the one-room schoolhouse, the telegrams and the lack of cars and phones, in many ways (even though you are watching the show through a streaming service on one of your smart devices) you certainly step back into a simpler time when you watch it.

And, to be quite honest, in this crazy world that we are living in, sometimes “simple” is exactly what I need.

A few weeks ago, we were all watching one of the Christmas episodes.  At the end of the episode, it is Christmas day and the main character, Lucky, and her friends ride their horses to the church in town; as the arrive, they can hear the sound of people singing and they run inside and join the worship service.  The episode ends with everyone standing, holding lit candles and singing together, Angels We Have Heard On High.

They are all smiling at each other and embracing one another.  It is simple, but it just seems so perfect and festive and filled with the true spirit of the season.

I looked at my husband and said, “I wish there was a way we could do that at church.”

“Do what?” he asked.

“You know – have a simple little service like that.  Just invite everyone to come to church and hear the Christmas story and sing Christmas carols and light some candles and just be together in the spirit of the season.”

My husband gave me kind of strange look and said, “Isn’t that what you do on Christmas Eve?”

“Well yeah, but I also preach,” I explained to him.

“Well you don’t have to,” he pointed out.

Oh, the Christmas Eve sermon.

The funny thing is that clergy put a lot of pressure on themselves to preach the perfect sermon on Christmas Eve, because it feels like the stakes are high.  And yet, not to downplay the preacher’s role in all of this, sometimes I am not sure that it is actually necessary; because this story really preaches itself.

The Christmas story is a story where magic is real, where hope is alive and where love wins, over and over and over again.  It is a story where light shines and stars guide us along our journeys.  It is a story where grace is uncovered in the most unexpected ways and places – with a baby in a manger, God made flesh in the world.  It is a story where ordinary people are called by God to do extraordinary things.  It is a story where we can see ourselves in the characters that are all playing different, but equally important roles.  It is a story where journeys are long, but not taken alone.  It is a story where angels appear in those moments when we need them most.  It is a story where promises are kept and prophecies are fulfilled.  It is a story that begins a Gospel where peace prevails and death does not have the final word.  It is a story where lives are changed – not just by what has already happened, but also by the way God is still at work today.

It is a story that is simple – but oftentimes is exactly what we need.

If you think about it, the really cool thing about the Christmas story is that it, in this one moment in time – this Christmas holiday – it is told countless times around the world in so many different forms and languages.  Whether it is being carefully read from scripture at a candlelit church service or narrated by our middle and high school students while chaos ensues during our annual Christmas pageant, it is timeless.

For 2,000 years, the Christmas story has stood the test of time.  Over and over and over again, it is has proclaimed this beautiful truth that God’s promises have been fulfilled – that our cries for Emmanuel, God with us, have been heard.

The Christmas story has this crazy and malleable way to touch us, no matter where we are on our journey through life.  Whether we are young or old, hearing it for the first time or reciting it along with the liturgist – this story can inspire us.  Whether we come to this space tonight with a joyful heart or a heavy one, this story can surround us with hope.  Whether we think we have answers or still have a whole lot of questions, this story can give us wisdom.  Whether we have had a really wonderful year or a year that we would rather forget, this story can remind us that God is always with us – and that we are not alone.  Whether we want to soak up every word that is spoken or let our minds wander off to daydream about other things, this story will give us something to think about.

And so, as you listen to the Christmas story tonight, I invite you to sit in its simplicity – and let it be for you exactly what you need it to be in this moment in time.  Let it inspire you, let it give you hope, let it give you wisdom, let it remind you that you are not alone and let it give you something to think about as you leave this space tonight.

As you sing the familiar carols, join your voices not only with those who have gathered here tonight, but with the millions of people around the world who are singing these same carols – and with the multitude of angels who sang them first.

As you light your candle at the end of worship, watch as even the smallest of flames can illuminate even the darkest of spaces.

It might be simple, but in this moment, it might be all that we need.

I invite you now to settle in.  Because you are able to hear one of the greatest stories that has ever been told.

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

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