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Christmas Eve Sermon

    Dec 26, 2021

    Preacher: Rob Donehue

    Summary:

    Do you see what I see? Finding ourselves in the Christmas story.

    Detail:

    Do you see what I see?

    Those words might make you think of the popular Christmas song, “Do you hear what I hear,” which was written by Gloria Shayne Baker and Noel Regney. When that song was written in 1962, the Cuban missile crisis was threatening to bring the world to the brink of disaster, 

    and Baker and Regney composed the song as a plea for peace. In the world’s darkest hour, it seems, we needed to be reminded of the visions that surrounded the birth of the child of Bethlehem.

    Do you see what I see? 

    The Christmas story is full of visions. It begins with the Virgin Mary having a vision of an angel who tells her that she will conceive and give birth to a son who will be great and be called the Messiah; the Christ. She is unsure of what this message means, but she agrees to go along with the plan. And as Luke’s Gospel tells us, on the night she gave birth, she was in an unfamiliar town and in a setting that was far from ideal for giving birth. I cannot help but think that she was scared, and perhaps she was increasingly unsure of whether her vision of the angel was actually good news. 

    Do you see what I see?

    I see someone - maybe you - someone pregnant with hope, but unsure of what that hope means and fearfully wondering why pain and hope so often go hand in hand. It’s a vision of someone unsure and afraid. But God made that someone beautiful. 

    Joseph had a vision in which he is told not to send Mary away but to take her as his wife because she is pregnant with a child from the Holy Spirit. He agrees, but I cannot think he did so with pious resignation throughout. I can only imagine he must have been desperate and frustrated as he and Mary drew near to Bethlehem and had nowhere to stay. 

    Do you see what I see?  

    I see someone - maybe you - someone who might be wondering why they are in a situation not of their own making and who is are weary of having to scrape by with limited resources. It’s a vision of someone discouraged and dejected. But God made that someone beautiful.

    The shepherds in the field had a vision. An angel telling them of the birth of the savior, and then a chorus of angels singing glory to God. They received the message with joy, and as we are told, they were filled with awe and wonder when they came to the manger. But I cannot help thinking that the shepherds’ happiness was only temporary. As the story tells us, they returned to their fields; they returned to keeping watch over their flocks. And I have to think that the daily realities of warding off predators and caring for sick sheep took hold. And I wonder if after a few years they were left only with the memory of what they once saw and a longing to know their salvation had been fulfilled. 

    Do you see what I see? 

    I see some people - maybe you - people whose wonder and awe, over time, may have given way to an awareness of the mundane and who were left with only a yearning for wholeness. It’s a vision of people worn down by time and whose hearts still long to know peace. But God made those people beautiful.

    The wise men had a vision. They saw a star that told them something special had taken place. And they set out not really knowing what they’d find. The star didn’t bring them directly to their destination either; as the story goes, they got detoured and had to ask for some further directions. They eventually arrived, but I cannot help but think that they might have wondered if they ever would find what they were looking for.

    Do you see what I see? 

    I see people - maybe you - people groping in the darkness with only a distant glimmer of hope to guide them on a long journey. It’s a vision of people who can only see dimly the road in front of them and who don’t know where that road might lead. But God made those people beautiful.

    As we look again at the cast of characters of the Christmas story, I wonder if you see what I see. Because I see people who are weary, unsure, desperate, and full of longing. I see US. And just as he was over 2k years ago, Jesus was born into a world full of such characters. He did not shun them - he embraced them. He made them beautiful. He continues to. Because that’s what God’s love looks like. 

    And once again, we are invited to reclaim this vision of God’s love for us. 

    I know that may sound like a tall order. The last two years have been such a departure from the normal that maybe even the concept of normal no longer makes sense. As I’ve looked back over the past week, I’ve been reminded of how much we’ve gone through. There have disappointments and losses, yes. There have been challenges and frustrations, yes. And for many of us, our vision of this Christmas may be one of ongoing separation and sadness. But look again. 

    Do you see what I see? 

    I look out, and I see a people that two years ago were struggling - we did not have a home of our own and we could only see dimly the road in front of us and we did not know where that road might lead. But we still welcomed with joy the birth of the savior. And God made it beautiful. I look out, and I see a people that one year ago were struggling - we had a space of our own but we were frustrated and scraping by as best we could because we could only gather online. Still we welcomed with joy the birth of the savior. And God made it beautiful. And now I look out, and I see a people who have a home and are able to gather. Yes, we are struggling through a lingering pandemic that’s making us aware of our limitations and brokenness and which we long to see at an end, but again and still, I see a people who are welcoming with joy the birth of the savior. And God is making us beautiful. 

    Do you see what I see? 

    Look around you. Look at the person next to you. There is a beauty and a light in them defies the chaos and darkness of the world; no matter what shape it has taken or yet may take. That light dwells in them eternally. It dwells in you, too. If you’ve ever wondered what a vision of Christmas should look like, here it is. All of us gathered, however we are able; weary, confused, struggling, and full of longing as we may be. But now with one difference. God is with us. And that makes us beautiful. So don’t be afraid of having a vision this Christmas. Instead, look more keenly.

    Do you see what I see?