Christmas Day, 2017
“God Loves Me Dearly”
Hebrews 1:1-3 - Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.
3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
“Let all God's angels worship him.”
Dear Friends in Christ,
We begin with three little stories about folks who didn’t quite get Christmas right.
Story #1 is about little Annie who summarized it this way, “A lady named Mary and a man named Joseph went to Bethlehem. They couldn’t get a place to stay so they went to a stable that had cows and horses and mary had a baby in a manger, so far so good. The baby was crying and nobody could get any sleep and so his mom rocked him till he got quiet. But then the shepherds from the field came in and woke him up. When the lady got the baby quiet again, some wise men rode up on camels and gave the baby Jesus his Christmas presents, and in summery it was a busy night.”
Story #2 is about a woman who fell victim to the overwhelming pressure to go to every party, to taste every bit of the holiday food, to get the perfect gift for every single person on her shopping list, to make sure that her house was perfectly clean, and after a long day of shopping with two crabby children, as she pushed her way into a crowded elevator, she could be heard mumbling, whosever started this whole thing should be found, strung up, and shot. To which someone replied, “Don’t worry, we already crucified him!”
Story #3 is a favorite of mine, “It’s about an11 year old girl who gave her annoying little 8 year old brother a nice gift and a nice card, and on the inside she wrote, “Dear Johnny, merry Christmas. I hope you have a nice Christmas. I’m glad God gave you to be my brother. Love, Sally. P.S. Don’t read this note out loud or I will twist your head off!”
We miss the main point of Christmas when we imagine that it’s primarily about making the best possible memories or giving the best gifts possible. Christmas assignment #1, our text for today suggests, is to hear what God is trying to say to us, that God loves us dearly. In Old Testament days, He spoke that message through the prophets, in New Testament days, He speaks that message through His Son Jesus Christ.
Andrew Greely speaks about God loving us dearly in this way, “Our God is not patiently standing by and waiting for us to offer love but He is actively and vigorously perusing us. In the Old Testament we see this God of grace wheeling and dealing in the desert seeking men.
In these New Testament days, we see in Jesus all prophecies fulfilled. We see Jesus born in a manger, living to perfection, and offering up Himself as a bloody sacrifice to end all required sacrifices. The writer to the Hebrews gives us seven statements pointing out Christ as superior, directing our attention to Christ as the perfect revelation of God, teaching us again and again the simple truth of Christmas that Jesus loves me, this we know, Jesus loves us, this our grandparents and parents wanted us to know, Jesus loves, this is what we want our children and grandchildren to know with all of their hearts and souls and minds.
Seven statements of who Christ is and the offices that He holds and all that He has done, and then three takeaways, three lessons, three thoughts on what it means to receive into our hearts that God loves us dearly.
In closing on this Christmas Day three takeaways, three lessons, three thoughts on what it means to receive into our hearts that God loves us dearly. 1) God’s love is personal. 2) God’s love give us value. 3) God’s love compels us to love one another.
God’s love is personal. The kingdom of God is like a little boy who was separated from his mother in the mall. He was looking around for his mommy, he was getting scared. He began to cry because everyone was a stranger. Everything looked confusing. Every store was packed, nobody could tell him it was ok. Until his mother found him, she picked him up, his eyes began to dry. He was safe in his mother’s arms. When you have someone who loves holding you, it doesn’t matter anymore what everyone else does or what the circumstances are or what the future holds. God’s love is personal.
God’s love gives us value. Just a couple of days ago, I was dusting the top of the shelf that hadn’t been dusted for a time. There I found something I had forgotten we even possessed. It was my dad’s old baseball glove, my hunch is he played with it as a young man, in the early 40’s. I have no idea how much it cost, but it’s value to me has nothing to do with how much it would be worth on ebay. It’s value has to do with the memories it brings to my heart. Memories of my dad loving dearly loving me not so much with words but with actions. Dad loving us by providing, by protecting, and by sacrificing. Even more than that, dad loving me by making sure I was baptized, dad and mom making sure I was sitting still in church and making sure I was sitting still in Sunday School and making sure I was sitting still in Confirmation Class learning the Christmas story, learning the Good Friday story, learning the Easter story, learning even the Pentecost story.
Which brings us to our final takeaway, our final thought, our final lesson learned, that God’s love compels us to spend our days loving one another.
A Vietnam veteran and Air Force Colonel John Mansur tells a story of an 8 year old orphan girl wounded by a mortar attack. It was determined she would die if a blood transfusion did not take place. It was further determined that no Americans present had the correct blood type, but several of the uninjured orphans did. The doctor spoke a little bit of Vietnamese, a nurse spoke a smattering of high school French, and together they explained that unless someone gave blood, this little girl would die.
Eventually a small hand slowly went up, dropped back down, and then went up again. His name was Heng, and he agreed to give blood. They swabbed his arm with alcohol, they inserted a needle into his vein, he was silent for a time and then began to sob. His eyes were screwed tightly shut, his fist he put in his mouth to stifle his crying.
They stopped the procedure long enough to explore what was wrong. The nurse finally figured out what was happening. Heng though he was going to die. He thought he was required to give all of his blood so that a little girl could live. They asked him why he would be willing to do that. To which he answered, simply, “She’s my friend.”
No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends. The kingdom of God is like a large church in a small town full of folks who don’t really look any different than other people, but they are. They are set apart simply by knowing they are dearly loved by God. They spend their days receiving God’s kindness and patience, and then they go looking for folks who need a listening ear and a kind word. They spend their days first of all holding onto what they have learned from their mother’s knees, and then they make sure the next generations know and will never forget that God’s love is personal, God’s love gives them value, God’s love compels them to love one another. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
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