Sermon
Christmas Eve - December 24, 2001
First Congregational Church, 36 Main Street, New Milford, Ct  06776
Rev. Michael Moran
Write to Rev. Moran

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Front of St. Paul's - taken at 3:00AM ...the crowds are gone, but not the fireman, policeman, and construction workers.This evening's sermon had its beginning in St. Paul's Chapel on Broadway and
Fulton Street in lower Manhattan
, where the fire, police, and construction
workers from Ground Zero come for supplies, meals, and a little respite.
When the rescue workers first come into the chapel, one job of the
volunteers is to greet them and ask if they have been there before and if
they need any assistance finding their way around.  Some are new, but many
have been there six days a week since the attack on the World Trade Center.

Looking down at "Ground Zero" - a 24/7 operationThey are working a great deal of overtime, away from their families,
separated from their loved ones.  As I was reading the Christmas story, the
thought came to mind that the Angels also worked a great deal of overtime on
that first Christmas Eve.  What would they have to say to us today?  Now for
this to work you have to imagine that I'm an angel - which is quite a
stretch.  But maybe it will help if I put on an angel costume  (a hard
hat)..

I'm worn out, beat, bushed, done-in, fatigued, weary, ready to drop, rung
out and hung to dry.  My dogs are barking and my head is ringing - I just
need to sit down for one minute.  It's been awfully hard work to be an angel
these past months, and since I'm Michael, the archangel, the foreman on this
job, I've been working overtime to the point of total exhaustion.

You say I don't look like an angel - what did you expect?  John Travolta -
or maybe Denzel Washington?  That's the Hollywood version - not the real
thing.  The closest Hollywood ever came was Clarence, sent to help out old
George Bailey, and even Clarence was a little over done.

What probably throws you off here is the hard hat.  You expect to see an
angel with a halo - but that's just for special occasions.  A lot of angels
have been wearing the hard hats, at least since September 11.  You know
after those..   well, I can't really think of words I can use in church to
talk about the people who did all that.

Let me tell you, the angels in heaven were in complete shock.  I went to God
and even God was stunned.  I thought maybe I could get an explanation, but
all I got was a question.  God said I give them freedom because without
freedom you can't learn to love, but why do they do something like this?
Imagine that, God asking me a question.  I had no answer.

But anyway, we've had a lot of angels working overtime since then.
Sometimes they look like firefighters, sometimes like police, sometimes like
operating engineers - it's been twelve hours a day, six days a week for
months, and everyone is really worn out.  But they want to do something for
those families and they want to finish what they started, so they keep
going.  All the angels are praying for them tonight.

I tell you who else the angels are praying for tonight - the men and women
who can't be home because they're part of the war on terrorism.  In fact,
you've got a couple soldiers from New Milford out there that we've got
special assignment on tonight.  One is Nick Colavito in Squadron 102 flying
F-14 Tomcats off the USS Roosevelt.   Those angels aren't wearing hard hats,
they're wearing those big ear protectors because of the noise of the jets.
It's a funny thing for angles, we can't take sides in time of war - but we
do try and keep watch over the soldiers and civilians.  Some people cause
trouble and then other people get swept up in it, and that's what's hard for
us.

Even when it's not war, Angels work overtime.  Everybody thinks about Santa
this time of year, but really it's your postal worker who does the heavy
lifting.  And that true even before this trouble with anthrax.  We have a
lot of angels attached to the Post Office - in fact they made this stamp to
honor us. (Holds up angel stamp poster)

Of course, now you know better than most that angels don't always wear their
dress wings and robes for overtime work.  But I bet even you'd be surprised
to know that one of the angels' favorite disguises involves a pail and a
mop.  (Takes up a mop)

That's right - you go someplace real late at night and what do you see -
someone with a mop cleaning the floor.  You never can tell, that might be
one of my crew working overtime.  Right now, in fact, we have an angel who
is working in a local hospital emergency room.  A little child has been
brought in who cut her hand because she was trying to free her Christmas
Barbie doll from all those ties and rubber bands that come with the package,
and the scissor slipped and made a nasty cut.

She'll be fine, don't worry, but the nurses and doctors who are in the
hospital tonight are feeling a little stressed about working on Christmas
Eve, so our angel is assigned there to help keep their spirits up.  Everyone
thinks its just a housekeeper whose only job is to keep the floors clean -
what do you think they would say if she put down her mop and put out her
wings and gave them a little shot of the heavenly glory of God!

Well, she won't do that, but in a million other ways she'll try and help
them through the night, just like the other angels will help the night shift
at Ground Zero, on the USS Roosevelt, in hospitals all over the world, and
everyplace that some people are working overtime so that others can live in
peace and safety.  It takes a lot of sacrifice to provide the kind of
security and well-being that people enjoy, and the angels are more than
willing to work overtime alongside those who labor and are heavy laden.
Those people have a special place in every angel's heart.

In fact, if you look back at the biggest and best night we angels ever had,
which was, of course, the night that Jesus was born, you'll see that the
first people we told went to were the Shepherds working the nightshift
outside Bethlehem.  We weren't wearing hardhats and carrying mops that
night - it was dress whites all the way, wings and bright lights and the
choirs of heaven.

Actually, we kind of overdid it at first - those shepherds, who had to be
pretty brave because of the wolves and wild animals, well they got so scared
they almost couldn't stand, but I spoke right up:
"Do not be afraid; for see -- I am bringing you good news of great joy for
all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who
is Christ, the Lord.  This will be a sign for you: you will find a child
wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger."

Just like those shepherds were taking care of their sheep in the darkness
and danger of that night, so God was coming down from heaven to take care of
the children of earth.   The darkness and danger God would confront was not
because of wolves or other wild animals, but because of people using their
freedom and power for selfish and evil purposes.  God would come among them
as one who serves, and, you know, not many people were able to recognize
this.

Mike, Diane, Eileen (Mrs. Moran), Jeff, Gail, Steve, and Rev. Moran - heading homeIt's kind of the same today - but I hope our little talk tonight helps you
see that the Christmas story isn't just about things that happened a long
time ago.  God still can be found in the lives of those who humbly serve,
and angels still work the nightshift to announce the good news of God's
love.  In fact, we need a few good people to help us out with this work - we'll
be hiring in the weeks and months ahead.  It's a great job - if you don't
mind putting in a little overtime.

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Let us pray

O God who watches over us day and night, who provides for our
needs of body and soul, who blesses us with love and mercy, we turn to you
now in prayer.  Help us, through our worship this evening, to receive the
gift of Christmas in all its humble glory and heavenly power.  May our eyes
be open to your presence and our ears alert to your gospel call.  May we
grow strong in faith and steadfast in service, trusting in our Lord and
believing in the power of good to overcome evil.

On this Christmas eve our prayers go out to all who are separated from those
they love: separated by their jobs, by service to their county, by illness,
age, distrust, or even death.  Heal the sick, we pray; comfort those who
mourn; give freedom to the oppressed and dignity to the downtrodden.

Be with the leaders of our country and all who are in authority among us.
Give them wisdom in their many difficult decisions and tasks.  Assist them
in building a peaceful world on a foundation of justice, where freedom is
used in the service of mercy and religion in the service of tolerance.

Hear the prayers which rise up from our hearts for those we know are in
special need of your tender care.

 We ask your blessing for all people of good will who seek a greater
knowledge of your purpose through many traditions of faith and practice.

Give Peace, O Lord, to all the world; guide us in a way of justice and
mercy;

Let not the needy be forgotten, nor the hope of the poor be taken away.

Create in us clean hearts, O God, and sustain us with your holy spirit.

Remind us in the days ahead, O Lord, to pray for ourselves, for one another,
for our neighbors, our community, and for all people.  Help us to remember
that you listen more to our hearts than to our words, and simply bring to
you an offering of repentance, love, and openness.
Let the words of our mouth and the meditation of our heart be acceptable to you,
        O LORD, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.

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