|December 29, 2002|
|Rev. Virnette Hamilton|
|First Congregational Church, New Milford, CT 06776|
|Write to Rev. Hamilton|
4 But when the fullness of time had come,
God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 in order to redeem those who were
under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. 6 And because you are
children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba!
Father!" 7 So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an
heir, through God. (NRSV)
Sermon - Only a Baby Came
I hope all of you had a good Christmas and a safe Christmas. We were blessed when the snow decided the start about one minute after all of our kids arrived on Christmas day. That made our Christmas perfect. That was really the only gift that I wanted this year.
Gifts are difficult - the giver can spend hours agonizing over a gift. Is it exactly right, will the size and color work, how much should be spent. Will it convey the message of love that is intended?
We gave our granddaughter a doll - the exact one that her mother said she wanted. Lots of angst went into that gift it was a small rag doll and we thought, too expensive for what we were buying. Wouldnt she rather have a bigger, do something kind of doll. No her mother assured us, this was the one. So we got it and wrapped it up. And we were so glad. Tess, our granddaughter ran through the room, with her arms lifted up, dancing with delight when she opened it. It was a Laura Engles Wilder Doll and she chanted the name as she danced great joy filled the house.
From all accounts, that is how the world initially received the gift from God, the infant Jesus. The shepherds followed the star, the wise men traveled great distances to worship the infant. The angels heralded the birth with glories. And Marys heart swelled with love. Great joy filled the world.
But then, just as now, life has to get back to normal. Routine sets in, and Mary and Joseph realized that the time for purification had come. So they travel to the temple, bringing their sacrifice of a pair of doves because they were too poor to afford the lamb that tradition dictated.
When they arrive at the temple two of Gods lowly faithful see the child and recognize the holiness that is present. They see in this infant, this babe, the salvation that Israel had been waiting for All of their hopes and dreams, all of Gods great promises seemed to reside in this one tiny baby.
They had waited for a king, yet they rejoiced at the sight of the infant Jesus.
They had waited for a mighty warrior, yet, their salvation came in a baby.
Salvation along with holiness is often disguised. It can be difficult to recognize.
Any time that God intervenes in our lives it is a matter of eyes to see and ears to hear. Initially it is a matter of interpretation - It is a matter of faith and trust.
This past week, on Sunday night, our SYF gathered to help Santa by answering some of his Letters. In the middle of all of the letters was a long note from an 8 year old named Juan, from Los Angeles CA. His letter began by saying My name is Juan - I am 8, and I have 3 sisters, Mary age 10, Anna age 6, and Victoria age 5.
My father is sick and can not work. My mother works, but there is only money for rent and food. We are afraid that we will not receive any gifts for Christmas, Santa.
Their Christmas list was on the back.
There were no toys in that list. They asked for shoes and jeans only.
The youth and their leaders were taken aback.
They looked at the address it was addressed to
North Pole, 00000
How did it end up in New Milford. How did it end up in our hands.
Was it for real?
We still have no answers for any of that.
All we knew was that it was nearly 10 pm on Sunday night, December 22, and we didnt have much time. By noon the next day 350.00 had been collected and we had 3 people out shopping for this family. The post office had been contacted and had agreed to pay the shipping for Next Day air and they were working on having a Santa deliver the gifts on Christmas morning. By 5 pm on December 23 all of the gifts of toy, jeans and bit of money for shoes had been purchased for each of the kids in the family and the presents had been wrapped and packaged and shipped to Los Angeles Ca. to arrive on Christmas morning. They were truly from Santa.
We still dont know have any answers to our questions. But somehow in all of the busyness of Christmas, with most the money spent, with people focused on their own families and lives, this amazing thing happened. And I can tell you, as we walked through Walmart shopping, it felt Holy. We felt guided. We knew that somehow God had intervened into our lives to bring us face to face with the true meaning of why an Infant could so change the course of world history. We understood why Anna and Simeon could look at a baby and recognize salvation.
Paul says in Galatians that Jesus was sent in the fullness of time to redeem all of us. that we might be adopted as Gods own Children. We would be set free to live not as a slave to the law, but as a child of God. Being adopted means that our burdens are shared by God. We always have a place to go for advice, for comfort, for guidance. Being adopted means that there is someone who worries about us, whose tears mingle with our own when we grieve. Being adopted means that we are not alone in the world any longer we are never alone. Being a child of God means unconditional love, it means having a parent who only wants what will be best for you. Being adopted by God means Salvation a new kind of life. A life of trust and faith. A life of Peace and joy.
The poor will be lifted up, those who morn will be blessed. The hungry and the homeless will receive graciously from Gods own hands. Even small children will be celebrated in the kingdom of God.
Even children in Los Angeles, who fear that Christmas will not come to their family.
This is the best Christmas gift ever - we can dance around the room with our arms lifted in the air, crying Abba, Abba. Alleluia.
The world believes that Christmas is over it discards Christmas with the torn wrapping paper to prepare to celebrate the coming of the New Year, and returns to the routine of everyday life.
If, as a Church, we are going to make a difference in the world we have to ponder the real meaning of Christmas. We have to search for the ways in which our faith implicates us in passing along the possibility of a new world. We have to have eyes to see and ears to hear we have to be tuned in, alert to the potential for holiness that exists in each day. And we have to be ready to proclaim it with our actions.
A baby has been born among us salvation has been offered to the world. May we as faithful followers of Jesus Christ ponder what this means to us . and then lift our hands in the air and dance as our hearts cry Abba Abba. Amen
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