Nativity of Our Lord – Christmas Eve
Dec. 24, 2018

 Prayer of the Day
Almighty God, you made this holy night shine with the brightness of the true Light. Grant that here on earth we may walk in the light of Jesus’ presence and in the last day wake to the brightness of his glory; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

 Readings:
Isaiah 9:2-7
Titus 2:11-14
Luke 2:1-20

Sermon
Title:  50% Off Christmas

It been glaring at me all through Advent.  There on the TV.  Every time one of their commercials came on.  The ad comes from a store that I take great issue with for a number of reasons, so I won’t mention their name.  Suffice to say they like to think of themselves as a Lobby for those who Hobby.  But, court rulings aside, back to the commercial.  For this Christmas season, their…not really a slogan, more of a get you in the door offer has been 50% off Christmas.  The promise was made every time their commercial came on TV.  50% off Christmas.  Not 50% percent off Christmas items.  No, it read, “50% off Christmas.”

As much as the wording annoyed me, it also got me thinking.  What does 50% of Christmas look like?  What 50% do we take off?  How do we reduce this story by half?

Maybe we start with the parents, Mary and Joseph.  Let’s take off that part where they were just two ordinary people.  Peasants even.  Just like me and you.  God came to them, called them to be part of the plan, part of the mission.  But in saying YES to this invitation, they were put into the most awkward of positions.  She unmarried and pregnant.  He having to believe her story about angel visitations and carrying God’s son, and not suspecting that she had been unfaithful to him.  If we take off 50%, we could say that they were special people, maybe even perfect people.  Not like us at all.  Gets us off the hook, right?  That would take the pressure off of us being expected to follow in their faith-filled, YES answering ways.  Easier if we are way below them.  As long as we’re talking percentages, we can be convinced that we are less than 50% of them.  So, we couldn’t possibly say YES to God’s call, YES to trusting in the midst of awkwardness for the sake of joining some outrageous mission.

And what about that stable?  Let’s take 50% of that off.  We’ll keep the sweet-smelling hay and the warm cuddly animals.  We’ll keep all of the charm and take away all of the “earthiness.”  The 50% that we keep will make it so inviting, so cozy that it will seem better than any of the overcrowded inns would have been.  Those inns that reported to have had no room.   He wasn’t rejected, he just ended up in a much better place.  In the same manner, we can take off that 50% that accuses our over-scheduled, over-busy, over-distracted lives of turning him away.  He doesn’t want to have anything to do with that, anyway.  Leave well enough alone, innocent little baby.  We’ll send him off to that cozy part of our lives where he is out of the way, looking cute, charming and ineffective.  The safe 50%, or less.

And certainly 50% that needs to be taken off this Christmas story includes that part where his family are homeless refugees.  Could be dangerous to attach labels like that to someone like Jesus and his family.  Use language like this and it could politize this story.  Last thing we want to do in the midst of angels singing, cattle lowing, and candles glowing. Yes, best to take that part of Christmas off.  Reduce it.

Now, I know that sheep are fluffy, like clouds.  And we love the image of angels singing in the skies over fields.  But if we are going to reduce Christmas, take 50% off, I would like to suggest that we put the shepherds in the 50% that have to go.  I know, we’ve all seen little kids in bathrobes with towel headdresses looking cuter than cute in a Christmas pageant.  How could we cut them?  You ask.  Well, those bath-robed cuties are as much like the first shepherds as carob is like chocolate.  Those shepherds in the field were foal-mouthed, foal-smelling, foal-living roughens. Not the kind that you want near a baby, or in your town, or in your church, for that matter.  Somehow, we have to keep them out of town.  Restrict them to the fields where they belong.  It’s people like that that they build walls around towns.  Keep the likes of them out.

Keep them out, as well as those foreigners traveling in a caravan.  You know who I’m talking about.  Those three wisemen.  Magicians is more like it.  From a distant country that they should have just stayed put. They speak a different language, practice a different religion.  We do not need them coming here.  Yes, impressive gifts.  Especially that gold.  But send it on ahead.  No need to bring it themselves.

Perhaps I’m getting carried away here.  It seems like we might have surpassed 50% and we are taking 60% or 70 % off Christmas.  But it is sounding like the kind of Christmas we might want to stage.  Includes the kind of folks we would want to include, and excludes…well, you know.  It’s 100% religious freedom, right?

Fear not, God is directing this one and there will be nothing taken off, nothing withheld.  The very heart of God is coming to us in human form.  His name is Jesus, Immanuel – which means God with us – 100%.  He comes so that the message of God’s love is made clear.  No middle man.  No discounts. No add ons.

Its 100% light for those who have been in darkness
Its 100% salvation for all creation
Its 100% inclusive, regardless of who you are, what you do, where you’re from, or who you love.
Its 100% welcome, no bans, no walls, no prerequisites.
Its 100% life, life eternal that conquers death.

This is the good news that is born this night.  Jesus Christ, brings the kingdom of God near to us.  There can be no reductions when the gift is coming from God.  All is complete.  All is well.  Go ahead, sleep in heavenly peace.  But more importantly, live in heavenly peace.  100% of the time.

The Rev. Mark Erson,
Pastor

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