Sermon 4 January 2015: “My beef with 8 pound, 6 ounce, baby Jesus”

Text: Matthew 2:13-23

(Warning: If you think things like watching “Talledega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby,”  will banish you and your church to the depths of Hell, then this sermon isn’t for you….and you have no sense of humor.)

You’ve all probably heard the saying, “Put the Christ in Christmas.”  In the midst of all holiday hustle and bustle, the commercialism, the parties, the decorations….remember what Christmas is really about: Jesus.  Jesus is the reason for the season.  We need to stop worshipping all the stuff and bright lights and need to start worshipping Jesus, our Lord and Savior. If we did that, our lives would be so much better, people would behave better, our society would improve, our nation would get back to Christian values…..all because of a story about a tiny baby lying in a manger….a baby that was the Son of God.  That being said, heck, maybe Jesus is the reason for every season.  We need to put Christ in Christmas……and beyond.

Now I wonder remembering Jesus that way, every day….what difference would that make?  What would it look like? Let’s take a look……check this out.

Ok…..maybe that was a bit extreme; but I wonder if we don’t do the same thing – we think of Jesus in these sentimental ways that make us feel good, but truth be told, don’t really mean anything.

Because I think for all of us, it’s back to reality.  It’s back to work, vacations are over, the kids go back to school, routines start up again.  And all the things that were just so tough this past year…..they’re still there.  Death and funerals; trips to the hospital that are never just routine; figuring out where we stand on things like violence and war; race and politics.  Realities like Ferguson, New York City, Syria and the Middle East just don’t go away.  In the face of such things, we need more than just “tiny, 8 pound, 6 ounce baby Jesus” who fills us with sentimental feelings, an escape from reality.  Rather, we need a God who enters into things as they are.

Chapter 1 of Matthew’s gospel tells us WHO Jesus is – the Messiah, a Savior from sin…Emmanuel – God is with us.  Chapter two, from where our story comes from, tells us WHERE Jesus is – where Emmanuel; where God is with us.

Carol Joy Wallis, an Anglican priest, wrote an article called, “Putting Herod in Christmas.”  She writes that this part of the Christmas story is important because it tells us where the Son of God shows up – in a violent, power-driven world.  Herod is a king obsessed with his own power – and we find he’s willing to do anything, the unspeakable, to keep it: he orders every first-born male infant murdered.  Baby Jesus isn’t a feel-good gift to Herod – but a threat to his power and rule.  And it’s this Christmas story – Herod’s treachery and the horror of murdered babies, the wailing of inconsolable mothers – where God shows up.

Jesus is found, a vulnerable weak infant, who needs the very action of God to save him.  The savior needs saving….not to fulfill a prediction, not because his life is more important than those babies that were murdered, but so that people might know that in the midst of suffering and violence and pain a Messiah has been born to them, that God will ultimately save all; the cries and tears that come from injustice and death are heard and will be no more.

God stands with us in such a messy world as Emmanuel….and God will save us from the mess of treachery, violence and suffering.

And I’d like to think that such a notion isn’t an absurd one….rather, it’s good news to a hurting, messy world; it’s gospel.

I don’t begrudge people their desire to “put Christ back in Christmas.” I get it; some like a sentimental break from reality.  But I wonder if perhaps it’s just as important if not more so, to put Herod back in Christmas.  We discover that Jesus has shown up – not in cheery Christmas cards and carols or warm and fuzzy spiritual sentiments – but Jesus has shown up in a world of pain, dysfunction, oppression, and brokenness, as a fearful outcast and refugee.  And as people who live similarly in a similar world……that’s just the savior we need.  Amen.

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