Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God

Approximate Notes for Christmas Eve Message; December 24, 2016

Scripture Readings for Christmas Eve are Isaiah 9:2-7;Luke 2:1, 3-20; Matthew 2:1-12; Luke 2:19

You can read them here: {NIV2010 and ESV}

We are the keepers of The Story! We are the bearers of the Good News and Hope of Salvation, tasked to proclaim God’s promise of peace to the ends of the earth. The promise given to Abraham and Sarah that became the reality, that was born 2000 years ago in the sleepy and insignificant town of Bethlehem.

Just like the Shepherds and the Wise Men that we heard about in today’s readings, each one of our life stories is unique and different. And each one of our life journeys has brought us here to this manger, to remember and celebrate the birth of Jesus 2000 years ago.

The story that the shepherds told to their grandchildren and to us is very different from the story that the Magi recorded in their journals for posterity.

Prior to moving to Delaware, my wife and I lived in relatively unspoiled Cecil County and Kent County where we were used to seeing lots of stars. On a clear night there are thousands of them, tiny specks of light, suspended there in deep space by our Creator, faithfully sending their light towards us. They look so tiny to the naked eye; no bigger than the tip of a pin or needle.

Looking at one such speck of light, the magi were able to discern that something wonderful had happened in the distant land of Judea.

Compare that to what happened to the shepherds. They were sitting in a field when an angel appeared to them, scared them half to death (Luke 2:10, “Do not be afraid…”), told them that they were going to be OK, told them what was happening, after which they saw a “great company of the heavenly host.” (Matt 2:13). I wonder what a “great company of the heavenly host” looked like? I wonder what they sounded like?

So today I want to ask you: are you a shepherd or a magi? What is your story?

Based on information from a star suspended far-far away in space, a star that looked like a speck of light the size of the tip of a pin, the Magi left their comfortable lives behind and embarked on a long, arduous journey to discover for themselves what had happened. They did not even know their final destination, they thought that it would be in Jerusalem. I wonder how many of their friends, colleagues and acquaintances thought they were wackos because they were leaving the comforts of their homes and steady employment to take a journey through treacherous and dangerous terrain. That journey would take many months, maybe even a couple of years, to complete.

Our imagination makes that star larger than the other stars so that the Magi could follow it easily and effortlessly, but if we think of it, if that star was so large, why didn’t anyone else see it or follow it? That star had to be just a tiny speck of light. It would have been so easy for the Magi to dismiss that star as some sort of anomaly for future generations of scientists to explore and explain.

The shepherds, on the other hand, were told exactly what was happening and they were given a “AAA triptik” or a “GPS device” with detailed instructions on how to get to their destination. The shepherds had no choice but to follow the “great company of the Heavenly host” (Luke 2:13) to the manger. Their journey probably took minutes, an hour at the most.

So today I want to ask you: are you a shepherd or a magi? What is your story?

I know that I am a “Magi.” Some of you know my story, I was raised as an atheist. My journey started as I was driving my car one morning listening to the radio, when I experienced the presence of God. It would have been so easy for me to dismiss that experience and that presence. I was tempted to think that it was anxiety about my life situation, combined with anxiety about the GMATs that I was going to take that morning, combined with all the shots of stuff that I should not have been drinking in the local bar the day before the GMATs. There was pressure to sweep that experience under the rug and forget about it from my family, friends, and colleagues. I understand the Magi when they could not just let go of that little light and stay home. Just like the Magi of the Christmas story I could not let go of that experience of God and here I am, 30 some odd years later, at a manger.

We also have many “Shepherds” here. When I talk to our church secretary, Ms. Deb P., she tells me that she was brought to this church since she was knee high to a grasshopper. She heard this choir all of her life and she was given a clear path by her mom and dad on how to build her relationship with God and how to invite God to be part of every aspect of her life. Sunday school and a supportive church family have been a part of her life since the day she was born.

So today I want to ask you: are you a shepherd or a magi? What is your story?

Of course these two stories are on the opposite sides of the spectrum. We also have “shepherds” that lost their way and became “magi,” we have “magi” that found the journey too frustrating and gave up hope, and we also have multiple permutations of these stories that are as varied and as unique as each one of us.

We all come to God by different roads. For some of us it is an arduous journey, filled with dangerous turns and terrifying moments –anxiety, frustration, fear, sickness, addiction, loss… For some of us it is as easy as a stroll from point A to point B.

But by the grace of God, regardless of our past, or the journeys that we’ve been on or are on at present, all of us are invited and all of us have a place at the manger where we are free to worship God, answer God’s call and accept God’s gift of eternal life. Our relationship with God fills our lives with meaning and helps us to deal with whatever obstacles we encounter on our individual journeys.

As a beacon of light, this church community been here since 1954 reflecting and projecting the light that originates with the Holy Spirit helping its members to grow in their relationship with God. Are you drawn to that light?

The shepherds went out telling everybody about what they saw. The magi left quietly and probably wrote their story down in a book somewhere. All of us tell our stories in a different way.

So today I want to ask you: are you a shepherd or a magi? What is your story and how do you share it with others?

How do you tell the story? Will you tell the others about that light and what that light has done in your life? Will you invite others to join us on Sunday in January and in February and in the other 10 months?

Whether your story is that of a “shepherd” or a “magi” or anywhere in-between, tonight all of us are at the manger, remembering that silent night, when hope, peace, joy and love was born in the person of Jesus.

{Note: The idea for this sermon came from Dunkle-Mackey Preaching seminar taught on September 20, 2010. This seminar was sponsored by the Peninsula-Delaware conference of the United Methodist church and was taught by Professor Troeger. It was also inspired by the Nativity presentation done by the Sunday school children at Mt. Pleasant United Methodist church, Colora, MD on December 19, 2010}

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