Christmas is about welcoming the stranger

Christmas Eve Sermon 2019
If you heard someone say,
“All I want for Christmas…” some people would think of a song… a really, really old song. A song from way back in 1994: “All I Want for Christmas Is You.”
If you’re as old as I am, you might hear that and remember a song from all the way back in 1944: “All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth.”

Many Christmas songs are about the gifts or things that we want. Also, many songs about Christmas that we hear on the radio are about romance. Others are about family.

That about covers the sentimental themes for Christmas in pop songs of the last sixty years or so.

The first Christmas should not be sentimentalized. It’s important to be real about what the story describes.

Jesus was not visited by family at Christmas time.

Jesus was visited by strangers.

Angels made sure strangers would visit. A star made sure foreigners would visit.
In Mexico and Guatemala, and in Port Chester, in many immigrant communities in the United States, the nine days before Christmas are observed by Christians in those communities with an ancient tradition called Las Posadas.

The name means ‘lodgings’ and refers to Joseph and his pregnant wife Mary searching for an inn in Bethlehem and being turned away again and again.

Las Posadas is kind of like our pageant but a group of people dressed as we do for our pageant will walk from house to house knocking on doors.

Maybe our youth would like to do this next year? After our worship with our pageant, walk down King Street knocking on doors asking for a place to stay?

In this tradition households sign up to participate and after being turned away many times, finally, the holy couple is welcomed and the whole community joins in a great festivity for everyone; everyone is fed, tamales and loads of food.

A whole group dressed as wise men and animals join in this great procession searching for las posadas, prospective lodgings.

Jesus was not visited by family at Christmas time.

That first Christmas was not like an office party or a big feast with family and friends. Jesus’ parents were asking for a room to rent and no one had room.

When Jesus was born angels called strangers to the stable. When Jesus was born a star called to strangers far away.

This is because, from the first, Jesus is for others. Jesus is God with us, for us. But not just us. Jesus is for the world:
For God so loved the world that God gave an only begotten son so that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life. And God did not send this son into the world to condemn the world but in order that the world, through him, be saved. (John 3:16f)

Jesus is for the world and so his birth was not announced to family and friends first. Joseph did not go around to his buddies handing out cigars. It was announced to people far away in distance and far away in relation.

Those people who would likely have been the last to hear important news, big news — those for whom the news would have taken the longest to get to them. Instead, they were called to the stable first.

This story is meant to tell us about who Jesus is for us here and now and what Jesus means for the world today.

Jesus has created a radically inclusive community. We are not to merely love those who love us, those who are easy to love.

Jesus says, “Love your enemies, … 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Notice it is not ‘as they HAVE DONE to you.’ It’s not even ‘as they are likely to do to you.’ It is us preemptively doing as we would like to have done to us.
32 ‘If you love those who love you,” Jesus says, “what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35 But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for (God) is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. 36Be merciful,” Jesus says, “just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6)

Jesus was not visited by family at Christmas time.

Jesus is for the world and we need to be for the world.

Tonight we will sing “Joy to the …world”. Is that where it ends, we sing that once a year and feel good? Do we just sing ‘Joy to the World’ or do we do something? How do we bring joy to the world?

Jesus is for the world and we need to be for the world.

How will you bring Joy… especially to those who are lacking in joy? Especially to those most in need? To those who feel like strangers? Those for whom joy is a distant hope, those who are hungry and cold? Do we just say to them, ‘Be merry’, ‘Be joyful’?
What do we bring to those who feel like Mary and Joseph… knocking and knocking.… No room anywhere?

The story continues with Mary and Joseph — with a new born — fleeing from Bethlehem. Hiding in Egypt because their own country is too dangerous. Can you imagine fleeing with an infant?

How do we bring joy to the world?

Jesus is for the world and we need to be for the world. For us, living in this area, we have a great advantage, the world is coming to us! We should say, ‘You saved us the trip!”

What do you want for Christmas?
Teeth? Someone to love?

What does GOD want for Christmas?

What does God want for YOU this Christmas?

For us God wants more than we can even imagine: life. Life with God… life everlasting.
Jesus said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
11 ‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep… 16I have OTHER sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must BRING them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock,” Jesus says, “one shepherd…. 17 I lay down my life in order to take it up again.

Jesus promises us life and not just ‘life’ but abundance. Not just us who know each other but other sheep as well.

What does God want this Christmas?

All God wants is you.

That’s all God wants.

All God wants is you, just the way you are.

And so we, blessed by God, should love others JUST THAT WAY.
Not just loving those who love us.

We are to love and welcome as Jesus loved and welcomed… going where people feel unloved, unwanted, misunderstood, left out, turned away, those knocking to disappointment.

We are to love and welcome as Jesus loved and welcomed.
Bring joy. Share hope and love and peace.

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