Everyone loves sweet baby Jesus in the manger, says Ricky Bobby. If that reference is lost to you, then know that your piety far exceeds that of your pastor. Yet we all know, St. Simeon, portrayed in that stained-glass window holding baby Jesus in his arms. He prophesied, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed.” Jesus would be a source of division. No one really expected, however, that it would come while Jesus was still a baby.
In these first days after Christmas, three festivals serve to remind us that sweet baby Jesus is divisive. On December 26, we commemorated the Festival of St. Stephen, the First Martyr. In the earliest days of the Church, he preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ with great power. The religious authorities were threatened and they stoned him to death while a man name Saul stood near and gave his approval. St. Stephen gave his life for sweet little baby Jesus. ….
Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
The Christmas story we just heard from St. Luke is familiar. It has been repeated for nearly 2,000 years, and we have heard it any number of times in our own lifetime. It is so familiar, in fact, it may have lost its intended meaning. The traditional images pass before us like stores and restaurants on a road we travel every day. They are there, but we do not see them. We look right past them. Pregnant Mary on a donkey. A bright star in the sky. No room at the inn. Joseph and Mary in a stable. Cows and sheep and camels. Angels, shepherds, and Wise Men. Baby Jesus in a cradle filled with straw. We have come to know the story so well that we risk not knowing it at all. The worn images suffer from neglect, leaving us with a mythic fairytale, a once-upon-a-time kind of a story. It is sweet, but little more….
The Angel Gabriel has just announced to Mary that she would give birth to the Messiah by the power of the Holy Spirit. Gabriel also told Mary that Elizabeth, her previously barren relative, was now in her sixth month of pregnancy. When Gabriel departed, then so did Mary. In those days, at that particular time, Mary made haste to see Elizabeth. She had big news to share. She was pregnant and it was no ordinary pregnancy. Mary was excited. Since she could not send a text or an email, she hit the road. …
Here is a recording of the German Advent Service at the German-American Society in Tulsa, OK on Sunday, 12/4/2008. Enjoy beautiful music, Christmas hymns and listen to Vicar Chris Tiews’ homily – Law and Gospel in German (at about 35 mins into the service).