a christmas sermon for Sandy Hook

I wish I could report to you that there is no evil in the world today. I wish I could tell you that the Good news of great joy for all people has taken over in every heart, in every tribe, in every nation.  Such words ring as hollow as a plastic light up Santa.  We see at Sandy Hooks Elementary the very outer edges of humanity depravity or brokenness.

Still, that very brokenness, the lump, the silent inexpressible grief arising in our collective soul reminds us that we human beings long for something purer than the isolated selfish ways we normally live.  When pushed by calamity we want to live with our better selves. God gives human freedom: we are made in the image of God with the ability to hurt or hold. At times some terribly misuse that freedom but we long for something better, for peace on earth and goodwill among all God’s children.

The Christmas story is one of Emmanuel: God with us.  The Gospel writers see the brokenness and vulnerability of world.  The very message of Christmas is that God’s great love for humanity compels the Creator to come as child.  The armies of God, the great heavenly host do not appear to surround and shield the Christ child but only to sing hymns in the field with some shepherds and sheep.

It is risky.   The Creator God- the Savior comes to us a baby: vulnerable needing us fallen broken people.  The One who made the world, finds no room in the Inn.  Although Joseph likely owns property in Bethlehem, there is no family there on that holy night.  Maybe his family will not stand with Joseph for the shelter he is providing Mary after she turns up pregnant during their courtship.  A mid-wife, the inn keepers wife come and in time a group of shepherds to in sing the customary blessings on a newborn child.    God sleeps on Mary’s belly to keep warm. The One who spoke the stars into space lays swaddled in a feedbox cradle.  Salvation clings to Mary, taking nourishment.  Joseph’s dream preserves the Everlasting King from the murderous plots of Herod the Great.  The Savior escapes the slaughter of the innocents perhaps because in sleep, Joseph worries over the magi’s visit and the lunatic king ruling the region.  So the Emmanuel comes as Rachel weeps for her lost children.   The Creator depends on the created for life.  Christmas comes as a grand Divine risk- God sends the light of the world as a newborn child.

This vulnerable God lying in the cow’s crib speaks of the empathy of God, who leaves the comfort of heaven for love of a sinful humanity.  God with us…. God with us in the land of stubbed toes, not making the team,  and getting a low score. God with us when we stand by a hospital bed, judge, moving truck, grave stone. God with is in our greatest joys and deepest woes. God with us in the manger… and on the cross.  This is a great comfort: the incarnation. God’s love sent to us not on tablets of stone or gold plates on in inapproachable light, but God laying in a feedbox, God touching a woman crippled over by illness and human whispers… saying daughter, go in peace your faith ahs healed you. God’s salvation weeping with Mary and Martha and the crowd as they mourn their brother’s  death.  This is God with us feeling the betrayal of Judas, and the cowardice of Peter, the sting of the crowd, and pain of the lash… and hanging suspended between the word Christ spoke into existence and heaven’s perfect love.  John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he sent his only begotten son… not a message an inescapable message in the hung clouds… but a sharing of the human fate.  A Love that sits with us, that holds our hands at the funeral that stands by us as we weep.   This is Christmas.  

  • What does this Christmas mean for Sandy Hook?
  • How shall we live?

 

Some will look for someone to blame.  In angry hurt they will lash out.  Unconsciously we look around for someone, somewhere, some way to cast blame.  Seeing the horrors of evil we grind our teeth and risk creating more pain.  Hurting and confused we kindle hateful fires. I see some of this on face book, Christian friends labeling those who are grieving and wanting to reduce gun violence names.  How sad, that we wound each other trying to address lurking evil.   Let us pledge to not set verbal fires with our tongues, posts, and sneers. Let us not pledge to bring comfort and not cling, to our positions…

Some escape with drink or distraction.  Some will build walls, hire more police, install metal detectors, move to safer neighborhoods, put up gates, strap on holsters, fire someone, of take other evasive action.   They will huddle up in fear, clustered.  That only isolates and maybe perpetuates the problem, because it reduces the community that can address the core brokenness and evil in our midst.  Withdrawing and throwing up walls leaves evil unchecked. .  These barriers do not seem options for we who follow Christ, we are told to not place our light safely under the protective warmth of a good stout basket.  We cannot concede the field to evil, letting our wicks grow cold.

When we look around this world and see evil what will we do?

  • Withdraw?… flee?
  • Lash out… fight?
  • Or leave the warm well lit clusters and venture into the      darkness?
  • If we who hold lights do not step away from our comfort      and enter the darkness, how with others find their way out of the night of      tears?
  • How will we overcome this evil, this night that is arising      from among us?

 

In the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus gives the solution to the darkness in the world.

“You are the light of the world.  A city built on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.  Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and turn their thoughts to God.

 

Confronted by evil, suffering and pain…. Let your light shine…

 

How pastor, how do we let our light shine? We love grand plans, great diet plans, 30day money makeovers,  grand schemes and quick fixes.  Jesus offers none, instead it the steady carrying of one’s light out into the risky darkness that lights the world.

 

So I want to consider very quickly ho we might light this dimming world…
Jesus begins his sermon: Blessed are those who know their sinners, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 Blessed are those who mourn,

at times we must light a candle and weep.  The second beatitude is mourning.  We must weep for innocence lost.  Our tears soften the hard places and wash away the jagged edges of our souls.  We wired for fighting or fleeing must learn to stand our ground and acknowledge the sadness.  Our tears somehow plant healing seeds.   We who weep learn to console each other, to take hold of each other’s hands, to prop each other up, to lean into one another embrace.  How terrifying to weep alone.   Once we help each other to stand straight again we must venture into the cold night with love.

 

Listen quickly to the ways you can step out into the darkness and overcome it.

Listen for the places where you add to the world’s darkness.  Sinners love to see others faults, while ignoring our own… this may be our core spiritual problem.

  • Blessed are those who do not have to be right
  • Blessed are those who like strive to live righteous lives
  • Blessed are those who make peace
  • Blessed are those who become poor to enrich others
  • Blessed are you when angry people attack you and you stay      calm
  • Be God’s flavor in a tasteless world
  • Bear light  in dark      times
  • Do not dwell long in angry
  •  Do not call names
  • Be reconciled with others
  • Do not lust or covet
  • Be faithful
  • Be plainspoken
  • Turn the other cheek
  • Give to those who ask
  • Love your enemies
  • Pay (as Wesley said) even for the enemies of God
  • Don’t worry about who gets the credit or the reward
  • Just empty your heart to God when praying
  • Forgive
  • Don’t make a show of your faith
  • Do not stockpile wealth for this life
  • You cannot serve God and wealth
  • Strive for the Kingdom of Heaven
  • Keep on praying
  • Keep on seeking Godliness
  • Keep on asking questions
  • Treat others as you want to be treated
  • Do not worry that most people will not carry their candles      out into the darkness, just carry yours
  • You will be known by your attitudes and actions
  • In the final judgment many will espouse a faith rooted in      formulas and showy spectacle, these are not Jesus’ people
  • Anchor your life Christ-like actions, these will uphold      you in the storms of life

 

So how will we respond to such a broken, sin-sick, weary world?

  • Retreat
  • Blame
  • Lash out
  • Weep
  • Or hold aloft a candle remembering the vulnerable way our      Lord brought hope into this world.

 

As Morgan comes and sings, of the Christmas child let us ponder if we will come and take Candle as a sign our pledging to step out from the shadows and bear light to a hurting world.

 

So I say dear friends let us take the risk to love.  Let us hold each other up even as we weep.  Let us step out into the darkness, light a candle, say a prayer, forgive, reach out, put our children on the bus, and risk love.  We have no alternative.  There is no grand scheme; only small actions that light the path, dispel the darkness, and offer renewal.  It is risky. It is the Christmas message.

 

@Paul r Purdue

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