Welcome to worship on this Christmas Day 2022! It’s been a while since we had a Christmas Day service together in person, and even though the weather might prevent this one from being person we will at least be livestreamed!
The bulletin for this service can be found here. The bulletin will have everything you would imagine the bulletin to have with the order and words of the liturgy and the hymn numbers out of the ELW and the page numbers out of the Tree of Life booklet. The sermon is also included in the bulletin as well as on this page below the worship video, and the words that you need to know will also be on your screen.
For a fuller at-home worship experience, you may have a lit candle in your space for the duration of the service, and you can have something small to eat and drink prepared if you wish to participate in communion.
May the joy of the Christ child and the miracle of a baby born enlighten your faith and bring you joy throughout this season of Christmas and always!
God of love and grace, teach us to treasure your Word like Mary, follow your Word like Joseph, and see your Word in the world like the shepherds, your Word Jesus Christ our Lord, borne to us this day. Amen.
“I hate Christmas!”
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that I personally hate Christmas, so you can put away those termination papers, at least until after this service, but this is a direct quote from my manager back when I worked in retail. And this guy didn’t really hate Christmas either, mind you, but he was just fed up with the Christmas set up that we had to do every year. Honestly, it was quite a bit of work and there were a lot of times when it just got overwhelming and tiresome. If any of you have ever worked in retail during the Christmas season, you might know what I mean. And there were times in there, in the midst of the deadlines, the stress, and the pallets and pallets of Christmas products that we had to load up on the shelves when I probably would have shared that sentiment of hating Christmas, or at least just the work that comes with it.
And that’s with a lot of things in our lives, isn’t it? It might have seemed great at one point but after some time passes, after a few bumps and scrapes, after you get fed up like right up to your eyeballs a couple of times, then pfft whatever it is doesn’t seem so great anymore.
Case in point: this snow. As a kid, like any kid I loved the snow. Mind you it didn’t happen much as a kid when our climate was a bit more stable here in the Lower Mainland, but when it did, oh boy did we have fun. We’d be outside for as long as our parents would allow, which incidentally is way longer than how long I let our kids be outside these days. And even as I grew older, I loved the snow. I would drive around and find empty parking lots and do donuts and drift and a friend of mine even brought some pylons one time and we set up our own race track. Those were the days. Just the site of snow would bring unsurpassed giddiness and excitement for the fun we’d have that night after every other normal person would be asleep.
But these days? If I could swear during a sermon, I would. All the back breaking shovelling, dealing with the poorly plowed roads in our city, and these toques that totally mess up my hair, I think I can say that right now, I hate snow. I’m fed up with it. I’m just done. I know yesterday I mentioned how I don’t mind shovelling the snow here at the church or even at home, but that’s because I like playing with the new toys like the snowblower and the electric shovel I bought. I still hate snow though.
Sure, I might still pull into a parking lot or two or ours here at the church and do a couple donuts in the snow, but it’s just not the same. It’s not the same when paired with responsibility of being an adult. It’s not as fun when all the downsides are so much at the forefront. I don’t love snow anymore because most of the reasons for me to love it aren’t there anymore.
And this is what I mean, this can happen in so many areas of life, where we just get fed up, we can only see the negatives, the reasons to love whatever it is just don’t seem worth it anymore. It doesn’t have to be Christmas or snow, but it could be certain hobbies, it could be our jobs, it could even be the relationship that we’re in. And in the most extreme cases, it could be life itself.
Well, this got real bleak real fast.
But this is a huge danger for us, when things no longer bring joy but instead they suck that joy right out of us, obliterating any kind of hope that we’ll ever get it back. You might know what I mean. Maybe it’s happened to you before. Maybe you’re going through it now. Whatever the case, it isn’t a good place for us to be in as it could be overwhelming, suffocating, and just downright awful if you’re there for too long.
I think back to when my wife and I first had kids, and I didn’t know it at the time but I face a series of mental health issues about being a relatively new spouse and now a new parent. As those of you who have had kids of your own or cared for other people’s kids or even been in a supermarket or an airplane with kids present would know that kids can sometimes be a handful. And when I was in the thick of parenting I remember feeling extremely tired, majorly annoyed at times, and just wondering what on earth was thinking when I agreed to this. Actually I think I know what I was thinking but I didn’t know that nine months after it’d result in so much work and so little sleep. But of course, we got through it, and here we are years later, looking back and wondering where the time has gone.
Don’t get me wrong, parenting is still hard for me, especially when there’s snow on the ground, Christmas around the corner, and I have 2 sermons to write. But I’d be lying if I didn’t somehow miss that infancy stage. I miss carrying our children in my arms. I miss the (clean) smells, the laughs at the cute things they do, the excitement when they hit little milestones. But there’s just something about babies, isn’t there? Sure, maybe when it’s ours and have to care for it 24/7 it doesn’t seem like it, but just seeing the innocence of a newborn, hearing the cooing and soft babbling, and just witnessing the miracle of life, well it somehow makes it all worth it.
And so I wonder if that’s why the shepherds watching their flock by night just sort of jumped up to go see the news of this newborn baby. Actually maybe the promise of the child being the Messiah might have had something to do with it as well, but I’d like to think that the excitement of a baby, the joy of witnessing the love of new parents, the hope in a new life might have had something to do with it as well.
I know it would have for me. Like I said, there’s something about a newborn. And just the thought of a baby, it brings me back to that time in my life, that joy, that hope. It wasn’t a simpler time by any means, but it was a more joyful time. And maybe we all need that kind of reminder that in the midst of all the frustrations of life, in the thick of all the stress and overload that we face, in all the joy-sucking situations that come out way, a baby was sent to us. We are given a gift of hope when we think about what this season of Christmas is all about. In God’s abundant and overflowing grace, love has been given to us in the form of tiny human. A tiny human who would grow to be love incarnate, leading us into joy and peace, and saving us all.
And so it’s a good thing that we have this reminder at least once a year. It’s a good thing to be brought back to not a simpler time but to a joy that motivates and fulfills us. It’s a good thing that we are shown God’s love for us again and again, lifting our spirits and revealing to us again of who we are.
I think this is what Luke meant by telling us that Mary treasuring these things and pondered them in her heart. That she cherished the memory and was able to pull them out when the going got tough, bringing her back to the innocence of a baby, the joy of family, and the love that came to her in the form of God with us.
So while we might still get fed up with things here and there, while we might still face the frustrations of those we don’t like and would rather not be around, while we might still feel the overwhelming stress and discomfort of life, we can always look back on this child who made the night dance with angels and the sky light up with the glory of God. We can always remember how love was sent to us in the form of baby. We can always keep our hope in the Messiah, born to us this day, who brings us back into joy and peace, showing us how life and love aren’t necessarily easy, but are most definitely worth it.
In this Christmas season, may we be reminded of the joy of life, love, and the miracle of a baby born. Thanks be to God. Amen.