Welcome to worship on this 1st Sunday of Christmas, December 26th, 2021! It is great that we can continue to worship even while we are apart and keeping each other safe! It’s been a long and tough road, but I do believe that God continues to be present with and among us and blesses us with unending grace and love!
The bulletin for this service can be found here.
It will have the order of worship with all the words and responses of the liturgy, the hymn numbers out of the ELW and page numbers out of the Tree of Life booklet, and the full sermon manuscript. The sermon can also be found on this page below the worship video, and the words that you need to know will also be on your screen.
If you would like to enhance your online worship experience, please feel free to have a lit candle in your space for the duration of the service, and/or have something small to eat and drink for communion.
May God’s everlasting love be apparent to you this day and always!
O God by the breath of your Spirit, may we be inspired by your Word and filled with new understanding and fresh desire to serve you and neighbour, through Jesus Christ our lost but found Lord. Amen.
So, how was your Christmas yesterday? I know you can’t answer me, so I guess I’ll have to tell you how mine went. All things considered, I’d have to say not bad, not bad. This was our second Christmas day in pandemic, so you’d think we’d be good at it. Normally, every Christmas would basically be the same. I’d wake up early by myself to come to church and lead a service, then I’d go home and open gifts with the kids and maybe grab a bite to eat. Then we’d get ready for the large extended and somewhat stressful Fong family gathering at my aunt’s house.
Now, I should say that I belong to pretty big family. We’re talking about 70 people crammed in the house when we gather for Christmas. So you could imagine that it would get pretty hectic. Lots of food, but very hectic. And that was always Christmas for us and we were used to it.
Last year though, all that came to a halt. The pandemic kept us from meeting so we tried to cram all 70 people on Zoom. And when you have 70 people on this app that allows everyone to talk all at once, well that was pretty hectic too. Hectic, but oh so familiar. Not to mention that my wife also tried to make a big Christmas dinner for just our small family, and maybe perhaps she made a little too much, which perhaps added to the stress of the day.
This year though, this year we had it a lot simpler. We still had church, and opened the gifts, but for dinner? We had frozen udon. I mean we didn’t eat it frozen, it was warm when my wife served it. I just mean that it wasn’t fresh and just something that we had still in the freezer. Udon. On Christmas.
My wife was feeling kind of bad about it too, as this is our Christmas dinner. The day that we remember the birth of our Lord and Saviour. The day that we’re used to gathering with a plethora of people surrounded by even more food. This was supposed to be the meal to end all meals but we had udon. Frozen udon, at that. Not much of a celebration, from the looks of it.
So, that’s nice and all, but what does that have to do with today, the First Sunday of Christmas? Well, this story that we get out of our gospel lesson has young Jesus misplaced by his family. Poor Jesus, am I right? He was like what, born yesterday and his parents had already lost him? I don’t know what’s worse, the fact that they lost him or that it took a whole day before they even realised that he was gone.
But I do know the feeling that his parents must have felt. The guilt, the embarrassment, the bewilderment around how this could have happened to them. And then, of course, the anger that came from all of that, directed solely on the one responsible, 12-year-old-born-yesterday Jesus, of course. I mean, it couldn’t have been their fault, they’re the parents. If a kid gets lost then they shouldn’t have been running around. If a child goes missing then they shouldn’t have been breaking the rules. If Jesus is nowhere to be found, then I guess he really just wanted to worry his parents and cause them great anxiety.
That’s what Mary says when she finally finds Jesus. That’s what a lot of parents say when they find their lost kid. That’s perhaps what we say when we look and look for Jesus in our lives but we can’t seem to find him anywhere.
“Where were you, Jesus?” or “Why are you hiding from me?” or even “Don’t you know that not being able to find you causes me great anxiety?”
So I guess Mary is understandably angry. I would be too if my kid ran off without me and I couldn’t find them for a while. In fact, I was angry at one of our kids at 3 years old ran off without me at the mall and I couldn’t find him for like 15 minutes. That’s scary stuff. But what it seems like to me though, was that Jesus’ parents, and me in that situation, were putting the blame on the wrong person. It’s like we don’t see our own role in the situation. We aren’t realising our responsibility in it all. We aren’t comprehending that it wasn’t Jesus who was lost, but it maybe it was us.
You might have seen the Christian meme or t-shirt with a graphic of Jesus standing behind a love seat with the caption “I found Jesus… he was hiding behind the couch”. While this is quite humourous and honestly I own the t-shirt myself, theologically it isn’t exactly accurate. See while Mary and Joseph might have thought that they found Jesus, it was actually them who needed to be found. They were the ones who were lost. They were the ones who hid their face from the living God. They were the ones who finally realised that Jesus would be exactly where he was, in plain sight among God’s people found in God’s Word.
See Jesus wasn’t hiding. He wasn’t playing hard to get. He wasn’t testing his parents to see if they could figure out where he was after like 3 days of looking. No, Jesus was where he says he always will be, in his Father’s house, in prayer, in worship. Jesus was there waiting to give counsel, to grant understanding, and to guide and direct in the ways of God. Jesus was there among the people, in the community, within relationships.
So in our “Christmas celebration” yesterday, my wife was feeling bad that it wasn’t great, that it wasn’t anything special, that it wasn’t what we were used to when it came to Christmas. But you know what? It was kind of great. Our kids for once in like, ever, weren’t eating super fast so they could go play on their screens. I wasn’t super tired because I was actually able to sleep in a bit because our Christmas service was online. And we were able to just be there with each other to eat around the table on Christmas without having to battle like 70 other people for the best food or even a place to sit. And best of all? We were able to hear each other speak as normally we’d all have to yell over all the other voices just to get a word into our conversations.
I realised in this simple meal and family gathering that Jesus finds us where we are. Jesus finds us not just in the extravagant, but also in the simple. Jesus is seen not just in the larger community but also in the one-on-one relationships that we cherish. Jesus is present not just in the hectic busyness we often find ourselves in, but also in the stillness and quiet in our lives.
And so I ask all of you on this First Sunday of Christmas, just as we’re fresh from our own various variety of celebrations either online or in person, where has Jesus found you? In what ways do you feel the leading and guiding of the Spirit? Where in your life do you see God most clearly?
Wherever it might be, I encourage you to hold onto it, don’t let it go. Allow it to remind you how you are cherished by the God who created the universe. Allow it to empower you for service knowing that the Christ has saved you through grace and mercy. Allow it to comfort you in that the Spirit, our promised counsellor, continues to be with us, walk alongside us, and love us whoever we may be, wherever we might find ourselves, and however we might have celebrated this joyous occasion.
So even though this Christmas was different than what we were used to, even though we here in this congregation have chosen to meet online again throughout this Yuletide, even though it feels like this pandemic keeps holding us back, we can know that Jesus resides among us, with us, and in our hearts as we continue to gather in his name, in God’s kin-dom, by the empowering of the Spirit.
So in this season of Christmas, a season of hope and joy in the Christ child who isn’t lost but rather who finds us, may we see God working in and around our lives, leading us on new and even old paths, present in our large and at times hectic communities as well as in our small and loving relationships, and calling us into new heights of ministry and service, for the sake of a world in need. Thanks be to God. Amen.