SERMONS

I'd like to share a light-hearted story with you. A true story of five friends who exchanged small gifts with each other every year at Christmas, rotating in such a way that each person received one gift from within the group from a different person each year. Because their schedules rarely allowed it, they didn't open the gifts altogether in one room at the same time and see what each person gave to the others. And so it was that the fruit cake given by Martha one year to her friend Beverly slowly made the rounds through the group in the next four years until, you guessed it because fruit cake hermetically sealed has a rather prodigiously long shelf life, Martha received back her fruit cake from another friend in year five. Only in that particular year it so happened that they were all together in one room when the gifts were opened. And after everyone had opened their presents, Martha just looked and looked at that fruitcake until finally she exclaimed, "could this be the fruitcake that I gave to you Beverly, five years ago?" And the truth came out, with some sheepish looks and fact-clarifying, and like the good friends that they were, they all laughed and laughed over how not one of them liked fruitcake and how looking at that expiration date that was still years away, they had just kept passing it on! And they decided that the fruitcake's next stop would be the compost.

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This is a wonderful night, isn’t it? A truly wonderful night. Maybe you’ve had Celebrations with loved ones. Maybe you’ve been having nice food and favorite drinks. Maybe opening presents or looking forward to opening presents. Yet this night, this Holy and precious night, is of course about so much more than good food and good people and even then presents.

Pastor Heidi Neumark tells the story of talking with her granddaughter - after her granddaughter overheard her speaking on the phone about the person who had fallen drunkenly asleep on the church steps, blocking the teenagers who were trying to get to the door of the homeless shelter where they would sleep that night at the church. Her granddaughter was just four years old, so Pr. Neumark explained things, more or less. And after thinking over what she had heard, the pastor’s granddaughter, whose name was Mia, said, “Oma, it was a cozy step.” Because, as Pr. Neumark remarked a child could not imagine anyone sleeping out on a cold, hard, concrete step.

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When the angel appears to Joseph in a dream, the angel calls him by his name, “Joseph,” and also, “son of David.” The “son of David” portion of this naming reminds us – maybe Joseph, too - that Joseph is of the house of King David, of royal lineage. Joseph is a famous heritage lineage of the King David. David, who was the youngest of eight sons of a sheep farmer, Jesse. David, who was summoned from the fields one day by the prophet Samuel that he might be anointed and made king. David, the littlest and not strongest of the brothers. David, who as a boy would slay Goliath, that great giant of a warrior, with a single pebble from his sling, and then go on to grow into one of the most famous kings of Israel and of all time.

Joseph is descended from this David. Furthermore, the prophets had foretold that the Messiah, the Savior promised of old, would come of the house of David and – cue our first reading from Isaiah – be named “Emmanuel,” “God with us.”

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I love a good, simple scrambled egg. If one can get the balance of eggs and milk just right…and beat the eggs just enough before cooking… and then cook them thoroughly but not overcook them… and then add just the right amount of salt and pepper… and then if one has a good cinnamon raisin bagel or piece of toast made from fresh, homemade bread…and then maybe a small glass of orange juice, not too big and not too small…and a good place to sit and see the sun begin to peek it’s light over the horizon as a new day begins…

Wow, suddenly, my good, simple scrambled egg isn’t sounding so simple anymore, is it?

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We shall “come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon (our) heads; (we) shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”

There shall be “everlasting joy upon our heads!” Joy, I tell you, is what we are getting ready for. Did you ever notice that the hymn “Joy to the World” is placed right on the dividing line between the Advent and Christmas sections of the hymns in our hymnals? To me, this hymn sounds like pure Christmas. Yet, I suppose that even when we come to Christmas, we are celebrating that God has already granted the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ for the redemption of the world, even as we look with expectancy – expectation – for the second coming of our Savior and the time when all the hard work of redemption being sorted out through time and the universe will be complete. The haunt of the jackal will be no more, and we will travel a simpler road, praising God in song and with safety. Yet for now, we live an existence in life and soul that resides in the dividing line – the place between getting ready for the ultimate joy that has been completed by God’s great love and the Advent time of this world’s current existence, before God’s redeeming work is seen and known in its completeness.

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