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Tuesday, December 26 2017

Vicar David Sivecz

Luke 2:1-20 “Beyond the Surface”

Christmas Eve Children’s Sermon
    (Put on the red flashing nose).  Hi.  I wanted to get into the Christmas spirit.  How many of you are excited about Christmas  What do you like best about Christmas?  How many of you helped decorate your Christmas tree?  How many of you enjoy singing Christmas carols?  How many of you love the Christmas cookies.  For some of us, it might be all of the parties.  Others of us we like visiting with family and friends.  For the rest of us, the best thing about Christmas is the presents.  Yes, both the ones we give and the ones we receive, but especially the ones we receive!

    Beside me, who else has big red noses.  Rudolph has a read nose, Mickey Mouse has one, and friendly clowns have them.  That reminds me of a story.  It’s about a little boy who had always wanted to go to a circus.  A circus is a group of people such  as acrobats, or people who have great balance, trained animals, and clowns that travel around and give performances in a large tent.

    Well, one day that young was walking down the street when he saw a poster in a store window. The poster said that a circus was coming to town and that a ticket to the circus cost one dollar. The boy ran home and asked his father if he would give him a dollar to go on that Saturday.

    His father told him that if he would work hard and get all of his chores done, he would give him a dollar to go to the circus. Saturday morning came and the boy got up early and did all of his chores.

    The boy's father gave him a dollar and the boy headed into the town filled with excitement about seeing the animals, acrobats, clowns, and all of the things that come with a circus. Since he arrived in town so early, he was on the front row when the circus parade started down the main street of town.  A parade is where people march down the street celebrating a special occasion.  So, the boy was thrilled when the animals and other circus acts paraded by him.

    At the end of the parade came the clowns.  Clowns are funny and adorable.  They make those balloon animals and joke around.  Clowns are harmless.  Following the clowns was the ringmaster. When the ringmaster passed by where he was standing, the boy ran out into the street, took his folded dollar bill from his pocket, and handed it to the ringmaster.

    "Thanks," mister, said the boy, "that was a great circus." Then he turned around and walked home. He never knew what he missed. He thought he had been to the circus, but he had only been to the parade.

    If we are not careful, we can be like that little boy. We can get so caught up on the surface, pretty stuff, of Christmas - the celebration, the decorations, and the gifts - that we miss out on the core of Christmas.  We miss out on the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  His birth is so much more than any gift we will give or receive tomorrow.  If the greatest gift has been given to us then why wouldn’t we cherish, appreciate, and enjoy it?  With something amazing why would we want to miss out on such a life forming experiencing?

    Dear God, We pray that we won't get so caught up on the surface, pretty stuff, that we miss the real meaning of Christmas.  In Jesus name.  Amen.

Christmas Eve Adult Sermon
    Many of us have heard this story before.  We’ve heard the Christmas story.  Not the one with Ebenezer Scrooge, not the one with Santa Claus, not even the one with Ralphie and his BB gun.  But we’ve heard the story of Jesus’ birth.  We’ve heard how Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem and there wasn’t any room for them at the inn.  We’ve heard how Mary had to give birth to Jesus and how she placed him in a manger.

    Then when Jesus was born an angel appeared before a few shepherds and said, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people,  to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.  Suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

     This Christmas story is nice.  Again, many of us have heard this story before.  We’ve seen this story every year in the manger scenes set up in front of houses and churches.  We listen to the story through the Christmas music on the radio.  We experience it through coming to worship this evening.  Again, It’s a nice story to hear once a year.

    But, what happens afterward when this season is finished?  How does this story from over 2000 years ago have anything to do with our lives today?  How does this story impact our day to day lives throughout the rest of the year?  Why is this story told again year after year?

    Many of us have these questions, and rightfully so.  Especially, after this year many of us might believe that this story doesn’t have any significance in today’s world.  It might seem like it’s nothing more than an old fable or a fairy tale.  Perhaps we believe this because of a previous bad experience.  Maybe it’s because we can’t’ wrap our brains around it.  Possibly it’s because of what we’ve seen on social media, the news, or in our community.

    Regardless of the reason, they make sense.  What if, these reasons are based on our perceptions or our initial reaction?  What if what we see isn’t really what’s present.  What if it’s because we are so caught up on the surface that we haven’t tried looking passed it?  Sometimes, we hear this story over and over again, and we don’t realize that there so much more.

    This story doesn’t merely stay a story; instead, it becomes part our life or journey.  Then we see and experience God working.  We understand and experience a God not of control, but a God redemption.  We know God in the midst of our daily lives walking with us, carrying us, and ultimately changing us.  What we see is God’s presence.

    What does seeing and experiencing the presence of God do in our daily lives?  Bob Weber, past president of Kiwanis International, told a story about what the presence of God does.  The story begins when he went to a small town and spoke to a club.  
    Because there weren’t any hotels, Weber spent the night with a farmer on the outskirts of the community.  After the gathering, he went back to the farmhouse to relax.  As he sat on the front porch, with the farmer, a newsboy was delivering the evening paper.  When the boy approached them, he noticed a sign that said, “Puppies for Sale.”  The boy got off his bike and said to the farmer, “How much do you want for the pups, mister?”

    “Twenty-five dollars, son.”  The boy’s face dropped.  “Well, sir, could I at least see them anyway?”

    The farmer whistled, and in a moment the mother dog came sprinting around the corner of the house followed by four cute puppies, who wagged their tails and yipped happily.  At last, another pup came straggling around the house, dragging one hind leg.  “What’s the matter with that puppy, mister?” the boy asked.

    “Well, Son, that puppy is crippled.  We took her to the vet, and the doctor took an X-ray.  The pup doesn’t have a hip joint, and that leg will never be right.”

    To the amazement of both men, the boy dropped the bike, reached into his collection bag and took out a fifty-cent piece.  “Please, mister,” the boy pleaded, “I want to buy that pup.  I’ll pay you fifty cents every week until I pay the twenty-five dollars.  Honest, I will, mister.”

    The farmer replied, “But, Son, you don’t seem to understand.  That pup will never be able to run or jump.  That pup is going to be a cripple forever.  Why in the world would you want such a useless pup as that?”

    The boy paused for a moment, then reached down and pulled up his pant leg, exposing that all too familiar iron brace and leather knee-strap holding a poor twisted leg.  The boy answered, “Mister, that pup is going to need someone who understands him and can help him in life!”

    Sometimes we get so caught in not just the surface of Christmas but the surface of Christianity, the church, and God that we miss out on what’s underneath.  What’s underneath is the most incredible, miraculous, transformative freely given gift.  This gift is God, who is the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer, breaking passed our surface through the birth of Jesus Christ to love and help us.  This gift is God coming to us in the form of a vulnerable infant.  It’s God understanding us, knowing us, and enduring our same experiences.

    So, whatever our reason is for coming here today; whether we want to be here, we were dragged here, we are visiting, or this is the first time experimenting with the church please know that this story isn’t just a story.  It’s a way of life that cuts through the surface of our very being.  This story isn’t what we see and experience on the surface.  It isn’t about the beginning of God condemning, retaliating, and judging us.  Instead, it’s about God freely coming to meet us where we are to give us mercy, grace, and acceptance.

    Knowing that God loves us this much should shoot adrenaline into our souls.  It should grasp us and pull us into this living story.  As a result, because of God’s great love, through Jesus, we are sent to love others likewise.  So, why would we want to miss out on this during the rest of year?  It doesn’t make much sense to receive this ultimate gift and let it stay idle.  But instead to allow it to continually impact us, change us, and transform us day in and day out.

    So, come and see.  Come to church and see this story become real.  Give this story a chance or another chance to become more.  Give this gift of Jesus Christ a chance to cut passed our surfaces and make a difference.  I assure you, you won’t regret it.  There will be high and lows, ups and downs, good and bad moments.  But, just come and see for yourself.  Come and see next week, the week after, and the month after.  Come and see how the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ makes an impact.

                                        - Amen

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Zion Lutheran Church
9535 Clarence Center Road

PO Box 235
Clarence Center, NY 14032
Phone: 716-741-2656

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