So the world has been telling us that Christmas is more than over now, and most of us are more than thankful for that: no more holiday stress, no more trying to make schedules line up with everyone else in the family and work, no more having to buy the right presents for people (at least until the stores start up the hysteria again in however many months). Except the church isn’t quite done with Christmas. There’s evidently more to that holy night than we realize to the point that not only do nearby shepherds come to the scene of childbirth in a manger stall, but that magi traverse hundreds of miles to witness what this newborn king is all about. There’s evidently more to Christmas than the nice warm fuzzy feelings it gives us with the relatives gathered under a single roof, or the candlelight while singing Silent Night on Christmas Eve.
You see, when Jesus was born He became one of us, one of us mere mortals, one with our pain and sufferings, one with our happiness and joys in this life. Because of what happened in Bethlehem he became a brother in our humble humanity and we became children of God. That gives us yet another nice warm fuzzy feeling thinking about a family gathered around a table sharing laughter and tears as it happened so often these last few weeks: evidently Jesus can be one of those in that very room laughing just as loudly, crying just as deeply as a brother in this life. And for us to be children of God: this God is as much a parent to us in this life, who will encourage us all the more when we feel down, who will ultimately forgive us even more when we do wrong; this parent of unconditional love. Because of what happened in Bethlehem evidently God is much closer to us than we ever realized.
Except with this whole Christmas thing comes immense responsibilities as now-claimed children of God. So often we tend to marvel at Christmas for all that God has done for us, for the world, for the darkness that can no longer overcome the light of Christ; all this “joy to the world,” that our Savior was finally born for us, a Son given to us. So we give thanks to God on Christmas Eve night in worship and through our family gatherings on Christmas Day, but then we move on with life as normal. The Christmas trees, the wreaths, all the cluttered-up wrapping paper is put away, and all that is to do with Christmas is absolutely gone for about eleven months or so. Nevertheless, evidently, God has something more in mind with this whole Christmas thing.
You see as children of God, because of what happened in Bethlehem, that Jesus unites us with God in this family of unbelievable mercy and unconditional love with God as the parent: there’s still this little nudge from God for these precious expectations that God has for the children of all ages. And it’s more than just the normal chores around the house of doing dishes and dusting. From the beginning God entrusted us to take care of the Creation. God trusted Mary and Joseph to care for the child Who will end up saving the world. God trusted fishermen and tax collectors to become Jesus’ disciples to help spread the news that the Messiah had finally come. And now God trusts us to carry out the very ministry of Jesus Christ after an empty tomb set us free from sin and death. God believes we are more than capable of caring for the same ones Jesus spent so much time nourishing day and night: the sick, the dying, the hungry, the poor, the homeless. As children of God, God tells us they aren’t someone else’s problem to take care of; in this family, in this family of God, in this body of Christ, we take care of absolutely everyone: no questions asked, no second-guessing. Because of what happened in Bethlehem, in a manger stall, in the dirt and grime of humanity, the down-trodden of the world are our responsibility.
As we heard from the Gospel of John this morning, we aren’t simply made into children of God for our sheer blessing of abundant life now and beyond this world. The Gospel writer reminds us in no uncertain terms that we have blessed with “power [as] children of God.” Power to lift up those who feel depressed, power to cry with those who feel the loss of loved ones, power to join together to take on all the trials that come about in this life.
Christmas has its warm nice fuzzy feelings, and it should, with all the family gatherings and Christmas carols, but there’s this power that God instilled in this world through a helpless child. Soon enough that helpless child ends up having more than enough power to defeat death itself, and redeem the world.
There are most certainly times in this life when we feel more than helpless, but God says this power of the Holy Spirit never leaves us, no matter what. There is power to overcome, power to join together, power to even face the darkness of death, not because of anything we did, but because of what God did for us through Jesus Christ. Evidently Christmas brought much, much more than we ever realized for us. And the truth is its power from that night in Bethlehem has never stopped ever since through all children of God then, now, and forevermore. And for that we give thanks to God indeed. Amen.
St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
Rev. Nan Dehnke, Pastor
Office: Mon - Thu: 9 a.m. - Noon