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Reinhold Niebuhr, the theologian, once said that he didn't like Christmas sermons.
So, on Christmas Eve he would look for a church where there would be no sermon.
Niebuhr explained his comment.
He stated that the preacher is not up to the task.
The topic is too immense.
He felt that it would be better to leave it to the poets and musicians, who have a more inspiring way
of expressing and celebrating truth.
Music does express the story with more passion and power than words alone.
We place an overload of demands on ourselves at Christmas time.
Do you remember the story about the Three Wise Men.
- Cookies and cakes to bake, those special treats, which must be reproduced in the very same way year after year.
- Cards to address from a list that grows every year.
- There are gifts to purchase and wrap.
- There are parties to attend and dinners to prepare.
- Trees will be decorated.
- And families will gather together.
The story is that wise men should have been women.
Had the Magi been women, they would have:
We place high expectations on ourselves and an enormous amount of stress just to get to Christmas.
- Asked for directions.
- Arrived on time.
- Cleaned the stable.
- Helped deliver the baby.
- Brought a casserole.
- And would have given practical gifts.
Because of all the rush and anxiety, we lose the simplicity and greatness of Christmas.
He wants us to be changed into grateful children who will love Him in return.
- Christmas is about gifts we do not earn or deserve.
- Christmas is about the amazing grace of God.
- Christmas is about a God who wants us to know that we are loved,
that our lives have meaning.
- Christmas is about a God who came to let us know how much we are loved.
- And Christmas is about a God who wants all of us to be changed by that love.
I read a man who was driving an 11 year old boy to a penitentiary, to see his older sister,
who had been convicted of a violent crime.
She would not be eligible for parole until she is 58.
Charles lives with his grandmother- his mother lives in the same city and only agrees to see him occasionally.
All the way home, Charles didn't say a word.
At the outskirts of the city, he suddenly asked the man,
"Would you take me to my Mom's house?
Most of the times when he calls and asks to see her
she has some excuse for not taking him for the weekend."
The visit with his sister had obviously stirred up a need for his mother.
"If you'll just take me, she'll have to see me," he explained.
The man added that the boy's hostile demeanor, the quiet, lonely suffering that had been so apparent
throughout our trip caused him to want to see his mother who had repeatedly rejected him.
For Christmas, the eleven year old with me that day didn't want money or the latest fad in clothing
or the newest high-tech game.
He longed for his mom.
The best Christmas gift you can give to those who are important to you is the gift of yourself.
May God's love for you, given in the birth of the baby Jesus in Bethlehem, stir up in you willingness
to love as you have been loved.
It is the best gift of all.
And so, W.H. Auden has the shepherds say:
"Let us run to learn
How to love and to run
Let us run to love.
All, All, All,
Run to Bethlehem".
Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White
Email Dr. White at email@example.com