What Do You Run From?

Sermon Christmas 1A + December 26, 2010

On the day after Christmas the faithful gather to worship the newborn king with the carols and candlelight, light and love, presents and peace, wrapping paper and wonder still fresh in our minds.  For some this Christmas was the stuff of Norman Rockwell paintings and sentimental Christmas cards… picture perfect.  For others it was the usual test of patience, a reminder of family dysfunction, depressing or just plain disastrous.

Regardless of your Christmas experience, God’s Word this day acknowledges a world that is not sparkling perfection:

  • A world that didn’t welcome the Christ child with open arms,
  • A world changed at the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. 

Instead the Gospel or good news proclaimed this day does not seem good at all.  For we realized that there is still evil in the world and that the powers that be, the status quo and in fact most people do not want a prince of peace, mighty counselor, messiah to save them, or change their worldview.

Herod this day represents the evil in the world of 2000 years ago and the world of Christmas 2010.  The Gospel reminds us that Jesus the Light of the World wasn’t and isn’t welcomed with opened arms.  Instead Jesus enters a world that largely ignores the incarnation of God, and those who sense that his light might extinguish their power of darkness, plot and carry-out the extinguishing of all who may overcome their darkness.

The reality is that Jesus does not enter a world of quaint nativity scenes or a world of warm welcome.  Instead Jesus enters a world of real pain, of serious dysfunction, a world of brokenness, corruption and oppression.  Jesus enters the real world, our world, and today we have a glimpse of his formation as a small child that prepares him to be fully human, while being fully divine, Emanuel—God with us.

Herod’s reaction to the birth of Jesus gives us a glimpse of the evil that begins with this attempt on his life and ends with the evil perpetrated in the crucifixion.  In fact one of the storylines in the Gospel of Matthew is the story of God and good prevailing over evil.  But there is evil in the world, there are Herod’s among us, and God’s gift of free-will for human beings is often selfishly squandered as we pull the blinds, turn our backs on the light of Christ, and embrace the ensuing evil.

It was the evil of Herod, intimidated, worried, selfishly trying to keep anyone from his own family, successful people in his government, or even harmless babies that drew the attention away from him that led to the death of holy innocents in Bethlehem.  Evil took the lives of dozens, but God’s intervention to prevent the death of the Christ Child also caused his family to run, fleeing to Egypt.  Jesus, our Lord and Savior was on the run at an early age, experiencing life on the margins, living as a stranger in a strange land, meeting and receiving the hospitality of diverse peoples.

 So this day after Christmas, who, or what do you run from?

  •  Have you ever had to run to save your life…
  •  Have you ever run because you were afraid of commitment…
  •  Have you run for survival or a better life for you, or your children…

We live in a world full of people on the run, fleeing places or circumstances.  But often, more often than not we do it to follow our dreams, listen to our own voice or selfish desires.

This was not the case for Joseph.  He followed not a selfish voice, desire, or dream… Joseph listened not to himself, but to the warning of God received in a dream.  I don’t know about you, but it is hard to listen to voices, desires, or dreams that are not my own.  But it seems that today’s Gospel speaks about turning our volume down so we can hear the voice of God… a voice that speaks to us through the quiet listening of open and prayerful hearts.

We live in a world where people like Jesus, Joseph and Mary have to flee for their very lives. 

  • I think of the people of Haiti still living in tents a year after the earthquake that shook the foundation of their lives.
  • I think of the people of Sudan living under the oppression of some of the most evil forces in the world.  
  • I think of the people of East Hartford who gather here running from the evil that control their lives to gather for support in community for the addictions that oppress them. 

+          +          +

So this day after Christmas, who, or what do you run from?

  • The friend or family member who has just lost their job, been diagnosed with a condition, or disease that you just don’t know how to react to…
  • The people or places that remind you of who you are, or frighten you because you are afraid of becoming burdened with their shortcomings… 
  • The situation or relationship that gives you the most stress, the one that raises your temper or blood-pressure, or the one that you grieve and makes your heart ache…

We live in a world full of people on the run, fleeing places or circumstances.  But often we do it because we are afraid that the realities of the people and places of our lives will change us, our routines, or our dreams.

So this day after Christmas, who, or what are the people in your life who have had to run, flee from what they know, or experience major life changes?

  • The elderly friend or family member whose health or financial situation forces them to move from their beloved home…
  • The young person who cannot find employment…
  • The laid-off or underemployed person who cannot find meaningful or sustainable work…
  • The families who are forced to live apart, or move from town to town due to relocating for new work or job transfers…

We live in a world full of people on the run, fleeing places or circumstances.  But often we do it because of the reality that we are simply not in control.

 +          +          +

This day after Christmas, most of us will return to warm homes and:

  • Most of us will have plenty of good food to fill our stomachs…
  • Most of us will have a comfortable and safe place to lay down our sweet heads for the night… 
  • Most of us will get up tomorrow morning, put on clean clothes go about our day of work or play… 

As we go about the routines of our lives, most of us will not see, talk to, or respond to those in our midst here in Central Connecticut, or those around the world, who will need to run, flee, or leave in order to survive:

  • Most of the world will not have heard the Gospel this day and still be running off to after Christmas sales, or errands, or parties…
  • Most will not think about Joseph’s dream and the fleeing of the Holy Family to Egypt…
  • Most will not think about the holy innocents who suffer each day around us…
  • Most will not see the face of Jesus in our neighbor, or hear his call to live as he did, as one who knows what it is like to flee. 

This Christmas two-hundred gathered in this sanctuary, this safe place, this house of the Lord for worship services that celebrated God’s love made flesh, the light of the world born in Bethlehem.  The services were celebratory, the music heavenly, the assembly dressed in their holiday best, the Word preached and the Meal shared…

But for me the best part of Christmas at Faith was knowing that a group of our neighbors also assembled here, not in the sanctuary and safety of this worship space, but in the other end of this house of the Lord.  Narcotics Anonymous had to leave the place they used to meet because of a bedbug infestation.  They fled and were led to this sanctuary and safe place on Silver Lane, meeting here for the first time on Christmas Eve.

Friends if we are to listen for and connect with voice of God over the desires of our hearts, we will more fully see the face of Jesus in one another and in our neighbor.  God sent Jesus to show us that we are to flee from our sin and connect more fully with this earth and our neighbor as Jesus did. 

We are called to flee from our comfort zones, our intellectualized faith, and even this space, to connect with the earthiness of this world, and the struggles of our neighbors in love because God is with us.  Thanks be to God!

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