Message from Above - Sermon on Luke 2:1-14

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Whether it be angels or helicopters, the messages from above might give us some insight as to how to be neighbors to those who need shelter. 

Please listen to the sermon rather than read it.  The delivered sermon is often considerably different than the sermon notes which are included for convenience below.  

Sermon delivered at Lutheran Church of the Cross in Berkeley. 

December 24, 2015  -  Christmas Eve

"Message from Above".  Text is from Luke 2:1-14


Merry evening to you my sisters and brothers in Christ, saints and sinners, children of God.

Here we have to night the hope of the ages, the coming of the newborn Jesus Christ, Messiah of all the heaven.   We have the birth of Christ set in historical perspective, while Augustus is emperor and Quirinius as governor of Syria, while Joseph makes his way all the way from his home in Nazareth way up in Galilee all the way to Bethlehem, not far from Jerusalem, because that's where he was born.


We've set Jesus's ancestry into appropriate timeline. After establishing what he inherits from Mary, a woman who, if we've established her relationship with Elizabeth who is a priestly class descended from Aaron himself (and is it any wonder with the wondrous Magnificat she declared that we read on Sunday?). Now we reestablish her fiancé, Joseph, is also of royal line, and whether or not he is the father of this child that his soon-to-be wife Mary bears, 

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We then move into a part of the narrative we only find in the Gospel of Luke.  Here we have shepherds who find themselves out in the middle of the night, minding their own business when suddenly, out of noewhere, this figure bathed in heavenly light appears. 

What was it about these particular shepherds that made them special? Why did they get the honor of receiving God's words and hearing this host of heaven, this divine army, singing praise and wonder to God? What was the message coming down from heaven that gave these shepherds heavenly pause and enrichment? 

I cannot imagine being there, a shepherd in his flocks, at night, in the hills around Bethlehem with only my shepherd companions and the sheep bleating around me. I can only imagine the quiet and the dark, and then all of the sudden the bright light of the angels above me. And how I could scarce believe the amazing sights before me, the wondrous angel above, declaring that the savior was among us.  

This past Sunday, at my home in Richmond you could look up in the sky and see not angels, but helicopters, being a harbinger of the kind of news that we have been getting all too often in this day and age. Thankfully it was not some new violence that had happened this time, like the week before, when there was a shooting on I-80, but only the potential for it. Instead it was police responding to a tip that there was a plot against an Islamic mosque not too far from where I live. 

The fellow they eventually arrested had made threats to his neighbors, members of a local mosque, saying, Ï'm going to kill you all," and it was after they connected him to a picture on social media of a pipe bomb he had built himself. And it does stand to reason that this individual is a supporter of a certain political figure who has been making rather disparaging remarks about Muslims, who is indirectly responsible for violence against Muslims increasing measurably over the last few weeks. 

But it is the same kind of inhumanity that takes place, that prevents us from being hosts to the stranger the lost, those seeking refuge. How can we as human beings take the word of those who would seek to alienate others, when we know ourselves that the refugees who are entering our borders are escaping the same type of terror that we ourselves have declared that we fear in the media.  It is irrational that we should point at Muslims and say "they are terrorists without knowing anything about them, because of the actions of an incredibly small percentage of people claiming the Muslim faith. Paranoia has left our fellow citizens in a state of disarray, and have left us, as a nation, unable to discern the real threats against us.  

I've heard it often said that the real goal of groups like Al Qaida and the Islamic State in the Middle East is to drive us into a holy war between Christians and Muslims. If that is the goal than we as members of a nation by demonstrating hostility toward people who worship God in a way that Christians decry are heading in that direction. But we cannot claim to participate in this holy war, and still claim to be following our own Christian faith. 

Jesus is the light come into the world. He is the hope of the ages. And we need not a sign in the sky from angels to tell us the Christ in others needs to find a place to lay their bed and rest. I honestly don't know how many of these people that were being targeted are refugees, how many are other sorts of immigrants, whether documented or not, and how many are born and bred American citizens. I do know that in my entirety of interactions with Muslims around the Bay I find people who want the same things that I do, a safety in their way of life, to be left to believe what they want to believe and to participate in public life, the same way that I do. The lie that Muslims are here to undermine our way of life is despicable and harmful, and a violation of the 8th commandment. Christian service demands that we call it out when we can, and to be good neighbors to those that live among us, whether they be citizens or refugees.  

As such, this evening, many people are going to be converging on the Islamic Society of West Contra Costa County in Richmond and papering the mosque's door with a splash of love...letters of support, solidarity and appreciation to show that even though there are some out there who are acrimonious and antagonistic, there is a wealth of support from Americans...Christian and non-Christian alike, who are following our hearts and living out the gospel of Jesus Christ.  

I will be posting a note there myself, and have offered to bring with me the thoughts and prayers of our church family. The Lutheran of the Cross community has so much love to give, and we have so much love to share and I know that it would mean a great deal to our Muslim sisters and brothers to know that even though the loudest voices are often the hostile ones, there are many of us who practice the love that God has given us to grant in our hearts. I ask those of you who wish to to fill out a message of hope, support and love and give them to me after the service so I can present them to the Islamic Center in Richmond on behalf of LCC. 

And while you're doing that, I want to bring us back to our reading from Luke.  Because our reading has left us with only part of the story, the shepherds have heard the choirs of angels.  Let us return to the shepherds now and find out what it means to be given a message from God, and how to convey that message, and the love of one's neighbor, and the freedom that God gives us with the light of his son, Jesus Christ.


When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, 'Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.' So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Amen.

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This page contains a single entry by Cary Bass-Deschenes published on December 24, 2015 10:35 PM.

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