Worship Sunday at 10:30

Bethany Evangelical
Lutheran Church

Ishpeming, Michigan † Est. 1870

 
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Christmas Eve 12/24

          “It came without ribbons!  It came without tags!  It came without packages, boxes or bags!  Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store.  Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”  You may recognize those words spoken by the Grinch.  It was after he had stolen all of what he thought made up Christmas, all the presents and food and stockings and decorations and trees, but as he heard the singing down in Whoville, he found out that despite his efforts to steal it, Christmas arrived anyway.  There was more to it than he thought.  I know I read the Dr. Seuss story a long time ago, but I’m pretty sure I’d never seen the cartoon movie version until last week on TV; but that line got my attention and I do think it’s appropriate for Christmas morning when we start to think about the little bit more that Christmas means.

          You know though, that for a lot of people Christmas is already over except maybe for Christmas dinner when they carve the roast beast.  But by now, for many, the presents are open, the excitement’s over, the let down begins.  So in much smaller numbers, we gather today and the reason we gather is to think about the little bit more, the little bit more of Christmas that goes beyond ribbons and packages, boxes and bags, the little bit more that even goes beyond the story of last night.

          We start though, with a text that doesn’t seem to have much to do with Christmas.   Isaiah was announcing peace and liberty, freedom.  If the Fourth of July was a liturgical holiday, this wouldn’t be a bad choice for the reading.  “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’”

          As Christians, especially on Christmas Day, we hear this as a messianic oracle about the Prince of Peace, Jesus.  God reigns in the person of Jesus.  That’s good; but to understand the “little bit more” of Christmas and what it all means it helps to know that Isaiah spoke during the time of exile, a time when there wasn’t much apparent reason for hope for God’s people.  The good news of the messenger was that despite appearances to the contrary, God’s work wasn’t done; he hadn’t forgotten about his people.  Prophets like Isaiah were able to correctly imagine and proclaim the wonders of which their god was still capable.  His words were words that made a difference because they brought hope to a community starved for hope. 

          That’s part of the “little bit more” of Christmas.  The birth of Jesus moves to another level the commitment of God to the world and the people he created.  The Christmas story is always a story of hope because it tells us that God is with us; the Word, God himself, has become flesh and lived among us; as he hadn’t forgotten about the people of Israel in exile, he hasn’t forgotten about us.  The prophets could be harsh in the warnings they announced, but they always came back to hope in their God. 

As we announce the little bit more of Christmas our words are prophetic; take away all the Christmas trappings that the Grinch stole, and our God still reigns; the good news announced last night and today does make a difference and will make a difference, echoing in our world, our community, just as the voices of the people of Whoville echoed up to the Grinch and his heart which was two sizes too small, grew by three sizes.  There are those who seem intent on limiting God’s love, but when we proclaim with the messenger that “Our God reigns,” we are proclaiming a God whose love is not limited. 

That too is part of the little bit more of Christmas, a proclamation that has to be made, because it does have the power to change the world.  If Christmas, even religious Christmas, is just the story from last night, it can be reduced to sentimentality which is nice, but it doesn’t have much impact apart from making people feel good for awhile.  It’s the little bit more that makes the difference.

The opening verses of John’s gospel are always the gospel lesson for Christmas, and when you talk about those verses, you’re not just talking about the little bit more of Christmas, you’re talking about a lot more.  You know that John takes a somewhat different approach to the whole story of Jesus and in a lot of ways what he is getting at with his approach is the more of Jesus.  So his story doesn’t start “In those days,” as was the case with Luke last night, John starts, “In the beginning,” and it doesn’t take a biblical scholar to make the connection with the opening verse of Genesis.  John connects Jesus to the God of creation so this is more than an extraordinary birth, the Old Testament is full of those, this is a lot more.  This is, as we will say in the words of the Nicene Creed, “God from God, Light from Light, true God from True God.” 

In Jesus, the Word made flesh, the creative work of God is embodied and enacted.  In this Incarnation, a new creation is inaugurated, a new creation that doesn’t replace the old one, but one which changes the rules.  In Jesus, the nature of humanity is changed.  Athanasius, one of the early church fathers and theologians described it as Christ reversing the pull which was drawing fallen humanity away from God toward nothingness and non-existence.  By sharing in our humanity, Christ transforms it, making human nature receptive to the divine. Christ enables us to participate in his divine nature, or as John says, he gives us the power to become children of God.  That is, indeed, a lot more.

So you see, the Grinch was right in the end.  You can take away all the secular and all the religious trappings of the season and Christmas will still happen.  The Word has become flesh and because of that and that alone, Christmas is a little bit more.

 
 

Bethany Lutheran Church
715 Mather Avenue
Ishpeming, MI 49849

Phone: 906-486-4351
Fax: 906-486-9640
contact@bethanyishpeming.org

Rev. Warren Geier, Pastor
pastor@bethanyishpeming.org

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“Whoever
welcomes
one such child in my name
welcomes me, and whoever
welcomes me welcomes
not me
but the
one who
sent me.”
 
 

 

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