When we gather on this fourth Sunday of Advent, we come to hear the familiar, beloved stories of God’s love dwelling among us, to remind us that as people of faith there is a different way to be, a different way to be in relationship with one another, a different way to be in community with one another.
December 24, 2023
It’s A Wonderful Life
Luke 2: 1-20
Rev. Dr. Heather W. McColl
Luke 2: 1-20
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no place in the guest room.
Now in that same region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for see, I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
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, and 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, just as it had been told them.
Treasure It! Luke 2: 1-20
There is a shared lesson among preachers which tells us to preach the good news always, using words if necessary. Then there is a different shared lesson among preachers which says, “One should always know when a sermon is not necessary because it distracts from the text.” This is the fine line which I have walked this week, wondering if we really needed another sermon on this beloved, well-known text this Sunday while trying to honor our call to act and speak in such a way so that we become living testimonies to a loving God.
As you can probably tell, I decided to go with yet another sermon on this beloved text. Not because I think I can add anything to it. I don’t presume to be that eloquent or that important.
No, I decided to go with yet another sermon on this beloved text because Luke reminded me how truly earth shattering this story really is for us as people of faith. It captures our attention. It captures our imagination. This well-known beloved story invites us to become the people God created us to be….that is if we let it open our hearts and minds to the new life it promises.
Here’s why I say this… unfortunately, this story has been shared so many times that it has simply become background noise for all our other Christmas celebrations. This story has been acted out so many times in cute children’s Christmas pageants, that this grace filled story has lost its edge. All of us, the ones sitting in the pews and the ones waiting right outside our doors, all of us need to hear again it’s life-giving message so that we never ever forget that God is at work in this world, bringing healing and wholeness for all people, we need to hear once again that God is doing this not just during the Christmas season but now and forever more.
Or let me say it this way…Over the last few weeks, we have watched small snippets of “It’s a Wonderful Life”. And there was no way we could end this Advent series and not see the ending…So I invite you to hear how the story ends. (watch video)
Each year, we re-watch our favorite Christmas movies, whether that be Elf, or It’s a Wonderful Life, or Fred Claus, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, or A Charlie Brown Christmas. It doesn’t matter that we have seen these movies a thousand times. It doesn’t matter that we can probably recite some of them word for word. Each year, we re-watch these Christmas movies so that we can experience that one part where everything works out…that moment when the kid gets his official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle, that moment when the army regiment comes to Vermont to show their captain that they will follow him wherever he goes, or that moment when George Bailey finally realizes that he has a pretty wonderful life. Each year, we re-watch these stories, we immerse ourselves in these stories to once again be reminded, to experience that feeling when everything is right with the world and anything is possible.
The same holds true for the Nativity story. For us as people of faith, the power of this text is that this good news of God’s grace and peace is not just shared with us in one word or phrase. This news of God’s love is shared with us throughout the whole text, throughout the whole story, from the beginning of the Bible until the very last page. That’s why we love this story. That’s why we tell it over and over again, not because it is cute but because it is powerful enough to change lives. It reminds us that our God loved us so much that God sent God’s only son so that we would know the breadth and depth of God’s love for each and every one of us.
This beloved story of the Nativity tells us that we will always find God’s love and grace surrounding us, holding us, uplifting us, encouraging us. This beloved story reminds us time and time again that in all things, through all things, God is with us no matter what. And that is what we need to hear day after day, year after year, minute after minute.
Because…as people of faith, We know that God is at work in this world bringing about what others had deemed impossible. We know that love and light will always have the last word. We tell this beloved story of the Nativity each year because it invites us to treasure its promises to us as God’s Beloved Children, and realize that it truly is a wonderful life.
See also: Theology Tuesday for Sunday, December 24, 2023 – Treasure It! Luke 2: 1-20.
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