Christmas Eve

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Title Sermon Date Liturgical Scripture
Last Sunday after Epiphany, Year A March 2, 2014 Last Sunday after Epiphany Exodus 24:12-18, 2 Peter 1:16-21. Matthew 17:1-9
Seventh Sunday after Epiphany, Year A February 23, 2014 Seventh Sunday after Epiphany Leviticus 19:1-2. 9-18; Matthew 5:38-48
Sixth Sunday after Epiphany, Year A February 16, 2014 Sixth Sunday after Epiphany, Year A Matthew 5:21-37
John Hines sermon February 11, 2014 Daily Office I Kings 8:22-23, 27-30, Ps 84, Mark 7:1-13
Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A February 9, 2014 Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A Isaiah 58:1-12, 1 Corinthians 2:1-16, Matthew 5:13-20
The Presentation, Year A February 2, 2014 Presentation in the Temple, Year A Luke 2:22-40
Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A January 26, 2014 Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A Matthew 4:12-23
Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A January 19, 2014 Second Sunday after the Epiphany Isaiah 49:1-7, Psalm 40:1-12, John 1:29-42
First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A January 12, 2014 First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A Isaiah 42:1-9, Psalm 29, Matthew 3:13-17
The Epiphany, Year A January 6, 2014 Epiphany, Year A Matthew 2:1-12
Second Sunday After Christmas, Year A January 5, 2014 Second Sunday after Christmas, Year A Psalm 84, Ephesians 1:3-6, 15-19a, Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23
Christmas Eve December 24, 2013 Christmas Eve, 2013 Luke 2:1-20
Third Sunday in Advent, Year A December 15, 2013 Third Sunday in Advent, Year A Isaiah 35:1-10, Matthew 11:2-11
First Sunday in Advent, Year A -The Circle of the Church Year December 1, 2013 Advent 1, Year A Isaiah 2:1-5, Matthew 24:36-44
Last Sunday after Pentecost, Christ the King, Yr C November 24, 2013 Last Sunday after Pentecost, Christ the King, Year C Luke 23:33-43

 

Christmas Eve

Sermon Date:December 24, 2013

Scripture: Luke 2:1-20

Liturgy Calendar: Christmas Eve, 2013


Saint Joseph with the Infant Jesus by Guido_Reni, c1635

PDF version 

All of the glorious events that take place in just twenty verses in the second chapter of the gospel according to Luke begin with an event that is not so glorious. 

An oppressive government has made yet another oppressive demand on its people—all of its people—in every conquered part of its empire. 

And this demand affects everyone, even the people in the smallest out of the way places, like Nazareth.

And so, at the beginning of this story, we find Joseph, an ordinary carpenter, having to set aside time to “go up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the City of David, which is called Bethlehem.”

This journey that Joseph has to undertake makes me think of our own journeys through life.  So much of what we experience is completely out of our control, required or dictated by the empires of our own day. 

And Joseph’s story also reminds me that even those things we think we control are not in our control at all.  I’m sure that Joseph, a righteous man, spent time in prayer before choosing the girl who would become his wife.

So imagine his dismay when the girl he had chosen and entered into an agreement with, told him that she was pregnant.   A decision that Joseph had undoubtedly made in good faith turned out to be what seemed like a bad decision.

And so now we find Joseph, at the beginning of this story, taking  his very pregnant wife on a long journey not of his own choosing. 

And as this story unfolds, we hear nothing more about Joseph, although we assume that he is there by Mary’s side as she gives birth.

 We assume that his presence beside her helped Mary cope with the fear she must have felt as a group of rough shepherds showed up and crowded around her newborn infant. 

And I’ll bet that Joseph also pondered the events of this birth in his heart. 

Nevertheless, Joseph gets short shrift in this story.    

Mary, the newborn child,  the angels, and the shepherds get the big roles and so we usually focus on them.

Tonight, though, I’d like to focus on Joseph, because I think his part in this story holds rich treasure for us as we go through our own lives, dealing with circumstances that turn out to be beyond our control. 

Joseph is a great example of a person open to God’s will and direction in his life, even in difficult circumstances. 

After all, we can’t all be Mary, the star of this show, Mary, the mother of God.

But we can all be Joseph. 

Joseph was the one in this story who chose, without any fanfare, to  use his circumstances to care for, protect, and empower Mary to bring Jesus, the Son of God, into the world. 

Matthew tells us that Joseph engineered and carried out the escape of his family to Egypt when Herod, the paranoid ruler of Judea, sought to kill this baby that he felt threatened his reign.

And Luke tells us that Jesus was known as Joseph’s son at the beginning of his ministry in Galilee. 

Surely Joseph played a part in empowering Jesus to leave Nazareth, and to carry out a courageous and controversial ministry throughout Galilee that would end in the death of Jesus in Jerusalem. 

Joseph was a steady presence and an empowering presence in the lives of those around him—his wife, Mary, his son Jesus, and no telling how many others, whose stories we don’t have the privilege of knowing.  

The example of his life is the rich gift that Joseph brings to us. 

All of you can think of the people in your own lives who have been Joseph to you and blessed you with the rich gift of their support for you. 

I’ve been blessed to have a father who has been like Joseph to me.  And my father’s example constantly encourages me to be Joseph as well—to try my best to empower and to bless others along the way as I travel on my own journey through this life. 

Like Joseph, my father is a righteous man, a prayerful man, listening for God’s voice and seeking God’s direction in his life. 

My father’s support (and of course my mother’s as well), encouragement, and provision of so many things that I have needed, have allowed me to continue to grow into who God wants me to be.  And not just his family, but my father has empowered countless people over the years, by being a steady and trustworthy presence in their lives.   He has done this quietly, with little fanfare.

And like Joseph, my father has had to go on some journeys that he didn’t  foresee, right now the journey into the part of his life when he is physically limited in ways he never expected. 

But as he quietly and painfully moves through this difficult time in his life, he is still empowering those around him with his positive attitude, and his ongoing interest and support for what we, his family, are doing in our lives. His steady and loving presence is a constant source of inspiration and comfort to us.    

I’m willing to bet that Joseph played this same role in the life of his son Jesus, as a steady and loving presence that helped Jesus to live his human life as the Son of God. 

As he lived among us Jesus loved us.  He broke bread with outcasts and sinners, healed the sick, and proclaimed good news to the poor. 

And he empowered those who heard his call to walk in love.

Even now, for those of us who are his disciples, Jesus is here with us, a steady and loving presence on each one of our journeys, the One who will give us all we need, even in our weaknesses, even when we’re in danger, in pain, or simply tired or discouraged. 

God continues to act in our world full of circumstances beyond our control, a world in which we must take unexpected and difficult journeys. 

But even on the toughest parts of our journeys, God has given us blessings beyond measure, starting with the blessing of God’s son coming to dwell here as one of us. 

God has sent Josephs to each and every one of us, to watch over, and to care for us, and to empower us along the way.

And God repeatedly gives to each one of us incredible opportunities to empower and to bless others in ways that will help them to grow into the people that God wants them to be. 

And so, as we give thanks to God for all of these abundant blessings, let us, on this Christmas night ask God for one more gift,

For the grace and power to go in peace from this place back into the world

And to be Joseph. 

Amen. 

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