(A podcast of this sermon is available here.)
Worship Assistant: A few days ago, one of Pastor Dave’s Facebook Friends posted a clip from a 1980 television special called “Mr. Krueger’s Christmas.” In the program, Mr. Krueger, played by Jimmy Stewart, imagines himself visiting the baby Jesus. That inspired Pastor Dave to rewrite today’s sermon. The new title is, “A Few Moments at the Manger.”
(Pastor Dave approaches the manger. He leans down.)
Hello. I’m Pastor Dave.
But you already knew my name, didn’t you?
I’m sorry, but I don’t have a gift like those other three dudes on their way. That’s not what’s really important, right?
You’re the gift.
It blows me away to see you like this. You’re a baby!
I know that’s obvious.
What I mean is, you’re like every other infant. No radiant beams streaming from your face. No halo. You’re helpless. And defenseless. You have to depend on those two imperfect parents sleeping over there for everything. You have to depend on them to eat. And for protection – and you’re going to need that! You have to depend on them to be held and hugged, and to be changed.
Not that I like to think of my Savior having his diapers changed. But you’re not going to do it yourself, are you?
I guess what surprises me about your being like other infants is that sometimes we think of you like some kind of a Super Baby. You should see some of the pictures people have painted of you – you look like a little man in a manger.
But you’re a baby.
And you’re God.
Infinity wrapped in a beautiful little package. Everything was created through you. You had everything. You’ve given it all up, all that power and privilege, to be here with us.
You must love us so much! To become one of us. To save us. To show us how much we are loved.
And you didn’t wait. You didn’t wait for us to earn your love or to deserve you coming into our world. You just gave yourself to us, and to the world.
Thank you for being here.
Thank you for being (Hand on heart) here.
You’ve always been here.
When I was just a baby myself, you were there in my baptism. You gave me your word you’d always be with me.
You’ve been with me through the worst times of my life. You were there when I fell in love and married Karen. When I held my baby for the first time, you were there. And you were there when I adopted my son.
You’ve been with me through the most challenging times. Even 30 years ago when my dad died and I didn’t believe in you, you were there in my family and friends and even in that pastor I gave such a hard time. He forgave me, and you did too. There is nothing I could have done to cause you to break your promise to me.
You didn’t leave me alone when I rejected you. I even denied you existed, but you kept showing up in other people and in situations that I know now were more than coincidences.
I gave up on you, but you never gave up on me.
You were there just a few years ago when my mom died. I knew you then. I knew you wouldn’t let go of her, that your promises to her and to me are not limited to this life.
And earlier this year, when I was so sick, you walked with me no matter how frustrated and even angry I got about not being able to do the things I wanted to do, not being able to do what I thought I needed to do. You never left my side, and even carried me through some of that. When the doctors made it clear what a close call I had, I knew no matter what I was safe in your arms.
Safe in your arms . . .
Look at your arms now! They are so tiny, so pudgy. But you’ll grow. You’ll grow into a boy and then into a man, a man who will feed thousands with a little bread and a few fish. A man who will give hope and healing to hurting people. A man who will even raise some folks from death.
Then you’ll defeat death and save the whole world.
That’s so hard to believe looking at you now.
But that’s what you came for. To save us. To forgive us.
To forgive me.
Even though you know more about me than my name. You know everything I’ve done, everything I’ve thought and said. You know those things I’m not proud of, the things I wish I could take back. You know I’ve been cynical and selfish, that I’ve been an insensitive jerk sometimes.
It’s hard for me to even be here with you knowing all that. I’m embarrassed.
But knowing you love me anyway, knowing you forgive me . . . it’s more than I deserve.
I can never repay what you’ve done for me.
But you know that, too. And yet here you are, doing it anyway.
I better go. The shepherds will be here soon.
I love you.
Welcome to our world.
Welcome to your world.
(Stand and face the congregation.)
Friends, during this Christmastime in the midst of everything else that is going on, I invite you to spend a few moments of your own at the manger . Maybe not as literally as I have, but take some time to consider, to ponder, what the birth of this child means for you. Christmas is not just an event that happened 2000 years ago. It is not confined to December 24 or 25. God in human flesh, God with us, is a reality every moment of every day. Christmas means we are never alone, we are never unloved, we are never unforgiven. And there is nothing we can do to mess that up. The angel said to the shepherds that a Savior has been born for you – this child is for you.
And if you are like I was, if you don’t believe any of this is true, even if you don’t believe Jesus ever existed . . . I invite you to also spend a few moments at the manger pondering this question – “What if it’s true?”
What if it’s true that God loves you so much that God became one of us. What if it’s true that the infinity of love in the universe was contained in a baby in a manger, and what if all that love is for you?
What if it’s true?
(Sermon preached December 24, 2017 at Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church of Millersville.)