December 24, 2020 Worship Sermon - "Christmas in the Year 2020"

Delivered by Rev. Stephen Keiser

Isaiah 9:2-7 ;Psalm 96; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-14 [15-20]

How does one celebrate Christmas in the year 2020. 

I received a card from a friend last week.  It wasn’t a Christmas card, but a New Year’s card and it read, “So long 2020.  You won’t be missed.”  My friend decided that the thing most worth celebrating during this painful year is that it is coming to a close.  I absolutely understand where my friend is coming from.  Part of me feels like, let’s get over with as quickly as possible.  I don’t need to recount for you all the challenges that people are facing right now during this Christmas season.  Even the tree that we tried to put up in front of the church had trouble staying vertical.  It kept falling over as if to say, “I’m just going to sleep this one out.”

Believe it or not, the year of Jesus’ birth was probably as challenging for most people as 2020 has been for us.  Maybe it wasn’t so difficult for people like Caesar Augustus and Herod.  They were a part of a small group of people that was doing just fine.  But for most people, life was hard.  They lived paycheck to paycheck, just like many of us; and if they had any assets, they were constantly in danger of losing them to the creditors and the tax collectors. 

Certainly, the shepherds had it rough.  They were basically homeless men who got food in exchange for making sure the sheep didn’t run away.  They had no roof over their heads to shelter them from the rain and the cold.

But perhaps that’s why they saw the angels when they appeared in the heavens.  Those who were living in palaces and mansions were too busy partying to notice; but the shepherds had nothing to do but stare into the sky.  So, they were the first ones to hear the good news: God is being born into our world.

In so many of the paintings that I have seen of the angels announcing the birth of Christ, you see this bright multitude filling the heavens and you wonder, “How could anyone have missed it?”  Maybe the appearance of the angels was much more subtle than that.  Maybe it was more like the still small voice that spoke to Elijah on the mountaintop.  Whether the angels were as noticeable as one might imagine, certainly the child that the angels sent the shepherds to see was not something that most people would have found note-worthy.  A baby in a feeding trough?  That’s the good news of great joy for all people?

Yes!  As a matter of fact, that is the good news that we gather here to celebrate.  We celebrate the fact that God can do amazing things with very small acts.  We celebrate the fact that a baby born of refugees can be the savior of the world. 

2020 is a good year to remember this because so many of us are not going to find joy this Christmas in piles of gifts under the tree or tables filled with food.  Many of us will find joy in small things just like the shepherds did back in Bethlehem.

Here’s an example of the kind of small things that can bring great joy.  As the volunteers were cleaning up after the grab-n-go meal this afternoon, Pastor David said to me, “There was room at the inn today for 185 people.”  He meant that they were able to provide meals for 185 people, but the way he put it was spot on.   Providing food for hunger people is a continuation of the good news that the angels announced to the shepherds.  When the angel Gabriel told Mary that she would give birth to Jesus, she replied, “You have filled the hungry with good things,” and God is fulfilling that promise today in the work that we do in partnership with organizations like UDCOC or Lutheran World Hunger. That may not be the kind of good news that gets noticed in the halls of power; but for the hungry people who received a meal today, it’s the kind of news that causes true rejoicing. 

I pray that just as the shepherds were able to see the angels proclaiming good news, your eyes will see joy-producing events in our world today.  These events may be very subtle, but God can use them to transform the world.

Christ Lutheran Church Upper Darby