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CHRISTMAS SERMON 2013

Today, we are in church like we would have been 200 years ago – no electricity, no organ and no heat.  But Christmas still comes even when the room is dark and cold, the phone and TV don’t work and there is no internet connection.  The lack of our usual comforts has made Christmas preparations all the more complicated.  Even Christmas trees are unlit.

But in times like this we are able to experience the caring of our family and friends.  Offering shelter to those in the cold, checking in on friends, walking down a dark street paying attention to strangers.  These simple actions show that we care about each other.  And this has made this Christmas special.

Here today, we can experience the relevance of the Christmas gospel.  Someday, when we tell our grandchildren of this Christmas, we will draw the same parallels that the gospel does – it came to pass that an ice storm hit Toronto and the city was dark and cold for many days.  This happened when Stephen Harper was the Prime Minister and Rob Ford the Mayor (Meer).  And everyone went off to church because the malls had been closed for several days and there was no TV and even Christmas sausages could not be cooked. And the gospel was read in Church: It came to pass that....  And this old gospel brought joy to people’s hearts.

Let me tell you a story about Charles Darwin.  As he was walking along the beach, he came across a boy sitting on a rock reading a book of bible stories.  Darwin stopped and asked the boy „What are you reading?.  The boy answered „The story of the creation.“ Darwin then asked „So, does that mean that you believe that God created the Earth?“ „Of course“ answered the boy „don’t you?“.  To that, Darwin took a big red apple from his pocket and said „I will give you this apple if you can show me where God is.“  The boy then took two apples from his pockets and responded „I will give you both of these apples if you can show me where God is not“.

The story of the birth of Jesus is a question of faith.  Whether we believe or not.  Throughout the ages, this story has been questioned.  There is much that seems unbelievable in this 2,000 year old tale.  The virgin birth, the angels and the incarnation of Jesus seem so incredible that many are unable to believe this actually happened.  Scientists and theologians have argued this point for centuries.  But today I do not want to focus on this, except to say that anyone who has studied even basic physics feels he is smart enough to know that the birth of Jesus is questionable.  But, a modern-day quantum physicist who searches for the Higgs particle or tries to explain the existence of dark matter has come to realize that theories are based more on faith than on measurable data.

Many years ago, when I was Chairman of the newly established Diaconial Hospital and was dealing with the problems that entailed the following occurred.

Establishing a hospital is not an easy task and unpleasant surprises were common. 

A long staff meeting had just finished where many difficult situations were discussed and I thought resolved.  I rushed off to another meeting at the Consistory where I was to present an overview of the progress at the hospital.  Sitting among the assessors waiting for my turn to present, I noticed an incoming text message from the hospital’s Head Doctor.  (You remember those first mobile phones – big and heavy like a brick but with tiny screens where you could only read a few words at a time.)  The message read:  „I can’t keep this from you any longer“.  (Now what happened, I thought).  „You won’t like this, but it’s better you hear this from me“. (What? I thought everything was resolved!)  „The Santa Claus doesn’t exist.“ continued the message.  Upon which I laughed outloud, interrupting the meeting and had to make apologies for my outburst. 

I don’t want the children in church today to think Santa Claus doesn’t exist.  In fact, I still believe although my hair and my beard are almost grey.  Say what you want, but I am sure that most of your parents still believe in Santa Claus because they are as excited about Christmas as you are.  They share in the joy that Santa’s secretive visit brings.

Does knowledge discourage us from believing?  I don’t think so.  The more we know, the more we are responsible to pass on both knowledge and faith to the next generation.  And so Santa comes each year to millions of young and old alike.  For fun, he sometimes wears dad’s slippers or has a voice strangely like grandfather’s.  Sometimes he is so rushed that he just leaves the gifts under the tree and moves on to the next house.  But always, always, he is REAL.

The Christmas story is above all a story about the love of God.  It has brought true love to tame the harsh reality of life.  It creates the love of God in our heart and through that God takes on a human form.

It is always easier to be skeptical and critical.  Life has given us good reason for that.  It is easy to hate our enemies and love our friends.  It is much harder to find peace and accept that everything does not go according to plan.  We have to look inside ourselves and change how we react.  It is not easy to give up our preconceptions and bow down before the grace of God.

Love itself is so unwordly it can be difficult to believe.  It is also why love is fragile.  But only love makes life on earth meaningful.

Today we recall the Bible’s accounting of events that happened 2,013 years ago.  God has allowed this story to be passed on from generation to generation.  Each generation has found its own faith from that story.  Many interpretations of the actual events have been recounted.  Over the years, bible researchers and theologies have come across information that has resulted in the story we heard today.  The gospel according to Mark, the oldest gospel, doesn’t mention a choir of angels or even a baby in a manger.  The gospel according to Luke, documented much later, is so detailed and so real, it seems he was actually there at the birth of Jesus hearing the angels sing. 

And somewhere within our hearts is the meaning of Christmas.  Does it carry with it the message of faith, that the birth of Jesus proclaimed?  Is our own faith, hope and love great enough to pass on the meaning of Christmas to our children and grandchildren?  That depends on us.

May our Lord Jesus Christ open our hearts to faith, hope and love.

A blessed Christmas to each of you.

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