My Wish for You This Christmas
December 24, 2006
Christmas Eve Service
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good evening. Merry Christmas! I have wishes for you this Christmas Eve. My wish for you this Christmas and in the coming year is that you may have abundant good health. I wish for you, this Christmas and in the coming new year, prosperity. I wish for you, this Christmas and in the coming new year, joy and happiness and personal satisfaction. But there is one more thing I wish for you this Christmas and in the coming new year. And to find out what that is, we have to look at the gospel story of the night.
St. Luke, a good friend of the blessed Virgin Mary, wrote this gospel. He tells us that on that special night “there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
“And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, 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, and on earth peace, good will toward everyone.’
“And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, ‘Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord has made known.’ And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning the child. And all who heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.” The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
It seems to me that those shepherds, on that first night, were abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks. They were taking care of business. They were doing the usual thing. They were crunching numbers, watching over the shop, doing what they had to do to put food on the table. They were engaged in the everyday, the mundane, the humdrum. And then suddenly, something wonderful burst in upon them. And they were … what? Terrified? Amazed? They were awestruck!
They might have been tempted to say, “Let’s just stay here and keep watch over the flock. This thing probably will pass.” But no, they didn’t say that. They said, “Come, let’s go to Bethlehem. Let’s check it out. Let’s see what the angel was talking about.”
They went, and they found the miracle. They found the baby. They were so excited they went and told people. The gospel says that everyone who heard them was amazed. That’s what happens when we touch the face of God. We’re amazed, friend.
What I wish for you this Christmas night and through the new year is that you would have this gift, that you would be amazed, that you would realize that there is nothing truly ordinary, but that life is full of ordinary miracles and full of amazement. That is my prayer for you, that you might not just stay watching over the flock, just crunching the numbers, just business as usual, but that you would have the blessing of amazement. Because where God is, there is amazement. And is there anywhere that God isn’t? May you have amazement in the coming year. May you be amazed at life. May you be amazed at yourself. And may you be amazed at your Lord.
Jesus liked to talk about the kingdom of God being available to children. I wonder if this is what He meant. Children are amazed. Do you have a memory of what Christmas morning was like when you were little? I know I do. I tried so hard to stay awake and wait for Santa and to catch him giving out those presents. Before I went to sleep at night, I hung a little woolen sock on the door of my living room. I thought, “I’m going to wait up to see if he comes.” And I tried and I tried. Then I thought I’d just rest my eyes for a few minutes, and then bingo! it was a bright, frosty Christmas morning. I raced down the stairs thinking maybe he hadn’t come yet. And there, where the night before had been an empty sock, was now a sock brimming to overflowing. It was wonderful! And there were presents on the floor, falling out of the sock. And I looked in the living room, and there was a Christmas tree, covered with large, colorful lights and tinsel. Do you remember the old-fashioned tinsel? It was awesome and amazing. That’s what Christmas is like when we’re kids.
But here’s the good news. The amazement doesn’t have to stop. For Jesus said, “Unless you become like little children, how will you recognize the Kingdom?” The Kingdom is amazing. Oh, my dear friend, my prayer for you is that you would have amazement in your life, for nothing is truly ordinary.
I am so blessed. One of the blessings of being the pastor of Montgomery United Methodist Church is that I have a wonderful house to live in. It’s beautifully taken care of by our trustees, and it’s in a lovely setting on Green Avenue. There’s even a walking path nearby. Some call it a bike path, but I call it a walking path. It’s amazing, because if you walk that path no matter what the season, you’ll see something amazing – the remarkable burst of colors of spring, the mature tapestry of winter, the beautiful glaze of green in summer – oh, it’s amazing!
All around us are amazing things. May you have it in your life. May nothing be truly ordinary for you anymore. Because that’s the way God is; that’s the way God wants it for you.
Can I tell you the story of Kaye Klein? Kaye is one of those marvelous people you meet in the church. I had just started out in the ministry, and there was a wonderful woman named Kaye Klein in the congregation. Kaye was very young; she was in her 80’s when I met her. She was just as young as could be. She was a retired school teacher. She had the most wonderful stories about her students. One came up to her and asked, “Mrs. Klein, why are flowers different colors?”
“Oh, well, you see, honey, there’s a photosynthetic process. When the sun’s rays activate certain cells inside the leaf, it causes a chemical reaction which reacts with the chemicals in the cells and they take on a certain pigmentation….” And she was interrupted at that moment by another kindergartner, who said to the boy asking the question, “Don’t you know why flowers are different colors? It’s just God’s magic.”
So, I put it before you, dear ones. Is it the photosynthetic process activating the pigmentation in the various mineral components in the cells or is it God’s magic? I think you know the answer. We may be able to name things, and we may be able to categorize things, but can we explain them in any other way than the way this kindergartner did? I leave it to you. May you have amazement in your life.
I heard this story of a man who became terribly, desperately worried about something in his life. He said it changed his life. When time seemed short, he began to look at life in a different way, and he tells a story of a summer afternoon when he was sitting in his kitchen, and his son came in from playing. His son went to the refrigerator and opened it up and took out a peach. He washed the peach and sat down at the table and began to eat the peach, in all its summer sunshine glory. The father said, “I have never enjoyed a sight so much as watching my son eat that peach.” Is it ordinary, or is it amazing? I leave it to you.
May you have amazing moments. May you see amazing moments in your life. May you know that you are an amazing person, that God created you unlike anyone else in the world, and bestowed you with special talents. Why? Because He loves you! And because you have a special job to do. There’s someone in the world that needs you and is depending on your love. Isn’t that amazing? I wish amazement for you in your life this Christmas and this year.
And friend, may you find amazement in your Lord. All of heaven, come down to earth, God’s love so manifest that He became one of us, so that we would see what He is really, truly like. Isn’t that amazing? Isn’t it amazing that you have faith? What a gift! Reverend Marion, who preached this morning, talked about growing up in a house that had no faith, but she did. And she would hide under the table and pray. What a gift! Do you have the gift of prayer? Rejoice in it. It’s your connection with God. It’s amazing.
This Christmas, won’t you be amazed by God’s heavenly gift of the Savior, born for you, to connect you with God?
I close with this poem. It was written in 1646 by Richard Crashaw. It’s the “Hymn of the Nativity, Sung by the Shepherds” to the infant Jesus. Picture the shepherd talking to the baby Jesus.
We saw Thee in Thy balmy nest,
Bright dawn of our eternal day;
We saw Thine eyes break from their rest,
And chase our trembling fears away.
We saw Thee and we blessed the sight.
We saw Thee by Thine own sweet light.
Welcome all wonders in one sight,
Eternity in a little span!
Summer in winter! Day in night!
Heaven in earth! And God in man!
O little one, whose wondrous birth
Brings earth to heaven, brought heaven to earth.
Dear friend, my prayer for you is that you might be lifted out of the ordinary, as the shepherds of old were, and that you might experience the exquisite, uplifting, exhilarating emotion of amazement this Christmas, this new year, and always, because God loves you. I do, too. Merry Christmas. Amen.
© 2006 Anthony J. Godlefski