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12.24.14 The Baby Does Grow Up Luke 2:25-40 Homily and Prayers

by on December 29, 2014

Jesus’ birth stories include a cast of characters we hear little if anything about later: Gabriel the Angel who makes announcements to Zechariah and Mary. The Shepherds who visit the Holy Family that first night. Simeon and Anna we heard about today. Even Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father. We hear of him when Jesus was lost in the Temple as a twelve year old boy, and as the people of Jesus’ home town skeptically ask, “Isn’t this man Mary and Joseph’s son?” Otherwise, he also is a lost character.

Mary is an exception. Her appearances sort of punctuate the Jesus story throughout the Gospels. She was, with Joseph above, at the Temple and at Jesus’ hometown debut to skeptics. She was with Jesus at his first miracle turning water to wine. She comes to retrieve Jesus when many thought he was out of his mind. Mary was at the Cross, and in the Upper Room.

But it is in the Christmas story that she gives us the key to what it means to be a Christian. Mary, like others, was amazed at the birth of Jesus. But she also, “Treasured the words about Jesus, and pondered them in her heart.” Which words would she have pondered?

There were the words of Gabriel to her, announcing that she would bear the “Son of the Most High God” who would be “holy.” Then there were the words of the Angel to the Shepherds, including: “Do not be afraid;” “I bring you good news;” “a Savior has been born;” who is also “Messiah and Lord.”

Then there were the words of Simeon, that this child is: “God’s Salvation;” the “Light of revelation to the Gentiles;” “Destined for the falling and rising of many;” and a “sign that will be opposed” in order to “reveal the inner thoughts of many.”

As the baby Jesus grew up, Mary would ponder such words.

  • When Jesus was lost in Jerusalem
  • When he was rejected in his home town of Nazareth
  • When he partied with celebrity sinners
  • When he embraced the untouchables
  • When he got in trouble with the religious authorities
  • When he was executed for sedition

She must have returned over and over to these words, especially when her own soul was pierced, which Simeon also promised. The piercing of her soul was probably a pretty regular occurrence, for the coming of Jesus changed the way we think about God, and Mary was perhaps the first one to get it.

Yes, Jesus was “Savior,” not just of Jews, but of everyone. Yes, Jesus was “Messiah,” not by military might, but by servanthood. Yes, Jesus was “Lord,” not because of birthright, but through fidelity to God’s vision of the world. And yes, Jesus was “Son:” as Jesus resembled her physically, he also reflected God’s divine nature. Mary saw God in a new light—she saw God in the light of Jesus.

Many people found Jesus amazing, and many still find Jesus amazing, interesting, and intriguing today. Some, like Mary, find God.

Almighty God, the Bible bears testimony of some amazing things, things that are for some too amazing, even unbelievable. But the most amazing thing the Bible says you did, is also the most understated, the most easily neglected and forgotten, unless we treasure these words and ponder them in our hearts. You came to us in Jesus Christ, and you desire to be born in each of us again, to save us, and to be the God whose light accompanies us throughout our lives, and reveals not only yourself to us anew, but also who we truly are in Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.

Christmas Prayer

Lord of Light and Life, with amazement and wonder, we retell the story of your incarnation through Jesus Christ. His birth marks the dawn of a new era, one characterized by peace, joy, hope, and love. Of course it had to begin with you, for we have yearned and worked for the Spirit of Christmas, and while we have made progress, ultimately we find ourselves in the same need of your grace.

The world into which Jesus was born suffered under skies darkened by tyrannical powers. Today we see these powers still at work in our world. We need Christ’s birth again today.

The people of Jesus’ time grieved the darkness of death—the loss of friends and partners, children and loved ones—sometimes unexpected, sometimes with drawn out suffering, always leaving a vacant place in their hearts. We still grieve today. We need Christ’s birth again.

Jesus himself suffered poverty and loneliness, betrayal and uncertainty. Today we still have insecurities about our economic well-being, our safety, and our identity. We need Christ’s birth again.

Jesus ministered to victims, and their victimizers, to those broken by impersonal systemic injustice, those crushed by loveless religion, those with faith that was too certain, and those whose faith was long lost. We need this ministry still today. Let Christ be born again, we pray.

Faithful God, heavy on our hearts, and weighty in our minds, are many concerns which we want to turn over to you. Those who are traveling, those who are sick, those who are lost, those who are estranged from us, those we have hurt, and the hurts we bear by others’ actions. Grant us your Spirit, the same Spirit that gave birth to Christ in the Virgin’s womb, the same Spirit that hovered over the chaos before Creation, the same Spirit that resurrected life out of death, the same Spirit that Jesus prayed would empower us in his absence. And grant by this Spirit, the Spirit of Christmas, new life from the old, renewed hope out of despair, increased faith despite doubt, generosity in the face of need, forgiveness where there is offense, and above all love which is the bond of your Spirit.

These prayers we offer in the name of Jesus Christ, in whose birth we find salvation, because he grew strong, was filled with wisdom, enjoyed your favor, and taught us in word and deed how to delight in your will, and walk in your way, and who gave us to pray and to work for peace and justice together saying, Our Father . . .

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