All posts tagged Christmas

Mary the Magnificent

A sermon for Christmas Eve and the conclusion to the “Wonder Women of Advent” series.

Luke 1, 2

When I was in seminary I served as a youth pastor at a little church in Ohio that had a tradition of doing a live outdoor nativity scene during the Christmas season. The deal was that the kids would volunteer for half hour shifts sitting out in a makeshift barn we assembled out of old boards while people from the area drove up to witness the scene.

We had the whole crew—Mary, Joseph, shepherds, wise men, and even live animals like sheep and donkeys. We had beautiful Christmas music playing over a loudspeaker with a narration of the story. People would simply drive up to the church to look at the scene for a while.

It was usually cold and, being Ohio in December, a misty and miserable rain. The youth piled on the layers under their costumes which meant that everyone in the scene looked like they could have walked a few more miles and shed a few pounds on their journey as they waddled up to the manger. And while everyone else was bundled up, baby Jesus (a doll) was only wrapped in a thin cloth—silent night, freezing night!

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The Wish Book – A Message for Christmas

Luke 2:21-38

1970 Sears Wish Book 001When I was a kid, back in the late 60s and early 70s, there was one event that was the highlight of every fall—when the Sears Wishbook arrived in the mail. For you kids out there, this was before the days of the internet when shopping was actually done in stores and catalogs were made of paper (and no, we did not have to fight dinosaurs to get to the mailbox). The Sears Wishbook was a 600-page catalog that had everything a kid could possibly desire, and every year we waited for it so that we could take a Flair Pen and circle all the stuff we wanted for Christmas.

I treated that Wish Book like it was holy scripture. It had an Old Testament, which was the first half of the catalog that consisted mostly of clothes, household gadgets, and tools—a section that had to be endured and flipped through quickly in order to get to the good stuff in the New Testament, which was where the toys appeared. It was a wonderland of possibility and I remember analyzing every potential toy by parsing the meaning of each description, it’s potential cost weighed against Santa Claus’s budget (an economic reality of which my mom always reminded me), and it’s probable fun factor. I cross-referenced the ads in the Wish Book with the commercials I watched every Saturday morning during Scooby Doo and the Bugs Bunny/Roadrunner Hour, and in a few months I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted and what to expect when I got it.

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The Jesus Family Tree

Part II of the Advent series “A Family Christmas”

Matthew 1:1-17; Romans 8:12-17

eilean-donan-castle_09As an adopted child from the 1960s, I don’t know a lot about my birth family. All I’ve been able to glean, in talking to the agency that handled the adoption, is that I was born in a Salvation Army hospital in Pittsburgh to an unmarried woman, and that my birth father was a Salvation Army officer. Ironically, this pastor is the product of clergy misconduct!

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve wondered about where I came from—my nationality, etc. I’m pretty sure I have some Scots-Irish in me, given that most of the people who settled the rolling wooded hills of western Pennsylvania were Presbyterian and other Protestant dissenters from the Ulster region of Northern Ireland, which was in turn populated by Scottish and English families in the 17th century. In the period between 1710 and 1775, some 200,000 of these Ulster Scots (as they are more properly known) migrated to the colonies, and especially to the western part of Pennsylvania where these poor farmers could squat on the hilly, wooded land that no one else wanted except the French and Indians who were already there. These were the descendants of the early Celts, who fought the Romans and then the English, stripping naked, painting themselves blue and hurling themselves at the enemy. I’m pretty sure these are my people, given the fact that I have felt a visceral connection to the land during my times in Scotland and the sound of bagpipes gives me chills.

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If Christmas Came Tomorrow: A Sermon for Christmas Eve

Think Christmas is coming earlier every year? Think again. In fact, we could all use an even earlier Christmas…

Isaiah 9:2-7; Titus 2:11-14

Well, it’s finally here. Just a few more hours and it will finally be Christmas. Children will soon be tucked in their beds, visions of Legos and X-Boxes dancing in their heads. When you’re a kid, it seems like Christmas is never going to come. For adults, however, it always comes too soon!

Kmart_GingerbreadMan13When I was a kid, you always knew it was the Christmas season when the Norelco Santa ad started playing, right after Thanksgiving. You know, the one where Santa rides the Norelco razor over the hills. But now it seems like Christmas is coming earlier every year, doesn’t it?

Advertisers keep pushing the Christmas envelope. This year it was K-Mart kicking off holiday advertising on September 8 with a TV ad featuring a gingerbread man stalking a woman in an office. That was 108 days before Christmas, mind you, violating the unwritten retail rule that bars any advertising more than 100 days out.

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A Christmas Life: The Real Saint Nicholas

On the day Christians celebrate the Feast of Saint Nicholas, a look at the history and hagiography surrounding his life can teach us a lot about what it means to live a Christmas life…

Titus 2:11-14

The little seaside town of Demre, in Turkey, isn’t exactly the North Pole. It rarely snows there. Palm trees and orange groves dot the landscape. You won’t hear sleigh bells here, just the sound of the Muslim call to prayer from the minarets of the town mosques. No reindeer live here, and elves are extremely rare. NORAD won’t paying much attention to Demre this Christmas Eve, and most folks wrapping presents to put under the tree won’t give it a thought, either. In fact, virtually no one living in Demre celebrates Christmas, and yet this little town is the second most important town in the world next to Bethlehem when it comes to Christmas

See, Demre is the hometown of the original Saint Nicholas, who was born near there sometime in the late third century AD. There’s an old 8th century Church of St. Nicholas there that once housed the saint’s bones, and even though it is only active as a church one day a year (St. Nicholas Day, December 6), tourists come from around the world to see the birthplace of the one most of them know as Santa Claus.

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