Advent Series: Are You Ready For Christmas?
12-16-18 Be Open To … Friendships Luke 2:8-20 Audio Blog Slides
Input sound file: Audio 12 16 2018.mp3
Are you ready for Christmas?
Well, if you’re running behind, that might be what it look’s like. As we’re getting ready for Christmas, a lot of us are pushing ourselves to do more than what we really humanly can do. We overwhelm ourselves and life begins to look like this. Now, that’s not all Christmas presents, but we try to cram a lot of things into our life. But if that’s not you, if that’s your neighbor, you could start to see what that feels like in your neighbor’s face. Christmas is a beautiful and a joyous time, but as you can imagine, not everyone is having a good day. Now, they might not say it out loud, but if you listen to the Holy Spirit, that I said a few weeks ago was a little bit like the bobber when you go fishing. If you listen to the Holy Spirit and you notice your neighbor, sometimes you feel that bobber inside your heart saying, “That person needs some help.”
Now, here’s the ironic thing. A lot of times, people won’t receive your help. I’m German on my dad’s side, I’m Scottish on my mother’s side, and German-Scottish people don’t want anyone to think they need help, but it’s not true. Sometimes we all need a friend even if we’re not quite open to receiving help from someone. Every single week things happen to me to go into sermon, and yesterday the neighbor that I am closest to – really, I live just about three feet away from her – said to me, “I need some things from the grocery store. I can go get them, but I have so much to do.” In other words, she was looking a little bit like that truck. And I said, “I will go to the grocery store.” And so I got a list and I got a big smile.
Now, when you notice your neighbor, I have encouraged you to pray for your neighbor. I had the option of saying, “I will pray for you while you go.” I did have that option. I also had the option of saying to my neighbor exactly what I encourage you to say, which when you see a neighbor who’s struggling, what you say is, “I go to a church that prays for women who forget to buy stuff the last time they were at the store. May we pray for you?” And sometimes that’s the perfect thing to say, but friends, sometimes it’s not. Because sometimes what the bobber of the Holy Spirit in your heart is saying is that this little task of helping someone belongs to you. And the question I have learned to ask people who are reluctant to be helped – people who are strangers sometimes – is this little question right here, “How can I be helpful?”
It’s not natural to me. What’s natural to me is to lean down and say, “I have three bucks in my office that will tell you how not to be so stupid next time.” I have this natural male tendency to want to give advice to fix problems or to prevent problems.
but honestly a lot of times this is just a much, much better thing to say. “How can I get help?” Sometimes you can’t be helpful but you can pray for care. It makes an impression. And people will let a neighbor help them. There is research and it is from [inaudible] He says that neighbors–when you go into the local neighborhood you’re not a stranger if you live 2 doors away. And if you go into the local neighborhood and if you’re white and they’re black, if you’re German and Scottish and they’re from Asia or China, it doesn’t matter if you’re from the same neighborhood– you have a connection. People will let you help them but this is the best question to ask. “How can I be helpful?” And I got myself a list and I got myself a smile and I was off to the store and boy was I successful in hunting down the food that was needed and bringing it back home. And just to remind you what goes around comes around. Later on this woman had a neighbor who was kind of hungry and he got very fortunate. He was very lucky because strangely enough some of the things that had been brought home wound up there on the stove and he was able to have a couple of cookies. What goes around comes around. God works through that because [inaudible] that God often chooses to answer prayers through your neighbors.
And in fact, I’ll be honest with you. It is very unlikely that if you have a problem that the answer is not right there in the hands of someone else who is in this room because God is getting other people ready to help deal with your problem. To see if there’s something they can do or someone they can introduce you to but all too often God chooses to work through other people and neighbors reaching out–neighbors. And that’s why the Commandment says to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Once God has your attention what’s next? Time to love your neighbor. Oh and also take good care of yourself and love yourself too. God chooses to love people through us and there is no time during the year when people are more overwhelmed than the month before Christmas because getting ready for Christmas can be very difficult.
[inaudible] This is a picture of them on Friday night. They’re ready for Christmas. I’m on the way back home from visiting [inaudible] and I’m thinking, “Boy, my lazy boy chair looks very good to me and I’m looking very forward to being home” and as I pull into town I think to myself, “I wonder how many people came out on Friday night to help the [inaudible] neighborhood food pantry put food in sacks?” If you’re one person [inaudible] another they get a number one for every person in their household. They get a number two if they have children. They get a number three if they need more, and they get apples, and they get bread, and they get a ham. If you have a big family, you might get four hams. Well, I pulled up and I thought, “I’ll at least check.” When I was there in November with the turkeys the middle school student council was there helping. You could barely get in the door from all these little munchkins running around putting canned goods in sacks. Got there Friday night, there were six people. And I was number seven. But it still went very, very quickly and we got it done. But as I was leaving I thought to myself, “I got to be a neighbor tonight.” Because I noticed, and I was needed, and I was able to help. Now, other people got up very, very early and drove and picked up the hams which are distributed. This is the tower of hams. All those hands were full out of those boxes put in little plastic bags, why? They’re easy to carry we’d have hand squirting out of people’s arms all morning long. And other people were there Saturday morning to take food to the cars in the rain. I’m sure they felt neighborly by the end of the day. Joe said I think about 50 if I heard her right. They served 95 that Saturday morning. There’s more people who will be coming in this coming week to pick up food because we want our neighbors to have something for Christmas. It’s a wonderful thing to be a neighbor. I always heard the neighbor of my neighbor is my neighbor. Chantel is the neighbor to all kinds of people up near Taylorville, and she’s taking things from here to there, not only from here to there but all over the world. What goes around comes around and sometimes it goes all the way around the world before it’s done going around because you see this is also the truth, the neighbor of my neighbor, of my neighbor, of my neighbor, of my neighbor is still my neighbor. And sometimes God helps them through you because we are all, all of us around the world, we are all connected by the reality that God loves all people. And God sent Jesus Christ at the first Christmas to be the savior of all. We’re all connected. Now, Mary is having a bad day. We do not have all the details of exactly how the first Christmas happened, but what we understand is that Mary and Joseph did not have what we typically understand a mother giving birth should have. There’s not recorded anywhere in scripture the fact that they went to the hospital. Well, they didn’t have hospitals. So I recorded in Scripture that there was a midwife there when the baby was born. It’s not recorded in Scripture that her family was with her, which is normal. It’s not recorded in Scripture that Joseph is coming back to Bethlehem because that’s where all of his family is from and guess what, none of them were there. What we seem to have in Scripture chapter is that they needed a neighbor. They needed somebody to care for them. And God saw to it that they had a neighbor, in my opinion.
Luke 2:8. “And in that region there were shepherds out in the field keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, ‘Be not afraid. For behold I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people. For to you is born this day, in the City of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you. You will find the babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.'”
And then, all of a sudden, heavenly worship began.
“All of a sudden, there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly hosts praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men, among all people with whom He is pleased.’ And when the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another”–
Let us take hands for just a minute.
— The shepherds said to one another, “What was that all about? Why would God send an angel to tell us about a complete stranger, about a baby lying in a manger, which is used to feed animals? Why would God tell us? Maybe what we need to do is spend all night praying about it.” Maybe somebody says, “Well, you know, gosh, a little baby there in a stable, that’s not a very hygenic place for a little baby to be born. Maybe the baby’s in danger, but what can we do? We’re shepherds. We’re not doctors. Maybe we should stay here and pray for them.”
But guess what? They were curious. They felt they should do something. And friends, I want to tell you, if God stirs you up with empathy for one of your neighbors, pray about what you should do, but the reason you notice is you’re probably supposed to do something. Don’t know what that might be. You have no idea if someone who’s lonely and sad, what even a plate of cookies can do for their hearts.
“But what should we do? Why did God bring this need to my attention?” So here’s what they decided. “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing which has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” Now, please keep in mind, shepherds are security guards for sheep. I don’t know who was watching the sheep when they left. Maybe they left a couple behind and some of them went, but it’s all right. “Hey, we got something better to do than watch the sheep. Let’s go find out.” And the scripture indicates that they came with haste, and they found Mary and Joseph and the baby lying in the manger. And I believe they brought food with them. Maybe they brought a lamb that they had roasted for their own supper. I believe that the very next night Mary and Joseph were not sleeping wherever the manger was, they were sleeping out in the fields with the shepherds. I think that Jesus spent the first part of his life surrounded by the sheep and by the shepherds.
That’s what I believe.
And I believe that the shepherds were the neighbors who showed love this young essentially homeless family at a time when their family should have been there, but we have no awareness of that at all.
Are you ready for Christmas?
Because if you’re ready for Christmas, you are ready to notice your neighbor and be willing to be a friend, if that’s what your neighbor needs.
Just like the shepherds, the angles are going to wiggle that [inaudible] in your spirit and point out to you somebody who may need nothing more than a smile. But it may make all the difference in the world to them.
Friends I know you know this, the highest season for suicide is the month before Christmas.
You have no idea that your smile might save someone’s life.
There’s a song, and the chorus goes like this. “Ring the bells while they still can ring. Forget your perfect offering.” There is a crack in everything. And when you notice your neighbor, you will see that crack. You will see that place of hurt. But when you bring to that person the gift of God, when you bring to that person the love that God has for them, when you bring Jesus Christ with you, you are a Theotokos. That’s the Greek word they gave to Mary. It means God-Bearer.
Because how Jesus comes to people now at Christmas is through you and me. And we bring him with us right next to that crack of heart and pain in a person, and guess what? His light begins to shine.
Now I’m not at all implying that people suffer so that God can help them. I’m not at all implying that God causes people to suffer. But what I am implying is that when people are in darkness, God uses to bring the light close to where they are. And that’s how Christ finds them and helps them.
Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, all around us are people who are crying. All around us are hearts that are broken. So now Lord, we notice that the huge crisis but we miss the tiny heartbreak in the life of the person who lives just two doors away from us.
Help us, Lord, to understand that we are bearers of light into the lives of people. And that if we will just bring your love to the place where they’re broken, to that place where the crack is, the light will get into their hearts and they’ll know that there is a God who loves.
We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
What is the shepherd flute? Oh, come all ye faithful.
In the same way, I encourage all of us, you will be led by the Holy Spirit not to come all the way across the nation, but to walk a few doors down. To walk across the room to make a difference in the life of someone who needs you this Christmas.
Let’s stand and sing and keep in mind you are the shepherds now. Let’s sing.
The photo …
This post is based on the sermon “___” from the sermon series “___”
*date*, at Kinmundy United Methodist Church.
Slides and audio for this message can be downloaded from http://www.disciplewalk.com/K_Sermons_June_2018.html
All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.