Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Twenty Four Days of Christmas

Forty seven years ago our country was in the middle of the Vietnam War.  The USSR was still a frightening power-house, and we still had fears of nuclear holocaust.  We often look back with nostalgia to the 50's and 60's, but those years had their own challenges.  The world has been a tragic, difficult place since Adam and Eve sinned.  I will agree that what church-people label "common grace" seems to be diminishing over time, but awfulness and evil have been around for a long, long time. 

Forty-seven years ago my Preacher-Father looked at the world in which he was trying to raise five children and shepherd two-hundred or so church members.  He recognized that the world was indeed a tragic place.  He thought and prayed and worked over a sermon series that would acknowledge the tragedy of our world, and point to the hope of a Saviour.  He began writing a four-sermon series about the tragedy of the world, pointing out that the world was a fairly tragic and frightening place back around the time of the Roman conquest of Israel. 

Mary's pregnancy was glorious, but it brought the potential that she would be stoned to death.

Joseph's dreams for his upcoming wedding and a quiet, peaceful life with Mary were shattered when she came to him and said, "I'm pregnant". 

Rome was not a kind and gentle conqueror.  Herod was no beneficent magnate.  A seventy mile journey by foot or donkey was no pleasure jaunt.  There were no excuses accepted for one's very pregnant wife. 

King David had many, many descendants.  His city was crowded, leaving no inn rooms available. 

Have you been inside a stable lately?  Even when it has been mucked out, it is not exactly a pleasant place.  No anti-microbial soap, no sterile drapes. 

The world was not a fairy-tale place back when Jesus was born. 

Then consider the need for his birth.  It wasn't just Adam and Eve who sinned; we add to the burden of human sin every hour of every day.  In yesterday's post I talked a little about the holiness of God and how His perfect holiness makes our sinfulness something that can not be in His presence. 

There you have it.  We are unacceptable to God.  The Romans have invaded.  A young woman is pregnant.  She and her husband are forced to travel by foot in the last days of her pregnancy to a crowded village where there is no quiet, private place for her to give birth. 

And we think our world is a mess??

All those factors would seem overwhelming, wouldn't they?  Except.

Except that a baby was born into this frightening, tragic, miserable place.  A treasure.  A king.  A redeemer.  A saviour.  He grew up.  He worked hard.  He had compassion.  He taught.  He healed.  He prayed.  He forgave.  He was innocent.  He was accused.  He suffered separation from God.  He died.  He conquered.  He came back to life.

Dad's sermons became a book which is my favorite Christmas book. 

If you read this book, you will find the following at the very beginning:

The following sermon was preached on Christmas day, 1968 at the annual Christmas communion service.  Just two days before, on December 23rd, word was received of the tragic death of First Lt. L. Curis Wuestenberg.  Curt was one of the fine young members of Second Church, who gave his life for his country in the Viet Nam conflict.  He was the son and grandson of some of our most devoted church members.  Although the sermon was prepared several days before news came of Curt's death, it seemed even more urgent that this message be delivered to a sorrowing congregation whose feeling towards each of its members is one of intesne love and filial devotion.  The pastor shared in these feelings of sorrow and hurt no less than any others, but the God of all comfort spoke to his own heart through the message he was commissioned to deliver.  It is my prayer that this message may bring comfort and true Christian hope to all who sorrow, but especially at Christmas time.  

The pastor penned these words as a tribute to Curt in the Women of the Church newsletter which went out to the congregation shortly after Christmas.  With these word, this sermon is lovingly dedicated to the Glory of God and to the memory of Curt with whom there was a strong bond of deep affection and mutual esteem.

"When Abraham Lincoln breathed his last breath, the attending physician was heard to murmur, 'Now he belongs to history'.  So Curt Wuestenberg, who so recently laid down his life for his country and for freedom, now belongs in the long line of those who have gone before him in giving the last full measure of devotion.  Just as Curt won a special place in the hearts of all who were privileged to know him, so now he has won his own niche in history, in the hall of heroes.  We mourn his passing, for he will be sorely missed, but we rejoice in his victory and his entrance into the presence of the living God, and the Lord Jesus Christ in whom he trusted for his salvation."

The world and our life in it is difficult.

God is triumphant.

This Christmas as you think about what He did for you, 
may His peace fill your hearts and your homes.

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