Advent 2020 – December 24

Controversy or Comfort
Dale K. Edmondson
(Dr. Dale K. Edmondson, a “poor wayfaring stranger,” member of Lakeshore since 2000, is the retired pastor of Judson Memorial Baptist Church in Minneapolis, having previously pastored congregations in Northern California, and, in retirement, teaching in the Philippines and serving as an interim pastor in Bay Area churches)

Luke 2:1-19 (NRSV)
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

                14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
                        and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.

It’s one of the most familiar passages in scripture. At one time, it was common for people to memorize scripture. Then, this passage would have been in everyone’s memory bank (of course in the King James English).

On December 9 in 1965, the Columbian Broadcasting System televised an animated special, titled, “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” It involved a search for the meaning of Christmas. The show concluded with Linus reciting the Christmas story from Luke, “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. . .”

The show almost did not get broadcast. The producers argued that religion was too controversial a topic to be included and that the scene should be removed. The cartoonist, Charles Schultz, was adamant that it be included, and, because it was the climax of the show, it could not be edited out. What the producers had not anticipated was the viewers’ response. During the broadcast, before Linus had finished the passage, the network’s telephone switchboard was flooded by calls from people telling how meaningful that scene was to them.

Why, I wonder, was that so?

            • Could it be because they longed to hear a story
                         of a life-altering event?
            • Or, perhaps, about a God who would come
                        in humble guise, weak and tender
                         and even dependent?
            • Or, about God coming to a lowly couple whose propriety,
                         no doubt, was in question among the righteous folk?
            • Or, because it showed how signal events can be being missed
                        if one concludes there is no room for such things?
            • Or, about the dismissed and marginalized having
                        the insight to recognize “good news” when it’s told them?
            • Or, about a young woman (of all people!) who had been
                         willing to be used by God in a great way,
                        simply quietly and privately pondering what she had seen?
            • Or, might it even be that we, all of us, long for
                        “news of great joy.” And that we dare hope it
                         might be “for all people?”

Please join us this evening at 6:00 for our Christmas Eve Service. The prelude by Stan and Charlene will begin at 5:45.

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