Potsdam United Methodist Church
Where we let Jesus shine! Where we invite, love and nurture ALL!
Sunday Worship
11:00am Service
12:00pm Fellowship
Pastor Rev. Brooke Newell
Secretary Donna McDonald
315-265-7474

Parents and Angels and Shepherds, O My

December 24, 2011:

Text:   Luke 2: 1-14
Candle: John 1: 1-9
Closing:Isaiah 9: 2-7

        Parents and Angels and Shepherds, O My

Parents and angels and shepherds,

Dorothy Gale,
A character in a story whose author was born in the same community in which I spent my childhood
Might well have added,  "O my!"

For the story of the birth of Christ has many awesome, interesting characters
        Most prominently among them,
                The parents,    the angels,     and the shepherds.

We too say,     "Oh, my!"

These characters are not just in the story;
These characters are not just fillers for the story;

These characters are a part of the message of the story.

A message set forth succinctly when the hymn writer asked,
        "What child is this?"
And then proceeded to answer his own question,
"This, this is Christ the King."

The message in that hymn        and     The message in this story
complete the Advent stage of our journey with God
That journey began with our plea
        For God to come to earth to rescue us
A journey that continued through God's threefold response of
        Preparation, proclamation, and promise

"This, this is Christ the King"
answers our plea

This "Christ the King."
Is the one for whom God prepared us
And about whom God proclaimed that we are to share the good news - particularly with the captives and the oppressed

This "Christ the King."
        Is the fulfillment of God's promise     to David and to us

Indeed "This, this is Christ the King" is the message
        Of the story we hear tonight
        Of the birth we celebrate tonight

But if we are to more fully understand the story and its message
we need         The parents,
we need the angels,
and     we need the shepherds.

We need all three
For they, like the three gifts from the magi
        In which
                The Gold symbolizes     that he is a king
                The frankincense        that he is divine
                The myrrh                       that he will die.
Flesh out the story and its lessons for us.

The three sets of characters,
        The "supporting actors" in the story of Christ's birth,
Take us beyond the basic statement
        That this child sleeping on Mary's lap is our king.

The presence of the parents tells us
        That this kid is a human being.
He was born just like we were

Before he could exercise his kingly powers,
he would need to be taught and nurtured
he would need to grow up and have life experiences.

That doesn't seem to amazing   - so you and I are apt to sit back
with skeptical frowns on our faces
and inquire, "So?"

But the importance of the role of the parents becomes greater
        Because of the presence of the angels in the story.

For their presence announces
that this kid is divine
that he is of God and has been sent by God.

He will not simply be a king who acquires power and authority
        In the traditional human ways
by money or manipulation
by inheritance or physical force.

His power and his authority come from being sent by God
        And sent by God in response to our plea.

Remember we began Advent
by our plea that God come to earth and help us.

The presence of the angels in the story
        Tells us that our plea for help is being answered.
The angels are there to announce his divinity.
And that makes it essential that the parents be there too
For their job is to remind us that he was not just divine
That he was human also.

A human being who shared our experiences
A human being who could experience what we experience
joys and challenges
pain, sorrow, excitement, anxiety

Thus the combination of parents and angels tells us
        That this divinely sent child
        Will be a king who can understand what it is like to be us.

The angels are like the Epiphany gift of frankincense.
        He is divine
The parents are like the Epiphany gift of gold
        He is a human king.

But our         "O, My!" list   has one more group - the shepherds

And their presence tells us what kind of king he will be
        He will be like a shepherd
        Whose job is to protect and care for the sheep.

But there is a second lesson taught to us by the presence of the shepherds in the Christmas story

Tonight's telling of the scriptural story
        Ended with the angels telling the shepherds of the birth
        And in the presence of the shepherds praising God and saying,
                "Glory to God in the highest heaven,
                And on earth    peace among those whom he favors."

But the role of the shepherds was not to simply be passive listeners
        Any more than our role in the 21st century church
                Is one of passive listening.

The verses that immediately follow where we left off show us that,
 [Luke 2: 15-20]

The shepherds were the first witnesses
They were the first to tell the story to others

It is no coincidence that in the story of his coming
        We encounter this example of witnessing
And that in the story of his ascension (his going)
        We hear him tell us to be witnesses and make disciples.

Thus,
On the first day he was on this earth
And on the last day he was on this earth,
        We see the importance God places on witnessing.

And none of us had better sit here - or stand here - on Christmas Eve
        Having heard about the shepherds
        And say that "we can't do it."

And none of us had better sit here - or stand here - on Christmas Eve
        Having heard about the shepherds
        And tell God to get someone else to be the witnesses
because the task is too much for us.

It is not!
        These were uneducated shepherds
They were at the lower end of the socio economic scale
And yet they did it!
They set the example for us.
They showed us that it could be done
        By ordinary people

How in the world could any one of us
        Conclude that the task is too much for us?

The Christmas story
        It's not simply a story about a young woman giving birth in a stable

It is also about who this child is
        He was and he is "Christ the King"

And we know that this king
        Is human        and yet divine
We know that this king
        Will care for us and protect us like a shepherd
And we know that this king's life
        From that first day to the last
        Is a life to which you and I must witness.

We know that    because of the presence in the story
        Of parents,             of angels,              and of shepherds

O, my!  Oh, my! Oh, my!

Parents,        angels, and shepherds   O, my!