CHRISTMAS EVE SERMON
December 24, 2022
Rev. Jane Courtright
‘Life’s Little Surprises’
Life’s full of surprises, especially at Christmas.
You never know for sure what might happen when you least expect it!
Recently, while browsing through some books on Amazon, I noticed one that seemed appropriate for this year, titled ‘More Holy Humor’ by Cal and Rose Samra. AMAZING! Here was an entire book filled with jokes useable in a sermon! I didn’t think there were enough ‘suitable for preachers’ jokes to actually fill a book, but here it was!
As I began this book, I looked at the table of contents, wouldn’t you know it: Toward the back of the book, was a chapter titled ‘Christmas Cheer?’ Sounds like something we all need during the Pandemic Christmas season! AMAZING!
I’ll share this story with you: “Our youngest daughter Nancy, was almost four. My wife and I and our four older children had tried to prepare Nancy for Christmas by talking with her about the REAL meaning of Christmas & just why we celebrate it.”
“Nancy had a wonderful Christmas with a lot of presents & toys.
Afterward, she was talking with her older sister about what a great Christmas she had. She added, “I sure hope Joseph and Mary have ANOTHER baby!”
Well, actually they did, but we don’t hear much about them. Mark mentions brothers James, Joses, Judas and Simon, along with unnamed sisters. But their births didn’t quite go the same as Jesus’ did.
So, the More Holy Humor book was one of my Christmas surprises. I wouldn’t be surprised to make more use of this collection of stories!
LIFE’S LITTLE SURPRISES.
We all like surprises, don’t we?
*An unexpected call from a friend.
*A refund check from the IRS,
or a $20 bill left in our winter coat from last year
*What about a surprise package in the mail?
Typically, we think of Christmas as THE time for magic, surprises of a good kind, mystery and even miracles. Which is the way we look upon the wonderful encounter between Mary and Elizabeth, each pregnant with child and full of life and promise.
And as Mary speaks, the child in Elizabeth (who will grow to become John the Baptizer,) LEAPS FOR JOY! This brief encounter is one of the most delightful moments in the Christmas story. The baby in the womb of Elizabeth reacts to the voice of Mary.
Elizabeth is then filled with the Holy Spirit and proclaims: “Blessed are you among women, & blessed is the fruit of your womb!”
This encounter probably lasted, what?, 30 seconds, a minute? Surely no more, and yet the encounter captures all the promise and possibility of this season. A woman speaks and a child in-utero reacts.
Even this unborn child knows how special is this woman, whose voice filters through his mother from a yet-to-be-discovered world.
These are the surprises in life that sustain us when the unwelcomed surprises, the bad news like the current coronavirus, deaths, shootings, and other violence, racial inequalities, natural tragedies like hurricanes and wild fires, and more, attempt to take hold of our spirits and our souls.
The innocent & simple moments of joy keep us sane & well when the dark side of the world begin to overwhelm us.
THOSE LITTLE SURPRISES.
My, HOW we need them this year! The events of this year continue to take their toll. We NEED Christmas to restore our souls, to bring us back to feelings of hope. We NEED surprises as hope-filled distractions from all the miseries and heart breaks of life. It’s incredible how much power a moment can have. The surprises change everything!
In an article, President Bill Imes of Bangor Theological Seminary reflected on current events which take their toll on the human spirit.
He said, “History involves disasters and dead ends. It goes up and down and turns in cycles. It does not always work out for nations or individuals. Faith trusts that the Spirit of God works in the whole sweep of history. God’s spirit is a current in history which moves toward wholeness, healing, freedom and justice. Humanity moves toward and away from God’s shalom. We can produce darkness. The brokenness of life can crush us. Christmas offers us hope that God never gives up on the world.
Imes reminds us that our challenge is to bad news seems to overwhelm us. I agree and I also believe that sometimes our optimism is fueled amazingly well with the surprises that jump out at us along life’s journey.
Years ago, my son and I were driving home during the Advent season, when our vehicle began to overheat. As I watched the gage inch up toward hot, we would stop periodically until it cooled some, then drive on.
During one of these stops, a car filled with teenagers stopped beside us and asked if we needed help. I told that we were nearly home and would be ok. But they insisted on following us & stopping when we did. They followed us home & drove past our driveway with waves.
Not many days ago, I made a quick dash to a local Walgreens. I passed a gentleman in the parking lot. He had come out of the store, while I was going in. We both had facemasks on.
As we passed one another, several feet distanced, I looked at him and smiled. He looked at me, surprised, and smiled back! ‘Yes, Virginia,’ you can see a smile even with a face mask on, especially if you have laugh lines around your eyes! His smile was a surprise and a gift in the midst of a face masked Pandemic.
WHAT ARE THE SURPRISES IN YOUR LIFE THIS SEASON? I’d love to hear about them! Henry Nouwen once wrote, “Each day holds a surprise. But only if we expect it can we see, hear or feel it when it comes to us. Let’s not be afraid to receive each day’s surprise, whether it comes to us in sorrow or as joy, it will open a new place in our hearts, a place where we can welcome new friends and celebrate more fully our shared humanity.”
SURPRISES: they can restore your confidence in humanity. They are the kind of thoughtfulness that nurture you when you find yourself becoming cynical. In a brief encounter, you can find yourself inspired for weeks, months, even years!
May the little surprises of life sustain YOU through the tough times and may they happen as often as you need them so that your spirit remains strong, and your hope for the future never fades.
A BLESSED AND MERRY CHRISTMAS
TO YOU AND YOURS!