Life of Christmas Present: Look Upon Me

Scriptures: Deuteronomy 15:7-11 & Matthew 2:1-18

Pastor Clyde’s December 11, 2016 Sermon

Deuteronomy 15:7-11

(7) If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. (8) Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need. (9) Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: “The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near,” so that you do not show ill will toward the needy among your fellow Israelites and give them nothing. They may then appeal to the LORD against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. (10) Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. (11) There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.

Matthew 2:1-18

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem (2) and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

(3) When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. (4) When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. (5) “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

(6) “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

(7) Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. (8) He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

(9) After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. (10) When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. (11) On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. (12) And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

(13) When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

(14) So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, (15) where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

(16) When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. (17) Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:

(18) “A voice is heard in Ramah,
weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.”

1. I went to get Lela a Christmas present this week. I stopped at the cosmetics counter and asked for their best perfume.

2. They gave me a tiny little bottle and I looked at the price: $100.

3. I asked for something cheaper. They brought a slightly larger bottle: $50.

4. Asked again for something cheaper. They brought a large bottle: $5.

5. I asked again for something cheaper. They brought a mirror.

6. Today we look at Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Present.

7. We often hear, “There is no time like the present.”

8. That is true because as soon as you experience this drop of time, then it becomes the past.

9. Funny thing is, you can never be totally objective about the present.

10. We can only see the present from our perspective.

11. What the Ghost of Christmas Present offers Scrooge is a chance to see things in ways he normally would not.

12. When we met the G of C Past, we noticed that he seemed somehow distant. Now the Ghost of the Present is laughing and warm.

13. Scrooge feels all the emotions and experiences the sights and sounds of the present.

14. One of the first lessons that Scrooge learns is that God provides only for our needs in the present.

15. If you remember the story from Exodus 16:19-20, you know that the children of Israel were asking for food.

16. God gave them manna and told them to gather only enough for the day. Some of them gathered more and saw it spoil and rot.

17. Abundance can get out of hand, especially at Christmas.

18. When we surround ourselves with stuff rather than with the HS, we open ourselves to unimportant things.

19. We get angry over the color of Starbucks’ coffee cups and bristle when someone wishes us “Happy Holidays.”

20. If we are open to the HS, then we are open to what Jesus has for at Christmas.

21. The birth of Jesus continues to turn the world upside down.

22. Think about it: Jesus was born in a poor, lowly place but the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest heaven.”

23. He was born in total poverty but he comes to give us abundant life now and forever.

24. But what does Scrooge learn on his travels?

25. As soon as he begins to travel with the Ghost, he notices how very depressing and dirty the town looks.

26. There is poverty everywhere.

27. But he notices something else, too. There is cheerfulness in the air despite the problems.

28. People shoveling snow and going about their business do so with joy.

29. The same thing happened on the night of Jesus’ birth. Light began to shine upon poverty and all the problems of the world.

30. Scrooge begins to see what the Christmas spirit really is—it is a glimmer of hope in a hurting world.

31. We read the Slaughter of the Infants today. It reminds us that terrible things continue to happen in the world even around Christmas.

32. Our hope is in the fact that God sent his Son to give us hope.

33. Can we really sing, “Glory to God,” in a world where infants are killed in Bethlehem or Aleppo?

34. We continue to struggle with fear. We are afraid of the foreigner, of poverty, of war, and of terrorism.

35. We are afraid for ourselves and our families.

36. Perhaps we should take the approach of “Kill them before they kill us.”

37. But, is that not the approach that Herod took?

38. When you allow Jesus to come in, he transforms fear into hope.

39. Rather than kill them, we are reminded to forgive them and pray for them.

40. When Scrooge is going with the Ghost to see the family of Bob Cratchit, he notices that the Ghost sprinkles incense on the meals of people to give them a blessing.

41. The Ghost puts more on the meals of the poor and Scrooge asks why.

42. It is because they need the blessing more.

43. We sometimes mix up the idea of justice.

44. Justice does not mean that all are treated equally.

45. Emotionally Disturbed kids in Texas.

46. Think of this way. Suppose there is a 6 foot fence. Three people are trying to see over it. One is 6’3”; another is 5’7”; the final one is 4 feet even.

47. Is it justice to put a one foot tall box for each of them to use?

48. The tallest one would tower even higher over the fence; the middle one would just be able to see over it; while the last one would still be denied a view.

49. A parallel story in the Bible is the workers in the vineyard.

50. At the end of the day, each is paid the same even though some worked much longer than the others.

51. What is happening is that each of them is given a chance to see over the wall.

52. At the heart of the Kingdom of God is rejoicing when true justice is done.

53. When the poor are vilified or assumed to be lazy or when our outreach only involves a meal without a place at the table, we risk offending God’s lavish grace.

54. Is our vision of Christ being born too small?

55. It must mean that all are welcomed at the table or nothing.

56. Scrooge sees that the Cratchits have great joy even though they are poor.

57. Scarcity is transformed by an abundance of God’s love.

58. When Jesus was born, the news was announced to the shepherds—who were poor.

59. In Matthew 26:11, Jesus says that you will always have the poor with you, but I shall not always be with you.

60. We take that to mean that he was not concerned with the poor.

61. Actually, he is quoting Deuteronomy 15:11: 1 There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.”

62. In other words, always be kind to the poor; just give me attention now.

63. One of the most memorable phrases in the entire book comes from Tiny Tim: God bless us everyone.

64. Christ comes for all people and loves all people.

65. Can we make that a reality in a hurting world?

66. What is hidden under our Christmas wrapping paper?

67. Do we find compassion, hope, joy?

68. Are we ready to share it?