Year B Christmas 1 Luike 22
Making Christmas Last
Luke 2:22-40

A cartoon in the New Yorker magazine says it all. In the middle of the floor is a dried up, withered, Christmas tree. The calendar on the wall reads December 26. Dad is sitting in his chair with an ice pack on his head. Mom is in a bathrobe and her hair in rollers. The floor is a virtual mountain of torn wrappings, boxes, and bows. Junior is reaching in his stocking to be sure that there is no more candy. In the background we see a table with a thoroughly picked turkey still sitting there. The caption on the cartoon reads simply: The morning after.

Well, perhaps we feel a little that way. Perhaps we fell somewhat let down. If you feel that way it is quite understandable. Over the past weeks our emotions have been wound tighter than a toy doll. Our festivities have led up to near fever pitch. And then, suddenly, it is all over. Is it any wonder that it is somewhat of a let down. Psychiatrist even have a word for it. They call it Christmas-slump.

A number of years ago, when Lou Holtz was at the University of Arkansas, he was taking his team to play a bowl game in Tempe, Arizona. The game was to be played on Christmas day. He was asked how he felt about playing a game on Christmas, rather than being with his family. The coach answered candidly: "I would rather be in Tempe. After all, once you have been to church, had Christmas dinner, and opened the presents, Christmas is the most boring day of the year."

Is it possible to lose the spirit of Christmas that quickly? Let us be candid that as we take down the decorations for another year, there is a sinking emptiness and an emotional let down. My Mom long ago gave up live Christmas trees in favor of artificial. I remember trying as a child trying all the tricks to keep it alive. We put aspirin in the water, then we would try sugar, but regardless of the solutions the tree would always wither. Why? because it had been cut off from its roots.

May be that is our problem this morning. Maybe we have trouble making Christmas last because we have become cut off from our roots. Or, to put it another way, maybe our celebration of Christmas is not deeply rooted enough.

How do we deeply root our celebration of Christmas so it will last. This morning, I would like to propose two ways.

  1. First, we need to be Serious about our Tradition.
  2. Second, we must be vigilant.

Do You Know Your Name?
Luke 2:22-40

Passwords. Passwords. And more Passwords.

Anyone here tired of passwords? Anyone here have a good way of remembering your passwords?

Passwords are the open sesames to protected systems on the Internet.

Want to pay for on eBay with PayPal? Password.
Want to sign in to AOL, or Yahoo? Password.
Want to micro-blog on Twitter? Password.
Want to see your kids while you talk to them on Tokbox or Skype? Password.

In fact, I can't even get anything to come up on my computer unless I first give it a password.

Every time we sign into a protected system we must provide certain information so that the system knows we are who we say we are. If you don't know your personal "password," the system won't let you in. Geeks in the know caution us to use cryptic number-letter combinations that are totally random. Good luck with that. What we actually use is the name of our first dog, or part of our Social Security number, or our mother's maiden name, or our oldest child's birthday.

It's almost as if we need our "secret name" to personalize us, to make some kind of sense to us, to identify something unique about us. Maybe a personal password, complete with secret meaning just for us, takes away some of the anonymity of the Internet.

The highest level security systems rely upon the biological secret names held by each one of us. Biological secret names? Try retinal scans, or fingerprint analysis, or even specific DNA matches. The higher the level of security, the more biological and less numerical the passwords.

But the ultimate, unrepeatable identifier for each one of us has yet to be mapped out. I call them "soul scans." We do not have the ability to perform "soul scans" on people who come before us. The secrets locked in the heart and mind, the honesty of our words and the authenticity of our deeds, the motivations behind all our actions -- these are locked deep in the recesses of our souls. The Greek word "psyche" is usually translated as "soul," but can also more extensively mean "life." It is our soul-life that still keeps its secrets.

In today's gospel text there is a public declaration of Jesus' name. This is the name revealed by Gabriel to Mary when the angel made his annunciation to her. The name "Jesus," Yehoshua in Hebrew, means "Yahweh saves." The Hebrew rendering is "Joshua." It is not an unusual name. It is, in fact, a quite common name. The most extraordinary birth in history comes wrapped in a very ordinary name. The One whose name is above every name (Phil.2:9) is given a common name... presents Leonard Sweet