yearC advent 2

Sermons For Advent:

     Luke 1:68-79  -  There Is Hope (A Communion Meditation)
     Luke 3:1-6   -   So You Want To Go To Bethlehem, Do You?
Advent Sermon Series  -  Let Us Go To Bethlehem

Sermon on Lk 1:68-79 - The fact that we are all so familiar with the events of the Christmas story as it is told in the Bible is both a blessing and a bane. It is a blessing that we know about the historical event that took place 2000 years ago and that we appreciate its significance. It is a lovely story that we never tire of hearing. But that is also our failing. I’m not going to borrow from that tired old adage that says “familiarity breeds contempt" but I will say that our familiarity with the story has made us lose its reality and its drama. We have taken the story of the Christ child, held it before us, and said: “Oh, isn’t it beautiful.” We coddled and sentimentalized the story. When we read the story we are too often projected into a world that was more rosier than ours, where miracles were still possible and God was more active and hope made more sense and evil was stoppable and reality wasn’t quite so harsh.


The Christmas story sometimes creates a little of the feeling of Wizard of Oz. When Dorothy and her dog Toto have been transported by a tornado into the land of Oz, you’ll recall that Dorothy looks around at her Mother Goose surroundings: the little Munchkins, the good fairy, the yellow brick road. Then she turns to her dog and says what has to be the understatement of the years “Toto, I have the feeling that we are no longer in Kansas.”


Perhaps its the same way for us. Mentally at this time of the year we put ourselves in the land of Christmas. The days of Caesar Augustus, Herod the King, angels, Quirernus of Syria, romantic astrologers, idealistic shepherds, all in all a nice noble place to annually visit. In doing so we don’t see much resemblance between that kind of world and the kind of 21st century world that we have to contend with every day.


The fact is, however, that with just a little bit of probing you’ll discover that our impressions are not true. The Bible sets the story at the time of the first tax registration in the final days of Herod the King. Miserable years they were. Herod was fast losing his grip, his grip on his work, his health, his sanity and increasingly on Judea. This was putting him out of favor with his superior, Caesar Augustus. This bode nothing but ill for Israel. Without question, there would shortly be Roman soldiers within their midst for the first time in decades. That was Caesar’s style. When things were going well he allowed a lot of latitude, but when problems developed he came down with the hammer. The hammer this time was the tax and the tax registration business was not business as usual. This was a frightening first. And the Jews, both economically and religiously, hated taxes.


There was bound to be disruption and political unrest. Perhaps most depressing of all was the leadership waiting in the wings to snatch control when sickly old Herod died. There wasn’t a decent one in the crowd. They all were crooks. There was bound to be trouble.


In short, the story takes place in a time when it was difficult to be optimistic. Israel was facing national instability, a shrinking standard of living, infringement on personal freedoms, a rise in radical groups and a very uncertain future. It was anything but a never, never land of trust and devotion.


Recognizing the time and distance that separates us from the Christmas story, one writer several years ago rewrote the story as though it were happening today. Perhaps this will help us to identify with the events that took place so long ago. It goes like this....


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Sermon for Lk 3:1-6 - Each year, during the season of Advent, the church sets off on a journey. We begin to prepare our hearts and our minds for the coming of the Christ-child, so that this time he will have a proper place to be born.


And we think we know the way to Bethlehem. We can find it on the map. It’s not that far from Jerusalem, by today’s standards; shouldn’t be a problem.


But the problem is that so much has changed since our last visit. A whole year has passed, a year that brought many changes in our lives, some of them good, some of them not so good, some of them heartbreaking. The geographic map of life has changed, and even old familiar places don’t seem the same any more. So maybe we could use a little help in finding our way back to Bethlehem this year. That is, if you still want to go.


If we were to ask any of the writers of the gospels how to get to Bethlehem, I think we might be surprised by their answer.


"So you want to go to Bethlehem, do you? Tell you what to do: go on out to the desert, outside of the relatively safe confines of Jerusalem. Keep going till you get to the Jordan River. You’ll know it when you see it. It’s the only river around these parts. You’ll find a man there – strange looking old coot – standing knee-deep in the water, just baptizing folks left and right, as fast as he can. That’ll be John the Baptist. You ask him how to get to Bethlehem. If you want to get to Bethlehem, you have to start there at the Jordan with John. He’s the only one who can help you get there....


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Advent Sermon Series:

1: Let Us Go Over To Bethlehem & Find The Faith of Christmas - Lk 2:15-20

2: Let Us Go Over To Bethlehem & Find The Promise of Christmas - Mt 1:18-25

3: Let Us Go Over To Bethlehem & Find The Peace of Christmas - Lk 2:8-14

4: Let Us Go Over To Bethlehem & Find The Christ of Christmas - Lk 2:1-7


First Sermon: You may not remember Tom Southerland but you know his story. Several years ago Shiite Muslims in the Middle East held Tom Sutherland captive fore four years, much of his time was spent solitary confinement.  In his speech after his captivity he asked an unforgettable question.  He asked, “Do you know what it’s like to be in prison?  To be held hostage?  To be a captive?  It’s very lonely and you worry that people will forget you.  I felt abandoned.  I didn’t think anybody even knew I was in prison.”


During his imprisonment, Tom Southerland could hear a radio that the guards had.  It was tuned into the BBC channel and every day Tom Southerland would listen intently to the newscast hoping and praying that he might hear his name, hoping and praying that the newscaster would talk about him on the air and tell the story of his imprisonment and his innocence.  But his name was never mentioned so he assumed that nobody in the United States even knew that he was being held hostage.  Finally, after 4 years of captivity, Tom Southerland was released.  Our government flew his wife, Jean, to the area so they could be reunited.  They were so excited to see each other.  A few days later, they flew home together to San Francisco.  As they were getting off the plan back home in the United States, Tom Southerland was amazed to see that there were lights and television cameras, reporters and people holding signs… and a huge crowd at the airport.  Tom turned to his wife and said, “Jean, look at all these people.  There must be a celebrity on the plane with us.  Look around and see if you can spot who it is.”  And Jean said, “Honey, they are all here for you!  It’s you!  This is all for you!”


When his wife told him that, Tom Southerland started crying and he couldn’t stop.  He sobbed like a little boy.  He couldn’t believe it.  He said, “I thought everybody had forgotten about me.  I didn’t think anybody knew I was in captivity.  I felt completely abandoned.  I didn’t think anybody cared. Thank God I was wrong.”


The shepherds at the first Christmas must have felt something like that. Society had cast them out and pushed them down to one of the lowest rungs on the social ladder.  They were considered unclean physically and spiritually… and they must have felt abandoned and forgotten.  They must have felt like nobody really cared about them.  But then they found out on that first Christmas night that, thank God, they were wrong.  Somebody did care!  The One who counts the most did care!  He was there for them!  Of all the people on the face of the earth, the Angel of the Lord appeared to them.  And as they made their way to Bethlehem to see the Miracle of Christmas, they discovered in the process: three great gifts that Christmas gives to us; 3 great gifts that money can’t buy; 3 great gifts available now to you and me. Let’s take a look at these together.






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