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Sermon For This Week:

    Luke 2:41-52 -  When Our Children Teach Us
    Luke 2:1-20   -   What Was Seen At Bethlehem   
             
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Christmas Eve Sermon: I wonder what I would have heard had I been there that night. It is a question that annually haunts me. Would I have heard the choirs of angels singing or simply the sounds of barnyard animals shifting around. Would I have seen the star in the sky that night or simply two poor and very frightened kids. Would I have understood the hushed silence of the divine presence, or simply the chill of a cold east wind. Would I have understood the message of Emmanuel, God with us, or would the cosmic implications of that evening have passed me by?

 

I am convinced that had two people been there that night in Bethlehem it is quite possible that they could have heard and seen two entirely different scenes. I believe this because all of life is this way. God never presents himself in revelation in a manner in which we are forced to believe. We are always left with an option, for that is God's way. Thus, one person can say “Its a miracle, while another says “It’s coincidence."

 

Certainly very few people in Palestine saw and heard and understood what took place that night. The choirs of angels singing were drowned out by the haggling and trading going on in the Jerusalem bazaar. There was a bright star in the sky but the only ones apparently to pay any attention to it were pagan astrologers from the East. If anyone did see Mary and Joseph on that most fateful night, they were too preoccupied with their own problems to offer any assistance.

 

In one of the All in the Family episodes that aired some years ago Edith and Archie are attending Edith's high school class reunion. Edith encounters an old classmate by the name of Buck who, unlike his earlier days. had now become excessively obese. Edith and Buck have a delightful conversation about old times and the things that they did together, but remarkably Edith doesn't seem to notice how extremely heavy Buck has become. Later, when Edith and Archie and talking, she says in her whiny voices "Archie, ain't Buck a beautiful person." Archie looks at her with a disgusted expression and says: "Your a pip, Edith. You know that. You and I look at the same guy and you see a beautiful person and I see a blimp. Edith gets a puzzled expression on her face and says something unknowingly profound, "Yeah, ain't it too bad."

 

You see, what we see and what we hear in life depends not upon the events but rather who we are as people. It’s not what is out there but what is inside of us.

 

Many of you have seen again this year Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” There is one scene that has always fascinated me. Christmas Past has just paid a very discomforting visit to Ebenezer Scrooge. Clearly the old miser is shaken by the entire ordeal. But when he awakes from his sleep, does he take the message to heart? No, he simply dismisses it by saying: “Bah, humbug! It wasn’t real. Just a bit of last night’s undigested beef.” A vision to be taken to heart or simple indigestion? You tell me?

 

Oh, you say, had I been there at Bethlehem that night....

 

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Sermon on Luke 2:41-52  -  Some years ago, the Journal of the American Medical Association published an article by Dr. Paul Ruskin on the “Stages of Aging.” In the article, Dr. Ruskin described a case study he had presented to his students when teaching a class in medical school. He described the case study patient under his care like this:

 

“The patient neither speaks nor comprehends the spoken word. Sometimes she babbles incoherently for hours on end.  She is disoriented about person, place, and time. She does, however, respond to her name… I have worked with her for the past six months, but she still shows complete disregard for her physical appearance and makes no effort to assist her own care. She must be fed, bathed, and clothed by others.

 

“Because she has no teeth, her food must be pureed. Her shirt is usually soiled from almost incessant drooling.  She does not walk. Her sleep pattern is erratic. Often she wakes in the middle of the night and her screaming awakens others. Most of the time she is friendly and happy, but several times a day she gets quite agitated without apparent cause. Then she wails until someone comes to comfort her.”

 

After presenting the class with this challenging case, Dr. Ruskin then asked his students if any of them would like to volunteer to take care of this person.  No one volunteered. Then Dr. Ruskin said, “I’m surprised that none of you offered to help, because actually she is my favorite patient. I get immense pleasure from taking care of her and I am learning so much from her. She has taught me a depth of gratitude I never knew before. She has taught me the spirit of unwavering trust. And she has taught me the power of unconditional love.” Then Dr. Ruskin said, “Let me show you her picture.” He pulled out the picture and passed it around. It was the photo of his six-month-old baby daughter.

 

Now, I like that story for several reasons. For one thing, it shows us the importance of perspective.  And it shows us how essential it is to have all the facts before we make a decision. It reminds us too, that our children have so much to teach us if we will tune in and pay attention. But also, it reminds me of this dramatic scene in the Gospel of Luke where Jesus lingers behind as a 12-year-old boy and gets separated from His family for three days. Eventually they find Him in the Temple discussing theology with the rabbis.

 

Now, we can imagine that as Jesus was growing up, His parents taught Him many good lessons about life and faith… but imagine, too, the powerful lessons they must have learned from Him. Our children have so much to teach us. With that in mind, let’s think together for a few moments about the great lessons our children are teaching us. There are many of course. Let me mention three of them:

 

I.   First, our children can teach us gratitude.

II.  Second, they teach us love.

III. And third, children can teach us faith.

 

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sermons.com presents Leonard Sweet