Sermons for this week:
Luke 2:22-40 - "Making Christmas Last"
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Sunday After Christmas: 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. While we must be serious about our Christmas tradition we must be vigilant, also.
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The story of Jesus sitting and debating the Law with rabbis reminds me of another debate that took place in a comparative religions conference, the wise and the scholarly were in a spirited debate about what is unique about Christianity. Someone suggested what set Christianity apart from other religions was the concept of incarnation, the idea that God became incarnate in human form. But someone quickly said, “Well, actually, other faiths believe that God appears in human form.” Another suggestion was offered: what about resurrection? The belief that death is not the final word. That the tomb was found empty. Someone slowly shook his head. Other religions have accounts of people returning from the dead.
Then, as the story is told, C.S. Lewis walked into the room, tweed jacket, pipe, armful of papers, a little early for his presentation. He sat down and took in the conversation, which had by now evolved into a fierce debate. Finally during a lull, he spoke saying, “what's all this rumpus about?” Everyone turned in his direction. Trying to explain themselves they said, “We're debating what's unique about Christianity.” “Oh, that's easy,” answered Lewis, “it's....
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