Christmas Eve Homily

December 24, 2021

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

| Centering Prayer |

Christ came

To forgive

To redeem

To remove

Our sins,

Intentional violations and

Unintentional violations of

God’s will or law.

Christ is come

This night

that

Just as you have been redeemed

You might redeem another.

Christ’s redemption

Is at work

In your mind

And in your heart

To bring absolution and forgiveness

To one who has sinned against you.

Who are you being called to forgive and redeem this Christmas Eve?

It was 6:00 am,

April 15, 1986

When my Plectron went off

Waking Cynthia and me.

The distinctive tones for our Fire Department dropped,

Followed by the familiar voice of the county fire dispatcher,

and the sound of the village siren beginning to spool up.

“Barn fire” I heard

As I threw on my coveralls and pulled on my boots.

The farm was identified by the family name.

I didn’t have to wait to hear the address.

The farm family was one of my church families.

In the pre-dawn hour

I ran across the street,

Through two back lots

And was first to the fire station.

Towering black smoke was already evident to the south.

I jumped in the driver seat of our 1972 Ford cab over pumper.

I was new, still wet behind the ears,

Recently completed “Pump Operator’s School.”

Fortunately, Bill, my church Lay Leader,

And a far more experienced volunteer jumped into the passenger seat.

“You got this, Todd,” he encouraged.

Off we sped,

Besting 20 miles per hour uphill,

Lights and siren in all its glory.

Departments across the county and in neighboring counties

Were being dispatched to provide tankers and water

Even before I arrived first in at the fire scene.

Volunteers arrived in private cars and pickups

Dawned protective equipment

Ran into the burning barn to save cattle and equipment.

I set about priming the pump,

Unloading handlines,

And charging them with water.

I only had 1,000 gallons.

Enough to last seconds once the water began to flow.

“Put the wet stuff on the red stuff,”

As they say.

A portable pond appeared, set up, and I connected my hard suction

To quench the thirst of my voracious pump.

A parade of tankers appeared arriving on the road

Dumping thousands of gallons at a time

Trying to keep up.

It wasn’t to be.

The Fire Chief,

The Chairperson of my Board of Trustees,

came over to me with a replacement pump operator.

“Pastor,” he said as he looked and pointed at the family home across the road,

“I think you’re more needed over there.”

“Right, chief.”

“Come in, pastor,” I was welcomed

In response to my knock on the door.

At the dinning room table sat the family,

Mom, Dad, son, and daughter.

Also sitting at the table

Was a sheriff deputy,

A good United Methodist from a neighboring parish.

The mood was grim.

The sheriff’s questions were gentle but direct.

I could see where this was going.

The boy, I’m guessing eight years of age, or so,

Came round to explain.

The prior evening,

He and some friends were playing in the barn,

Making little fires,

But quickly putting them out.

Or so they thought.

The realization that he had burnt down his daddy’s barn

Quickly flashed across his face.

Cheeks drained of color.

His eyes filled with tears

And he ran to his room crying.

We sat there

In the long silence

When dad cleared his throat.

“I never told anyone,

And deputy, I hope you can forgive me,

But when I was my son’s age

I accidently burned down one of my daddy’s barns.”

We could still hear the sobs coming from the boy’s bedroom.

“Dad,” I began

Covering my inexperience with whatever confidence I could find,

“The one who needs to hear your story is in his bedroom crying.”

“He needs to be redeemed by his father.”

A father

Vulnerable unlike any time before

Redeems his son,

Saves him,

In an act of love

That first came to the world

With the birth of the baby Jesus.

Jesus Christ,

Fully divine,

The Creator of all things,

Born an infant,

Vulnerable,

Dependent on the love of a human mother and betrothed father.

Jesus Christ,

God’s love incarnate,

In the flesh,

Comes to the world,

Not to condemn the world for our sins,

But that all the world might be redeemed and saved.

That is God’s amazing grace,

Unmerited, unlimited love.

I leave you with the question I earlier asked:

Just as our Heavenly Father

Sent his Son to redeem and save the world,

Just as a farming father

Redeemed his 8-year-old son

With his own confession and forgiveness,

Who

is God working through you

to redeem and save this Christmas?

Christ will come again, we boldly proclaim!

When he does, what will he find?

Our transgressors bitter and alienated?

Ourselves stubbornly dug in

Refusing to apologize

For the transgression

We’ve used to hurt others?

When Christ returns

Will he find people hungry and homeless

While we are full and cocooned inside our safe, warm, houses?

When Christ returns

Will he find us divided by racism, oppression, injustice?

Will he find a world of violence and inequality?

Will he find mercy missing in action

Surrounded by unnecessary suffering and pain?

The baby Jesus

Is God’s invitation

To you and me,

To swallow our pride,

Get over ourselves,

Roll up our sleeves,

And make right

all the wrongs in our life …

wrongs we’ve committed and

those committed against us.

Christ’s birth is God’s effort to redeem the world,

A reminder that

each of us

have a necessary role to play

as his disciples.

Beloved, the ball is in your court.

The Lord is working you hard.

Who will you redeem?

Who will you save?

Amen.

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