“Faithful to the Core”

Christmas Eve – 24 December 2022

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Matthew 1:18-25

Luke 2:1-10

Matthew 2:1-12

| Centering Prayer |

The cast of characters

The Lord assembles is truly astonishing.

Diversity of origin, culture, and class

Are intentional, divine truths

Given by God

Received by humankind as

Gifts of Divine grace

Meant to inform,

Direct,

Strengthen,

Confirm the promise

Of God’s eternal love and covenant.

Who are these people?

Joseph and Mary from the northern town of Nazareth.

Local shepherds from the remote southern Judean village of Bethlehem.

Wise men from the East.

The baby, wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.

From the local poor, lowly shepherds

To the international wealthy, Magi from foreign lands,

The Creator of all things

Weaves together a messianic tapestry

Of love

Whose goal is to

Cleanse the world of sin and

To save all of humanity

Into our Creator’s eternal kingdom.

The Christmas characters are a study in contrast

Revealing to all who have

Eyes to see and

Ears to hear

The all-encompassing, inclusive message of

love, redemption, and salvation.

Joseph and Mary,

Boy and girl,

Barely pubescent

Citizens of the northern kingdom of Israel,

Both the intended host of angelic visitors,

Joseph visited in a dream,

Mary visited personally by the Angel Gabriel (Luke 1:26),

Both guided by the potter’s design and Emperor’s decree

To the backwater Bethlehem

To take their place in

The unraveling and revealing of salvation history.

Faithful to the core, Mary and Joseph comply.

They travel to the place foretold by prophets,

Directed by angels,

To Bethlehem’s stable

For there was no room for them in the inn.

Shepherds,

Poor, local, Judah’s day laborers,

Drunks, drug abusers, parolees,

the equivalent of modern-day gangsters, truants, pimps, brass knuckler malcontents,

Receive the full, in-person,

blinding strobes in the eyes

Revelation of God.

Not one angel;

A heavenly host!

Multitudes of the heavenly host!

From on high!

Fully encompassing, all inclusive,

full immersion in the Lord’s presence and ether.

The glory of the Lord shinning around them!

Praising God!

Good news is found in Bethlehem,

A baby,

A Savior,

The Messiah!

Faithful to the core, the shepherds comply.

They make haste to deliver the good news

To all gathered around the manger.

Magi from the East;

Part king, part wise men, part prophets,

Wealthy in gold, perfume, and spice,

Taking their cue,

Not from dream or angel or heavenly host,

But from a star,

A cosmic ripple in time and space.

“We observed his star at its rising.” (Matthew 2:2)

His star.

Rising!

The root of Jesse.

The star of David.

The Christmas star

Drawing the foreigner,

The privileged, the affluent

To the intersection of

earth and heaven,

humanity and heavenly,

mortality and immortality.

Faithful to the core, the wise men comply.

They come,

Kneel,

Offer gifts of wealth,

Prophecy, and preparation;

Gold,

Frankincense,

Myrrh.  

Then,

The reason for the season,

The divine initiative whose anniversary

Is cause to gather, worship, praise, and return thanks.

The baby is born,

Named Jesus,

As per angelic directive.

“He will be great,” the angel proclaimed,

“and will be called the Son of the Most High,

And the Lord God will give to him the throne

Of his ancestor David.

He will reign over the house of Jacob forever,

And of his kingdom

There will be no end.” (Luke 1:31-33)

The reign of Christ continues to this day,

The reign of Christ will continue tomorrow.

His kingdom shall never end.

Ever.

He is our king.

We are his obedient people.

Speak, Lord, and it shall be done unto you.

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,” Gabriel promised Mary,

And the power of the Most High will overshadow you;

Therefore the child to be born will be holy;

He will be called Son of God.” (Luke 1:35)

Holy.

Consecrated, commissioned by God

To redeem and save the world.

Maternal double helix.

Divine DNA.

Conceived and carried in Mary’s womb.

Son of Mary.

Son of God.

Jesus, mortal to the cross,

Immortality stepping from the empty tomb,

Fully human, obedient unto the end.

Fully divine, resurrected and ascending into glory,

With the promise to return,

Pass judgment, and

Complete his Father’s heavenly kingdom

On earth as it is in heaven.

“He has done nothing to deserve death,” Pilate proclaimed.

“Crucify him!” the crowd insisted,

“and their voices prevailed.” (Luke 23:15, 23)

“Father, if you are willing,

Remove this cup from me;

Yet, not my will

But yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)

Thy will be done.

Faithful to the core, Jesus complies.

He stretched out his arms

And he died

For you and me.

Joseph and Mary from Nazareth.

Local shepherds from Bethlehem.

Wise men from the East.

The baby, wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.

Locals.

Foreigners.

Wealthy.

Poor.

A baby born

Fully human.

Completely Divine,

The seemingly impossible shrouded in God’s mystery;

God’s love given

Form and face,

Hands and heart,

To forgive and to save.

Behold.

His light has come!

Amen.

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