December 17, 2017

Third Sunday of Advent – December 17, 2017 from Trinity Lutheran Church on Vimeo.

I have a sure fire way to tell that December 25 has come and gone each year. Any guesses? How do I know walking around any neighborhood that Christmas has come and gone?  The TRASH.

Seriously.  This year, December 25th is on a Monday. So, by Wednesday morning, people will start putting out their Christmas trash for the garbage trucks. And if I happen to take Miles, my grand-dog, for a walk, we see it — for days and days. Piles of it.

Boxes, big ones and little ones, plastic packaging, wrapping paper, bows and ribbons all find their way to the trash can and then to the curb. Judging by what the dogs do, so do the leftovers from holiday meals. And the trees, too!

A recent article In USA Today reported that the week between December 25 and Jan. 1 is the single busiest week for those in the garbage business. Americans, it seems, generate 25% more waste that week than in the average week. That adds up to 1 million extra tons of trash.

Erika Cook, who works for Waste Management, the biggest trash hauler in the country, said:  All the wrapping paper and boxes add a lot of bulk. There’s food from gatherings, the turkey carcasses. You can experience what people got for Christmas.

Did you get that? You can experience what people got for Christmas … By their TRASH.

What did you get for Christmas? In just over a week, that will be the big question for many. In fact, as I recall from my school days, that question might be asked and answered all the way to the first week in January, when kids return to class after the break.

What did you get for Christmas?

For the garbage haulers, it’s extra trash and extra work. For others, it’s some kind of STUFF — stuff that came with a bow or in a gift bag. Stuff that may even be forgotten before next December comes around. For some, it’s the bills or the smaller bank account. For some, its disappointment. Or, maybe, it’s just sheer relief because that Day is finally over, along with all the extras that came with it.

What did you get for Christmas?  I actually want us to consider that question for a moment, but let‘s try to look at it in another way.

We in the Church know December 25 is Christmas, and Christmas is about Christ, about Christ coming into the world as a baby born in Bethlehem. We really try to keep “Christ” as the focus of this season for us, rather than something … anything … else.

So, let me ask the question, “What’d you get?” this way: What did you get because Jesus was born in Bethlehem? What’s here for you because Jesus came into the world?

When John the Baptist was first approached by the priests and Levites sent to scout out the background of this person who was baptizing and calling for repentance – it was somewhat like a guessing game. John told them at first, by saying what he was not. 

Who are you? I am not the Messiah.
What then? Are you Elijah? I am not.
Are you the prophet? No

Then they said to him, Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself? Finally John says who he is, instead of who he is not.  He said, I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said

It seems to be a common technique of description – to say what you are not – as a kind of roundabout way to saying what or who you are. 

A choir anthem uses this technique. 

Thou shalt know him when he comes, not by any din of drums, nor his manners, nor his airs, Nor anything he wears… Not by his crown or by his gown,… 

And then the anthem speaks about the presence of something, instead of the absence of something: But his coming known shall be, by the holy harmony which his coming makes in thee. Ah…perhaps that’s what for us, what we need to look for – a bit of holy harmony.1
Here’s what we’re left with (beyond December 25) in Jesus. Good news. Healing. Wholeness. Freedom. Life. Salvation.  Holy harmony

What we have to show people that Jesus came is the same thing he had to show John the Baptist’s followers: The blind see. The lame walk. The outcasts are cleansed. The deaf hear. The dead are raised. The poor have good news preached to them.

What we have to show people is the change and transformation that following Jesus and believing in Jesus has made in our lives. What we have to offer them is the possibility that their life can be changed as well. The only way we can do that is to continue doing what Jesus did in his life. It seems what we can get from Christmas isn’t just Jesus — though that’s the best there is. We also get a mission.

Howard Thurman, preacher and scholar, wrote, The Work of Christmas. He said.

When the song of the angels is stilled,

When the star in the sky is gone,

When the kings and princes are home,

When the shepherds are back with their flock,

The work of Christmas begins: To find the lost, To heal the broken,

To feed the hungry, To release the prisoner, To rebuild the nations,

To bring peace among brothers, To make music in the heart. –holy harmony

He’s right. That is the work of Christmas. Because Christ came as a baby born in Bethlehem, that’s our mission – we are called to embrace diversity and connect all generations to God’s family.

God is calling you… To reach out with the good news… You could join a group of carolers ministering to the folks confined to the hospital during this holiday season. You could send Christmas cards to those you know need a personal note of hope and peace this time of the year – like the families of Paul Moyer and Dan Ritter.  What could you do?  You could help out at Code Blue, Trinity’s shelter for homeless men, on cold nights.  You could serve food to our neighbors on Wednesday at TLC Dinner together. What could you do? You could use this special invitation (hold up) to invite a friend, neighbors, co-worker, or family member to Christmas worship. You could increase you financial commitment to the ministry of Trinity in 2018. What could YOU Do? You could follow the lead of John the Baptist, and point to the light of Jesus. Point with your actions. Words are powerful. But actions are even more powerful.1 

Jesus’ coming will be made known by the “holy harmony” that fills each and every one of us. May that be what we’re left with after December 25th.

 

1 http://hymnlines.blogspot.com/2014/12/his-coming-known-shall-be-by-holy.html

2 Karen Weber, Resurrection Lutheran Church, Havertown, PA