Friday, December 25, 2009

No Place No More

Here are my notes from Christmas Eve preaching in Cokato, MN.  You can listen to the sermon by clicking here.

The gospel according to Luke, the second chapter.
1 In those days the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. 2 (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. 4 And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. 5 He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. 7 She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.
8 That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

Christmas Message- click here to listen.
“No Place No More”

When the Lord comes—when he comes to be with us
(That’s what “Immanuel” means—God with us…)
When the Lord comes to be with us even a nowhere place like Bethlehem—a place so tiny that there’s little evidence of it even being there when Jesus was born…
When the Lord comes Immanuel to be with us even a nowhere nothing no-place like Bethlehem can become a place of songs and glory

And this is a sign for you—
no matter how rejected and despised you may be God still longs to come and make his home in your heart. In your life. To make your life sing.

Dear Friends in Christ, Grace to you and Peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ, and from the Holy Spirit, who comes to place his Word in our hearts.

Our Lord came to Bethlehem.

It wasn’t because that place was good—it wasn’t.

Actually, it was just the opposite.

Our Lord Jesus suffered his first rejection there—actually his second… his step father Joseph wanted out when he found out his fiancée was pregnant…

It required an angel to straighten him out.
“Joseph, Son of David: Don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Luke 1:20-21)
And so, brought into line by an angel warrior, Joseph played his part.  But no one else did.

If Joseph and Mary were traveling to his ancestral town to be registered, where were Joseph’s other relatives when they needed them? Why did they need to be outdoors? There’s a stable in our imaginations, but just what it was we don’t know. Mary could have just given birth to Jesus outdoors, with just some cloth under him, with just some cloth to wrap him…

It was a no where sort of place. A no place place where Jesus was born.

And, you know what? God meant it to be that way.

When the angels had to be summoned again to draw some attention to this gift of God that was being given, the angel made it clear that the manger bed, the fact that Jesus was born without a good place, they announced THAT was the sign:
You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.
It’s not the swaddling clothes that were unusual… It was normal in those days, and in many places today, for children to be wrapped tightly after they are born…

The sign was the manger—the fact that Jesus had no place to be born… just a no where town with two people, Mary and Joseph, who seem to have been left out in the cold by the rest of the world.

And that sign is for you when you are left out, when you are abandoned, when you have no place.

That sign continued through Jesus life. Like it says in Luke 9:58 where Jesus says:
“Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests;
but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
As long as Jesus lives he seems to be in borrowed quarters. During his ministry he seems to be constantly traveling. There is someplace he seems to have for awhile in the town of Capernaum, but that seems to be a place he just retreats to from time to time.

He's usually out under the stars or staying with other people. And when he goes to his home town he's thrown out--they try to throw him over the cliff. (Luke 4:29)

It is for people who know they have no real place in this world that Jesus comes. Those who are secure, who think they belong, who are getting by on their own, they don’t get that.

During Jesus lifetime it was those with a secure place who hated him. Jesus challenged the normal order of things, saying that he came, not for those who are in good situations, but for those whose lot his hard: for the sick, for the rejected sinner, for the hungry, for the grieving, for those who can’t help but cry out in their pain.

And when Jesus comes to those places during his ministry, when Jesus goes to the nowhere places—to the other side of the sea of Galilee where no respectable people would go, to the brokenhearted mothers and fathers whose children were given up for lost, even to the tombs where Lazarus had been dead four days—he brings healing, forgiveness, and new life.

And all those nowhere places: Bethlehem, Nazareth, Siloam, Capernaum, the land of the Gerasenes, and to the prison and the CROSS where he was spit on and rejected and killed as a criminal—to all of those nowhere places Jesus gives such glory that we sing about them today.

Even his tomb was a borrowed one. Not that he needed it very long…

So, if you are in a nowhere place now, if you have no respectable place, Jesus comes to you, even if it is your own fault. Especially if it is your own fault and you know it.  For Jesus came to save us—all of us—from our sins.

That’s the glorious good news! Good news that we are called to bring out into the world, wherever the curse is found. He comes to make his BLESSING known!

He rules with truth and grace! He rules the left out and the walked on and the displaced. He rules the refugee and the criminal and those that no one else wants. He brings his blessing and that blessing makes those no places into places of grace. They are no place no more.

And we can accept that,and we can participate in that.  We can know Jesus in forgiveness, and at the altar tonight.

If, however, you are more or less comfortable, if you think you do have a place, then Jesus calls you to know his love, and then to follow him, to follow him into every kind of uncomfortable circumstance, to bring God’s love as Jesus did, to those who are left out.

To those who are outside. Outside like Mary and Joseph.

As it says in Hebrews 13:
12 …Jesus suffered and died outside the city gates to make his people holy by means of his own blood. 13 So let us go out to him, outside the camp, and bear the disgrace he bore. 14 For this world is not our permanent home…
We may think we have a place in this world… but we really don’t… we’re really all sinners and outcasts…
14 For this world is not our permanent home… we are looking forward to a home yet to come.
Hebrews 13 continues…
15 Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name. 16 And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.

Because Jesus comes to be with us in that manger—in this no place place in this rejected world… we can be assured that no place is no place no more. 

Through Jesus love, when we share it, every place becomes Jesus’ place, a place of grace, a place of hope, a place of truth and love… a place of joy.

That’s what we have to share in this community. That’s why we get together, week after week, to share his love.

In the end, we will have a forever place, and it will never be taken away—a place with Jesus—a place with God.

No comments:

Post a Comment