12/24/2000, Advent 4, Year C
News of Great Joy to All People
n the Christmas story God stepped down the stairway of heaven with a baby in his arms. Through this baby God made a supreme effort to draw close to his creatures. The great question that demands a choice from each of us is whether we will choose to allow him to draw close to us. God always chooses us but sometimes we do not choose him.
Today we look back at several players in the Christmas drama who followed His call.
Mary said "Yes!" to the angel who called to her as she was preparing to draw water from the well in Nazareth. Her calling was to become the mother of the baby Jesus. The power of the Most High, enabled her to conceive the baby Jesus, as was prophesied in Isaiah 7:14. That kind of miraculous event has happened only one time in all of history, but God has poured out power on many individuals over the centuries for the accomplishment of great deeds: I think of Wesley, Luther, Calvin and John Knox, who were used by God to begin major spiritual movements. Others have been used to accomplish seemingly small things for God; however, no calling fulfilled is ever a small thing. In our priesthood of all believers each Christian is just as important as the next one, from the keeper of the door to the bishop. But we first must say yes to his claim upon our lives, as the Holy Spirit presents the opportunity and challenge.
I love the story of the response of the shepherds to the angelic invitation to go to the manger. As a result their lives were changed and they have become figures in every manger scene ever painted or carved. We do not know their names but every little child knows the story of how the shepherds got up immediately and went to the manger. There they worshiped the Lord, shared their story with Mary and Joseph, and they must have assisted in other practical ways that our text does not record. I have always imagined that they provided needed assistance including a more permanent housing for this young family after that first night at the stable. Often times our calling is to perform practical tasks in God's Kingdom, but every job is a high calling from God.
All of us are called and all of us are chosen to fulfill some ministry in our lifetimes. Gus Gufstason has for years led spiritual life retreats focused on, "Discovering God's Call." Some of you have participated in such a retreat. Some of you have worked it out on your own, or with some help from a friend or perhaps a pastor. The point is not so much in how you arrive at knowing your calling, but that you respond affirmatively and engage in the effort. There is no greater thrill than to know the will of God for our lives.
Christmas is a story that continues to be lived as we allow God's Holy Spirit to draw near to us. A biblical word for Spirit is "breath;" thus, God wants to live within us as close as our very breath. Our Father is not satisfied to be a spectator, He wants to become involved in our lives. The inner voice of God wants to direct every aspect of our lives.
Our church hosted an ecumenical meeting several years ago dealing with the lofty vision to mail a video tape about Jesus to every home in Georgia. The person who led the meeting had spearheaded a similar goal in Alabama. He had paid over three million dollars of the cost himself. He said that this was his calling, his purpose in life. He is a medical doctor in Birmingham who had become wealthy by working hard, saving his money and investing wisely. In fact, soon after donating his three million dollars to this worthy cause, he made more than that back in his investments. Today he has retired from his practice and is coordinating an effort to mail the "Jesus Video" to every postal recipient in the State of Florida. This is his mission, what is ours?
I talked to a seminarian lately who had given up his law practice to follow a new vision from God. In fact, he said that there are more lawyers presently attending seminary than there were in Florida during the recent presidential election problems.
Our church possibly has more volunteers per capita than any church. We could never afford to pay for all the things you do as a labor of love. Usually if we say that something needs to be done, somebody quickly volunteers to do it.
The "green eyed monster" disappears real fast whenever we realize that we are not indispensable, but are mere servants of the King of Kings who calls us and gives us a job. Jealousy's antidote is the realization that there are too many jobs for any one person to do them all. I am thrilled just to have a small part in the world wide movement to reclaim everyone for the baby Jesus. Our corner of the world is at Peachtree and Porter Place in the heart of one of America's great cities.
As Mary shared her story, and as the shepherds spread the "Good News of Great Joy to All People," so we are given the calling to spread the word. Western Civilization has been established on this impetus to move out beyond our borders into new vistas. At the core of western expansion was the noble calling to share the joy of knowing Jesus with everyone.
As the shepherds, the three wise men, and probably many others shared physical aid with Joseph's family in their time of need, so we are called to find new ways to assist others in need. After his spiritually heart warming experience, one of the first things that John Wesley did was to go out and feed the hungry. Yet, after they were full, he proclaimed the Good News of new life through faith in Christ. He not only provided food, but he taught them how to work to provide food for a new way of living. His goal was that these poor people find jobs and begin to live a better life. Many became wealthy and were able to contribute significantly to the establishment of Methodism in England, the emerging American Colonies, and eventually the whole world. Collectively, a choice was made to follow God's call and it has resulted in a world wide movement called Methodism.
What better time to discover Christ's call in our lives than at the celebration of His birth?
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor