12/23/01, A4A

“God Draws Up Close
Luke 2: 8-20

he Christmas story is about God's attempt to become friends again with His wayward creation. In the Old Testament He gradually reintroduced himself but only became friends with a selected few like Noah, Abraham, David and some of the prophets and kings. Incarnation is His effort to bring everybody everywhere into a life changing friendship with the Father of all who have a beating heart.

This part of the drama in which the angels sing to the shepherds is an archetype of the relationship that the Father is attempting to form with all of us: God calls, we listen and respond to His call. The familiar words of King James English have the angels proclaiming, "Fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord."(v 10-11). The Christmas story is about God attempting to draw up close to us.

Many Christmas Eves ago at one of our children's homes, as preparations were being made for a big dinner, a worship service and the unwrapping of presents under the tree, one of the littlest boys crawled under his bed and refused to come out. Rev. Henry Carter, went to Tommy and told him about the brightly lighted Christmas tree and the packages that were awaiting him out beyond the bed. There was no answer. He kneeled beside the bed and pulled the spread up. There were two big blue eyes looking out at him. Tommy was eight but looked five because of early mal nourishment. He could have easily been pulled out from under the bed, but it was not pulling that Tommy needed; it was trust and sense of belonging.

Because he could not think of any other way of making contact, Rev. Carter got down on his stomach and squeezed under the bed beside Tommy. He lay there with his cheek pressed against the floor talking about the big wreath above the fireplace and the stocking that hung with Tommy's name on it. He talked about the carols they would sing and the turkey they would eat, and he talked about the baby Jesus born in a stable because there was no room for him in the inn. Then, running out of things to say, he simply waited there beside Tommy.

After a bit, a small child's hand slipped into his. Rev. Carter said, "You know Tommy it's kind of close quarters under here, let's you and I go out where we can stand up." As they slid out from under the bed he realized that he had been given a glimpse of the mystery of Christmas. Had not God called to us from above and when we wouldn't listen had He not drawn closer through the prophets and law givers? Yet, it was not until Christmas that God moved in beside us and shared our plight. Christmas is a time for us to crawl out of our hiding places into a community of friends, love and the light of Christ.

This is why we seem to always experience the most startling realizations about the real reason for this holy season when we are nestled in the company of the committed. Sure, a Christmas song on the radio can touch our emotions when we are driving in our car all alone; but, that's about our personal response to the Spirit of Christmas. The broader calling of Christmas is to insure that everyone hears the angels sing about the "Good News, of Great Joy, that a Savior has been born for All People Everywhere."

In America we have a secular holiday season for those who have not heard or responded to the invitation to meet the Babe in the Manger. Marilyn and I still like to look at the Christmas lights, so we drove around several neighborhoods on Friday night looking at the decorated homes and the thousands of lights. Hopefully, these outdoor lights represent an inner light of Christ that dwells in the hearts of the inhabitants. Yet, there were so many homes left in darkness. Maybe the owners were away, or ill. But we suspect that many homes are dark because they have not heard the angels song, and have not let the Christ Child into their hearts. God wants to use us to reach everyone we can with the Good News of Salvation.

God wants to cuddle us up close at Christmas like a loving Father so that we might bring more and more precious souls into experiencing the "Great Joy," That our text details. Our assumption is that when folks hear the message of salvation that they will respond affirmatively to it. This has been the modus operandi of the Christian Church since the angels first reached out and touched the hearts of the shepherds. "The shepherds said one to another, let us go to Bethlehem and see this Child, the Son of God, lying in a manger." The assumption of this model is that if they had stayed in the fields minding their sheep they would have missed out on their chance at friendship with God. Likewise, we can sit through sermons for years, and continually turn Him away. Many of us have survived so many Christmases without letting the Christ Child into our hearts that we are somewhat immune.

As a child I had a small pox vaccination. It caused a very slight case of the small pox, I had just one little sore on my arm and felt like I had the flu for a couple of days, but it prevented me, and millions of other kids, from ever getting the full fledged killer small pox. Some of us churchgoers have had something similar to a small pox vaccination and we can never get a real case of religion in our lifetime.

Our Heavenly Father has attempted to draw up close to us during this Christmas season. He is seeking a more personal relationship with us. Have you felt His presence? Or, did you miss it? Or, perhaps you turned Him aside again. He comes as a thief in the night when we do not expect him, but he is not a thief of souls. He wants us to allow Him room.

As children all learn on the playground, we cannot force someone to be our friend and we cannot buy true friendship. God knew this about His creatures, so He backed in the door as a baby born in a stable and laid in a manger. He calls to us with subtlety in His story. To those of us who have known Him for years we are called to a deeper friendship. To those who have perhaps turned Him away, He knocks once again at their heart's door. Will we receive Him?

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor

12/23/01, A4A