12/29/98, Sunday After Christmas

“Sometimes It's Best to Flee”
John 1: 1-5, 12-18

 Pink Lady was faced with the dilemma of whether to knock on a hospital door with the NO VISITORS sign, or to just go on by--- but something led her to knock.  She knocked and opened the door just a little and said sweetly, "Merry Christmas! I have some magazines ."  A gruff response came back, "Didnít you see the sign, and are you one of those pushy religious nuts?"  "No, Iím not a nut but I have, Time, Newsweek, and Sports Illustrated."  "Iíll take a Sports Illustrated," was his reply.  A few days later she came back with several back issues of Sports Illustrated, and this time she was able to exchange a few words of conversation.  She was back again the next time with another kind of sports magazine, and they exchanged little snippets of dialogue.  This continued for weeks.  One day he blurted out to her, "You know I have cancer and Iím going to die.  My wife is gone, I donít have any children, my parents are gone: I donít have any family, I donít have anybody. I am going to have surgery next week and I am afraid I will not survive, and I wonder if it matters, I donít have anything to live for."
 
She listened and then said, "When you come out of surgery Iím going to be there, because I am so grateful youíve shared this with me."  They had a good conversation and finally she said, "You are going to have surgery and I wonder if we could say a prayer together, it would mean so much to me."  "Yes, you may!"  And she prayed a simple prayer about the Christ Child, and for God to protect them both, and closed with The Lordís Prayer--- When she got halfway through, he joined in reciting the prayer, and she felt him take her hand. They both opened their eyes and she looked at him surprised, "I know I said I was not religious, but my grandparents taught me to pray, but I later strayed away.  I have been afraid to come back to God until just now during that prayer."  Two months later he died, but he had met his Messiah through a Christ-like woman who was led to knock on his door in Jesusí name.

Arenít we glad that the Good News of the Messiahís entry into our world has come to us through words and stories, and that we serve a Savior who spoke through parables that live in our hearts, and have taught us how to live?  Not only did "The Word become flesh..." but, "The Word Becomes Flesh", whenever we tell the story, or hear the story, or experience the living Word anew in our contemporary lives.

Christmas was just the beginning of the Saviorís work in the hearts of humanity.  Today, we have entered into Atlantaís most beautiful Sanctuary all decked out for Christmas; and who among us can deny that we have not felt the Christ Child enter into our hearts?  He has come through story, and song, and sights, and sounds.  The Word has become flesh anew through our flesh, and it will be transmitted to others as we follow the leading of the Christ in knocking on closed doors.  And this is what all the joy is about at Christmas--- it infiltrates us!

A friend was in St. Louis on a Sunday morning and he asked a Police Officer where a good church was.  He pointed him in the right direction and my friend headed off, but turned and asked the officer, why did you suggest that particular church?   "That church has the happiest looking people in St. Louis coming out of it, and I thought you would want to visit that kind of church." Because of Godís Incarnation as Word, our words, and stories, and lives take on a new dimension of joy.  I hope people see this joy in us today as we leave church.

A few weeks ago a friend that I have been attempting to persuade to come and sing for us occasionally paid a clandestine visit.  He told me this week that one of the things that has influenced him to come here is that at least twenty-five joyous people came and welcomed him to our church.  He has told everybody how friendly the folks really are at Atlanta First Methodist. Thanks to your joy, Frank Boggs, one of Americaís premier soloists, is going to bless us with his sacred music beginning in January.  Joy begets joy.

One little boy in Sunday School responded to a request from his teacher to draw a picture of the nativity, with an intense fifteen minute effort. After the children were done, she held each nativity up for everyone to admire.  Little Bobís was best, so colorful and intricately detailed, but there was just one question, in addition to the regular manger scene characters he had added a great big round man off in the corner.  The teacher asked who that represents, and little Bob replied, "Oh, thatís Round John Virgin!"  What joy we celebrate!

Under a cultural exchange a rabbi from Russia was visiting with a Methodist family in Texas.  Since it was Christmas they wanted to take him to some of the finest places in Houston, so they all went to a favorite Chinese restaurant one evening.  Throughout the meal the rabbi extolled the wonders of America in comparison to the bleak conditions of his homeland.  When they had finished eating the waiter brought the check, a fortune cookie, and a small brass Christmas tree ornament as a present.  They all laughed when the rabbi pointed out that the ornaments were stamped "made in India."  But the laughter soon subsided when they saw that the rabbi was quietly crying.  They all thought that the rabbi must have been offended by receiving a Christmas gift; but no, he smiled and shook his head and said, "Nyet, I was shedding tears of joy to be in a wonderful country, in Chinese restaurant in which a Buddhist gives a Jew a Christmas gift made by a Hindu!"  Such joy transcends barriers.

Our text is saying that Jesus came into the world as a person and in him we beheld the fullness of God.  Jesus promised that whenever two or more of us gather in his name he would come a be with us in worship.  He most often comes alive in our lives as we allow him to use us in ministry to others.  This is our great source of joy!

You often hear it asked, "Why canít we have Christmas joy all year long?" Well, we should, and we can, and for many of us it is a reality.  We are endowed with an eternal joy because Jesus lives in us and works through us daily. We could sing "Joy to the World"  in June, July, or January.  He is our victory and strength.  He uses us daily as his instruments of grace to knock on the doors of folks closed hospital doors and closed heart doors too.  What greater thrill could there be than to have the eternal Word to come alive through our very lives?  This is our Christmas Joy 365 days a year!

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

12/29/98, Sunday After Christmas