Sunday, December 18, 2016

Come Emmanuel

Come Emmanuel
An Advent Meditation
by Rev. Peter T. Atkinson
Delivered Sunday, December 18, 2016
at Gordonsville Presbyterian Church

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.

We mourn because we are in exile.
We are in exile because of Sin.
We mourn because we are captive.
We are made captive by Sin.
We mourn because we are still waiting.
We, though we wait, have lost all hope.
We have lost hope because we do not believe anymore.
Waiting is as good as any other pastime
When sin has stolen your faith from you.
Exile, Captive, Waiting, Sin.
We have seen too much. 
How much is the ransom anyway?
What do such things cost anyway?
Our payments have bounced,
Marked insufficient. 
How can someone in such a state rejoice?

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel

O come, thou Wisdom from on high,
who orderest all things mightily;
to us the path of knowledge show,
and teach us in her ways to go. 

Do we see order in the chaos,
When the only constant
Is conflict, the only truth
Is owned, wielded, and created by the strong?
The strong push the weak along those ancient paths.
We know such things, and all there is to know
Is such things. 
We look at what our world teaches,
And we internalize the knowledge
Of such things. 
If two trees grow side by side,
And one tree begins to grow taller,
Leaving the other behind, below,
In its shade,
Tangled in its roots,
Strangled apart from the resources needed for growth, 
That tree doesn't think of the other,
Why should it?
Its point of view is to grow, period,
Regardless of the other
Puny weak meek shell of tree.
Why should we be any different?
How could wisdom be any else?
On high?
There is always high and low,
And those caught in the middle. 

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel

O come, O come, thou Lord of might,
Who to your tribes on Sinai's height
In ancient times gave holy law,
In cloud and majesty and awe.

We know laws, we love laws,
Those measurements of minimums,
Those requirements of enough.
We love the fence that laws build.
In and out, sinner and saint,
Jew and Gentile,
The more laws the better,
For then transgression becomes the norm,
And then we can pick and choose, 
Focusing on the other,
What they do,
No mirrors are necessary.
I've done enough now to point my finger,
And can go to sleep in peace,
Judging myself done. 
All awe is lost because now we know.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel


O come, thou Rod of Jesse, free
thine own from Satan's tyranny;
from depths of hell thy people save,
and give them victory over the grave. 

Assyrians showed us from the North,
The Babylonians from the South,
But they were nothing compared to the Persians,
Who proved to be less great than Alexander,
And he died way out in India somewhere,
But then came the best, Rome.
Surely their power is complete.
Surely their power is absolute.
Surely their power is all there is.
They'll kill you, you know,
And when they do, those Centurions,
They are effective, efficient,
And so you surely will die,
And when you do you'll stay dead.
They are good at such things.
They've learned from the best
Of all that has been so far.
What is, is all there is,
And all there is, is all there ever will be,
All there ever can be,
All there ever must be,
So let it be written,
So let it be done. 

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel

O come, thou Key of David, come,
and open wide our heavenly home;
make safe the way that leads on high,
and close the path to misery. 

God said he would never forsake us.
God said he would never leave us.
God said that David's reign would never end.
There was a covenant, and a promise. 
What good are such things?
The snake told us years ago that God 
Runs free and loose with the truth.
Let there be light, all I see is darkness,
For there may have been a path through the sea,
Through desert,
Into the land,
And it may have flowed with Milk and Honey, once,
But no more.
The throne is empty.
The temple is gone.
David? Forever? Hmmm,
Forever's time ran out long ago. 

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel


O come, thou Dayspring, come and cheer
our spirits by thine advent here;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
and death's dark shadows put to flight. 

Sure the sun rises every morning, 
But each day ends 
Just like the rest in darkness. 
All lives end the same. 
Even in midday we know the darkness is coming,
And in midlife,
Already the dread,
The worry,
The fear,
Our doom dwells fully in our minds,
The bell, that final bell, it tolls for us all.
It just is, it just must be, it just is
Eventually the sun's cease comes,
And darkness falls
In eternity,
To eternity,
Forever, darkness, forever.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel


O come, Desire of nations, bind
in one the hearts of all mankind;
bid thou our sad divisions cease,
and be thyself our King of Peace. 

I do not wish to be bound.
No bind them,
Leave me free to be
As I choose to be. 
There is freedom in division,
What good is one?
No, no, no, no, no, no, no,
What about me?
That is the sum desire of the nations,
What about me?
How could there ever be one,
And all be fulfilled?
How could there ever be one,
And all be free?
How could there ever be one,
And all be full in identity?
Such things can never be,
Such things will never be, 

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel

And then you came,
No trumpets, no fanfare,
No army, just you,
The true creator of all that is
In the middle of the night,
In the fullness of darkness,
In the middle of the winter,
In the frigid fullness of the cold,
In the middle of the Roman Peace,
Held tightly by an iron might,
Strong soldiers,
And the perfectly practical efficiency
Of all the knowledge of true worldly wisdom,
Ironic to say the least,
Certainly humble,
Stable, shepherds, and all,
Somehow you flipped it all upside down.
If such things are, though, 
There is hope
because if such things are,
There is transcendence,
Truth can't be owned, wielded, or used,
But must be sought,
With the thirst of the desert,
We must seek constantly
Into the very mystery of things,
The mystery of this world,
And just what binds it together really.
And if such things are,
We can rest from our weary rebellion
Because it has gained us nothing
But misery
And ignorance
And division
And brokenness
And oppression.
Love is what is born in that stable,
And love flips everything
Inside out
Last to first
Me to you
Darkness to Light
Death to Life
The cynical songs of knowing
To heartfelt hymns of seeking,
Resounding infinite
Like Love must be
Echoing free
Like Love has always been
Repeating eternal
Like Love is,
The chorus again, still, and anew:

Rejoice, Rejoice, Immanuel,
Has come to thee O Israel.
In the fullness of time,
God's promises prove true,
As it was in the beginning,
Is now and ever shall be.
Hallelujah. Amen. 

Sunday, December 11, 2016

A Forever Joy

A Forever Joy

A sermon delivered by Rev. Peter T. Atkinson

December 4, 2016

at Gordonsville Presbyterian Church, Gordonsville, Virginia

Isaiah 35: 1-10

James 5: 7-10

Let us pray,

Help us to see despite our eyes

Help us to think outside of our minds

Help us to be more than our lives   

For your eyes show the way

    Your mind knows the truth

    Your being is the life.


I always have a great difficulty preaching about Joy. Pain, suffering, perseverance, adversity, challenge, death, no problem, but Joy is hard. I think mostly it is hard not because I don’t know joy is, or don’t experience, or find that Joy is missing, but rather it is simply hard to put into words, without falling short, or sounding cheesy, cheapening what it is. It makes it quite challenging, but so central to the Advent season. I mean, it is the joy candle that is special, at least a special color in the wreath, giving it a distinction within the set. . .  This sermon therefore is going to be a little different. I’m going to seek some help in putting Joy to words. . . and like last week, this sermon is based more on the Old Testament Lesson than this New Testament  Reading from the Epistle of James, but it does make sense, and it speaks about the flipside of joy, the difficult part, which is waiting, patiently for the joy to come, certainly crucial for the Advent season, here is James 5: 7-10

Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors! 10 As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

So I spoke last week on the idea that we all need a little Christmas, that we need to focus on our hopes believing in them, having faith that our hopes are not false hopes, but real and strong and ever present. We need Christmas to give us hope. And also that our world desperately needs peace, both on a personal, close to home scale, and a global scale. We need Christmas to give us peace. . . and now Joy, Christmas does come and each year gives us joy, joy in our memories, joy in the celebration, the family, the traditions, the songs and stories. . . and warms our hearts in the midst of some of the coldest days of the year. . . but how can we get this Joy, this temporary Christmas holiday Joy to be a forever joy, a forever Christmas, Jesus in our Lives, Thy Kingdom Come, Isaiah 35, forever Joy. . . I said that I was going to employ some help this morning, and I am. I am going to weave some of the great writings on joy together to try to get us all to feel what exactly Isaiah 35 is getting at when it says:

Isaiah 35: 1-10

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,
    the desert shall rejoice and blossom;
like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly,
    and rejoice with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
    the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the Lord,
    the majesty of our God.

10 And the ransomed of the Lord shall return,
    and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
    they shall obtain joy and gladness,
    and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

What strikes me most about this prophecy of Isaiah is the way that all of nature sings right along with those praising God. . . . The wilderness and the land shall be glad, the desert rejoicing, blossoming, and abundantly, these flowers, but also singing. . . the flowers themselves sing in wonder of the coming of the Lord. And it isn’t just here that we find all of nature singing like this: Let’s take a look at Psalm 96: here are verses 11-13

11 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
    let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
12     let the field exult, and everything in it.
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
13     before the Lord; for he is coming,
    for he is coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
    and the peoples with his truth.

One thing is consistent here, when God is doing wondrous things, he does not only fill his people with rejoicing but all of creation. . . it is written in the very framework of the Earth he made. . . look at Psalm 19, here are verses 1-4

The heavens are telling the glory of God;
    and the firmament[a] proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours forth speech,
    and night to night declares knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words;
    their voice is not heard;
yet their voice[b] goes out through all the earth,
    and their words to the end of the world.

And this shouldn’t be a surprise to us because we sing about it every Christmas when we sing Joy to the world. . . let heaven and nature sing, let heaven and nature sing. . . yes heaven and nature, all singing in harmony. . . and this idea, Isaac Watts takes this also from a Psalm, this time Psalm 98, look at verses 3-9

All the ends of the earth have seen
    the victory of our God.

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;
    break forth into joyous song and sing praises.
Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre,
    with the lyre and the sound of melody.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
    make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord.

Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
    the world and those who live in it.
Let the floods clap their hands;
    let the hills sing together for joy
at the presence of the Lord, for he is coming
    to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
    and the peoples with equity.

All of the Earth sings, claps its hands, rejoices, rejoices rejoices. . . and it even spills over into the new testament, into the Gospels, if we will recall the famous scene often read on Palm Sunday where the powers that be ask Jesus to quiet down the crowds and he says, that if I could get them quiet, even the stones would cry out. . . . .

Yes nature singing, have you ever heard it. . . some of the great poets hear the singing in nature: William Cullen Bryant writes about going into listen when the darkest thoughts haunt his brains. . . he writes in Thanatopsis

O him who in the love of Nature holds

Communion with her visible forms, she speaks

A various language; for his gayer hours

She has a voice of gladness, and a smile

And eloquence of beauty, and she glides

Into his darker musings, with a mild

And healing sympathy, that steals away

Their sharpness, ere he is aware. When thoughts

Of the last bitter hour come like a blight

Over thy spirit, and sad images

Of the stern agony, and shroud, and pall,

And breathless darkness, and the narrow house,

Make thee to shudder and grow sick at heart;--

Go forth, under the open sky, and list

To Nature's teachings, while from all around--

Earth and her waters, and the depths of air--

Comes a still voice--

And that still voice tells him about life and joy, and death and joy, and he hears that sympathetic voice of God’s praises in nature. . . just like the prophets of old talked about.

And Bryant isn’t the only one: Willam Wordsworth in what is probably my favorite poem, his “Intimation of Immorality,” his great Ode, hears the rejoicing of Nature as well, listen:

The cataracts blow their trumpets from the steep;
No more shall grief of mine the season wrong;

I hear the echoes through the mountains throng,

The winds come to me from the fields of sleep,

        And all the earth is gay;

            Land and sea
    Give themselves up to jollity,

      And with the heart of May

    Doth every beast keep holiday;—

          Thou Child of Joy,

Shout round me, let me hear thy shouts, thou happy

Ye bless├Ęd creatures, I have heard the call

    Ye to each other make; I see

The heavens laugh with you in your jubilee;

    My heart is at your festival,
      My head hath its coronal,

The fulness of your bliss, I feel—I feel it all.

        O evil day! if I were sullen

        While Earth herself is adorning,

            This sweet May-morning,
        And the children are culling

            On every side,

        In a thousand valleys far and wide,

        Fresh flowers; while the sun shines warm,

And the babe leaps up on his mother's arm:—
        I hear, I hear, with joy I hear!

        —But there's a tree, of many, one,

A single field which I have look'd upon,

Both of them speak of something that is gone:

          The pansy at my feet
          Doth the same tale repeat:

Whither is fled the visionary gleam?

Where is it now, the glory and the dream?

If it is so easy to find that joy, so simple, so accessible that all it takes is a walk outside, why do we find joy so hard to find at times. Wordsworth asks the same question, “Whithere is fled the visionary gleam? Where is it now, the glory and the dream?”

It may seem too easy, too trite, too obvious to just blame sin, but the Biblical record points us in that direction, with the same type of story, that the metaphor is that the entire creation, that nature rejects our sin. Look at the first violence done, Genesis 4, Cain and Abel.

Cain and Abel – Genesis 4: 8-12

“Let us go out to the field.”[b] And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 And the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen; your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground! 11 And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you till the ground, it will no longer yield to you its strength; you will be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.”

The blood is rejected by the ground, the earth cries out against he violence. .. and leaves it speaking instead the curse, the curse of toil. Look at Isaiah 24: 4-6:

The earth dries up and withers,
    the world languishes and withers;
    the heavens languish together with the earth.
The earth lies polluted
    under its inhabitants;
for they have transgressed laws,
    violated the statutes,
    broken the everlasting covenant.
Therefore a curse devours the earth,
    and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt;
therefore the inhabitants of the earth dwindled,
    and few people are left.

Isaiah who paints such vivid pictures of promised joy and redemption and the coming of the Lord, can also paint a vivid picture of desolation, a withered and languishing Earth.

            As I was reading and studying these texts, this idea, of heaven and nature singing, and our inability to hear I couldn’t help but think of the Myth of Narcissus and Echo.

Echo spotted the most beautiful young man. His name was Narcissus. Echo did something she thought she would never do - she fell in love. But Hera had taken most of her voice. All she do was echo sounds made by others. She could howl like a wolf, buy only if a wolf had justed howled. She could sing like a breeze through reeds, but only if the reeds sang first. How could she tell Narcissus that she loved him?

One day, she spotted Narcissus looking into a stream. He seemed enchanted by what he saw.

"Come to me," Narcissus begged, looking into the water.

"Come to me," Echo echoed eagerly.

Narcissus swung about. "Who's there?" he angrily demanded to know.

"Who's there," Echo echoed loudly.

"Stop that!" Narcissus snapped.

"Stop that!" Echo echoed.

"Let's meet," Narcissus said in a much softer voice that he had used so far.

"Let's meet!" Echo echoed happily. She stepped out from behind a tree.

"Go away," Narcissus shouted at her.

"Go away," Echo echoed sadly.

Echo went sadly away.

Things did not go well for Narcissus after that. Narcissus returned to the stream again and again. He stared at the lovely young man he saw in the water. He did not know it was only the reflection of himself.

Hidden from sight, Echo watched Narcissus as he lay by the stream. She repeated everything that Narcissus said. Narcissus ignored her. Day after day he lay by the stream, admiring his own reflection. He stopped eating. He stopped drinking. And finally, he died.

We feel for Echo in that old story, wanting to talk, but not being able to be understood by the one she loves, who is deeply in love with himself, staring ever so lovingly into his own eyes. Is our difficulty in knowing joy, hearing the echoes of joy in the world around us, the heavens and nature singing the beauty of the coming of the Lord because we are so wrapped up in the love of ourselves?
John Keats wrote that "A thing of Beauty is a joy forever." How can we achieve, how can we experience, how can we be given that gift of forever joy? How can our eyes be opened to the beauty of the world around us? If we think about the second verse of Joy to the World, it sings
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,

And so it is the fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains that repeat the sounding joy of the men employing their songs. . . so in other words the rejoicing of the world is an echo of our own, so the Echo  and Narcissus is even more poignant for us. . . where can we spread a little joy, where can we pull out of our own blindness and fill the Earth with resonating sounds of joy. It would seem that just the smallest rejoicing could reverberate louder and louder and louder across more and more of the world. Joy truly to the world, so let it be so, Amen.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

We Need a Little Christmas

We Need a Little Christmas
A sermon delivered by Rev. Peter T. Atkinson
December 4, 2016
at Gordonsville Presbyterian Church, Gordonsville, Virginia
Isaiah 11: 1-9
2 Corinthians 4: 1-12

Let us pray,
Help us to see despite our eyes
Help us to think outside of our minds
Help us to be more than our lives   
For your eyes show the way
    Your mind knows the truth
    Your being is the life.

Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God. 3And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. 6For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
7 But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. 8We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. 11For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. 12So death is at work in us, but life in you.

Coralee has been working on playing one of my favorite Christmas Songs on the piano. It’s “We Need a Little Christmas.” I don’t know what it is about that song because it’s one that doesn’t have much to it, except maybe the catchy kinda campy show tune vibe that it has. . . which of course appeals to me, because I’m only slightly embarrassed to say that I am drawn to catchy campy show tunes. And not only does it have the vibe, but it actually is just a show tune, from the show Mame, and doesn’t have much done with Christmas anyway, at least not Christmas like we talk about it here in church. . . it is more of a song that is Hauling out the Holly, the lights, the decorations, all that commercial stuff that Charlie Brown just doesn’t understand. I think these lines are the best
So climb down the chimney
Turn on the brightest string of light I've ever seen
Slice up the fruitcake
It's time we hung some tinsel on that evergreen bough
For I've grown a little leaner
Grown a little colder
Grown a little sadder
Grown a little older
And I need a little angel
Sitting on my shoulder
I need a little Christmas now

Yes we need a little Christmas, and maybe the tinsel and the fruitcake and lights and presents and stories and Santas, help us to feel a little younger, and remember the child in ourselves, we get those warm and fuzzies, we think about all the great memories of Christmas, like Clark Griswold trapped in the attic watching old videos, every knick knack, decoration, song, and trinket whisks us back to a Christmas Past full of amazing memories, that would melt even the heart of the Scroogiest Grinch. But often the Holiday comes and goes, and in the dreary months of February it seems far away and we need a little Christmas again, but the Christmas we need isn’t the one we get each December, not the one only of our past memories, but instead is filled with the past, the present, and the future, and is the miracle of the Gift of the Christchild in Bethlehem all those years ago, the rebirth of the Risen Christ, Raised, Risen, and running wild in our world even today, and the coming fulfillment of his Coming Again.
And in Advent we take a look at amazing passages from Isaiah, and we think about what it means to wait for a savior, and we think about what they were waiting for, what they sought, and what they desperately needed. I mean the story told throughout the prophets is one of a nation in decline, both spiritually and existentially, for they were split in to two parts, and each found themselves surrounded on three sides by huge powerful empires. The Southern Kingdom of Judah would see the Northern Kingdom fall, and then they would fall themselves, Jerusalem burned, the people exiled to the heart of the conquering empire, Babylon. . . then Babylon replaced by the Persians, The Persians by the Greeks, the Greeks by the Romans. The Jewish people spread to diaspora, living again as a stranger in their own land, squeezed and bled by foreign ruler after ruler. In the context of that 600 or so year history, prophet after prophet comes to spread messages like, Return Now to God, cast aside those idols or the end is near, or do not allow your material success to turn your hearts to stone, for you have a responsibility to justice for the poor among you, or yes my temple has fallen, but never doubt I am in control, or I will use the Persian king Cyrus to work my miracle, to restore the temple, or Here you stand with a second chance, this time, when you regain the land, do not let yourself be turned away from me, do not be tempted by the idols, or somewhere in the midst of it all. . . I will bring forth my messiah, my anointed one, he is coming, he will restore my kingdom, he will bring forth a new covenant, he will be a suffering servant, all ye my sheep have gone astray, but I will be restoring you this day. And you read those messages and you know the history, and you can imagine what it would be like for the poor, occupied, oppressed, paying crippling tax to a foreign government, and you completely understand what they were looking for in a savior, what they thought they needed, and why they needed it. When they gathered and shouted hosanna, which means save us now, it was a scream of desperation.
It makes you wonder what kind of savior we are looking for now, here in rich, independent, first world, superpower, United States of America. Do we even need one? Are we even waiting anymore? Or are we pretty content? Do the powerful images painted by Isaiah, and Jeremiah, and Micah and Malachi and others even inspire us anymore? Do they speak to us still? Do we need Christmas? And if we do, exactly what kind of savior do we need? What type of savior are we searching for? What type of savior would we actually accept? Sure, we have riches, but have they turned our hearts to stone, seeking to amass wealth, save it, hoard it, save ourselves with what we have. . . Sure we have power, but at what cost, has violence and force, the implements of war become our hammer, and in such case does everything in the world now then look like a nail? Sure we have relative comfort, but has our comfort made us impatient and envious, jealous of our neighbors, competitive and bitter? Sure we have advancements in technology and have made what many call progress, but is progress the division we see, the polarization we see, the out of touch with reality we find ourselves to be, the distance we actually are from each other, and the isolation we feel because of it. It seems that we are in a very different place than the people BC people, but we need Christmas just the same, and Christmas fulfills our needs, fulfills human needs, no matter what they are, no matter who we are because Salvation is given by God through Jesus Christ, and Christmas is the symbol of that gate crashing entrance into our world, again claiming it, and making it his, making us his, and we desperately need to be.
As I was thinking of a way to get across the universal need for Christmas and the Salvation that comes into our world through it, I couldn’t help but think of the old Jeff Foxworthy refrain, you might be a redneck. . . where he says stuff like. . . If you mow your lawn and find a car you might be a redneck, or if you’ve ever used an ironing board as a buffet table, if your daddy walks you to school because you’re in the same grade. . .they go on and on, it caught wild fire, they made calendars and everything. I thought it would be fun to think about the types of people these days who need a little Christmas. And I’m going to try to touch on every single person that walks this Earth because I know we all do, and I know that our divisions are part of it, so I’m going to do my best and offend everyone. . .
If you’ve complained because 1. They’ve been selling Reeses Trees at Walmart since Halloween 2. They’ve been playing Christmas Music on the Radio since Thanksgiving, or 3. Ever said, it didn’t use to be this way. . . .
If you’ve already watched Elf
If you’ve had your Christmas Tree up so long already that the needles are coming off
If your blood pressure went up because you read a facebook post on your wall by someone you barely know
And if you felt the need to argue with said almost stranger about their viewpoint
If you did a repost of a Share this if you love Jesus facebook post promising you blessings in the coming months for doing so
If you drove by more than one piece of road kill this morning without feeling anything
If you Can name every Quarterback in the hall of fame, but can’t remember the name of the person living next door
If you’ve ever watched Dance Moms
If you actually like the song Santa Baby
If you’ve gotten into a debate about whose lives matter
If you find yourself seeking only news and information that makes you feel better by proving your agenda correct
If you have a problem with what color the cups are at starbucks
If you get mad when people say Happy Holidays
If you get mad when someone says Merry Christmas

If you’ve ever said that people who don’t vote can’t complain
If you’ve ever didn’t vote but decided to complain anyway
If you think that everyone who voted for Donald Trump is racist
If you don’t think that anyone who voted for Donald Trump is racist
If you think Trump is going to make America Great again all by himself. . .
If you think Donald Trump is going to destroy America all by himself
If you’ve ever allowed an election to cost you a friendship
If you stand from the pulpit blasting both wings of the political spectrum wondering why people can’t just get along while all the time proudly standing safe in the self righteous middle
If you’re  happy or if sad, If you’re lonely, hurt, sick, gluttonous or starving, thirsty, bitter, angry, lost, found, seeking, ignorant, educated, rich, poor,
Now I know some of these are silly, and we’ve had fun with them, and I hope I haven’t trivialized our need for Christmas by enumerating such seemingly small things, but the truth is Jesus by entering our hearts, offering us salvation, makes a difference with even the smallest of things because it is about everything even the smallest of details. . . total transformation. . . he asks us to leave everything behind and follow him. . . If you think about Isaiah’s promise about the lion and the lamb, both would need to change, and change utterly. . . It seems our hearts have a long way to go before we beat those swords into plowshares, but the annunciation has been made, there is a call from the desert to make the paths straight, and the star already beckons us. . . and if you open your ears, especially today you will have heard an angel choir. . . or if you’ve heard something today that challenged you in some way. . . do not be afraid. . . the geese are getting fat. . . Black Friday has passed. . . and Christmas is Coming, Salvation is near.