Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Eve Sermon

Said the night wind to the little lamb:
Do you see what I see? Way up in the sky little lamb
Do you see what I see? A star, a star
Dancing in the night, With a tail as big as a kite: With a tail as big as a kite

Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy
Do you hear what I hear? Ringing through the sky shepherd boy
Do you hear what I hear? A song, a song
High above the tree, With a voice as big as the sea : With a voice as big as the sea

Do you see what I see? Do you hear what I hear?

This Christmas season, my son has become hooked on the movie, "The Polar Express." He asks to watch it every day, and he wants to watch it over and over and over. I think the combination of a train, Christmas, and Santa Claus is a bit overwhelming to him, and it has gotten to the point where the entire family, and I mean all of us can quote parts of this movie verbatim.

You might think I have grown tired of watching the movie or listening to it as my kids watch it in the car, but I haven’t. In fact, I love this movie because even though it focuses on Santa Claus, it’s deeper focus is on faith.

One of the most poignant, if not the most poignant scene in the movie comes toward the end. A little boy who is riding the Polar Express is a doubter. He has reached the age where he no longer believes Santa Claus is real or that he lives at the North Pole or that Santa brings gifts at Christmas. He wants to believe, but his mind won’t quite let him get there. Instead, he wants to live by the adage, "Seeing is believing."

All along the Polar Express’ journey, things happen that point to the existence of Santa, but despite this, the little boy does not believe. Even during the most poignant scene in the movie.

At this point, the little boy has survived numerous adventures to stand at the North Pole. Elves are all over the place singing "You better watch out..." A giant Christmas tree towers above everything. A sleigh is loaded with a mountain of presents contained in a humongous bag. Reindeer are attached to the sleigh bounding up and down as a large set of doors open, and Santa begins making his way to the sleigh.

The little boy stands in the crowd of elves and moves side to side trying to get a glimpse of Santa. No matter which way he moves, he cannot see. He can see some vague image walking through everyone, but he cannot see with clarity. He just can’t see Santa.

At this point, the music slows, and the camera pans to Santa’s sleigh. The reindeer buck and a single, Christmas bell comes off their reigns. It bounds through the crowd and falls at the boy’s feet. Others have spoken of how wonderful these bells sound, but this little boy has never heard them. He reaches out and picks up the bell. He holds it up to his ear and shakes it.


He shakes it again. Nothing.

He can’t hear the bells. He can’t see Santa.

He closes his eyes. He tightly squeezes the bell. He says, "O.K." Time stops.

Then he utters, "I believe. I believe."

All is silent.

The boy opens his eyes, and holds the bell up. He shakes it.

And. It. Rings.

For the first time, he can hear the bell!

He looks at the bell, and in its reflection, he sees Santa.

"What did you say?" Santa asks.

The boy turns and comes face to face with the one he doubted. He comes face to face with the one he didn’t believe existed. He comes face to face with Santa.

"I believe," he replies once again.

This little boy could not see. This little boy could not hear until, until he believed.

On this night, we have come to gather to hear a most marvelous story. It is a story about the birth of a little baby in a manger in a small town in a small country half a world away. For those who just give it a cursory read, it is a myth–a good story about a child’s birth where angels sang and shepherds came to witness. For those who view it as such, it is nothing more than pages of literature to be studied and appreciated as insight into a culture which was long ago and far away. It’s nothing more than that. It can be accepted or discarded at one’s choice.

But this story becomes so much more for those who believe. The story becomes much more meaningful, much more heart warming, much more full of joy and peace. For to those who believe, they see no myth. They see reality. They see the arrival of their Lord and Savior. The angels are not mythical beings, but they are messengers from heaven. The manger is not a feed trough, but it is the throne of the new born king. The stable is not a shelter for animals and weary travelers, but it is the finest of beginnings as the Father’s Son enters the world to redeem and save it. This scene is transformed into something holy and reverent for those who utter the words, "I believe."

Said the shepard boy to the mighty king
Do you know what I know? In your palace wall mighty king.
Do you know what I know? A child, a child
Shivers in the cold: Let us bring him silver and gold; Let us bring him silver and gold

And for those who believe, this story has an amazing impact on our lives; for not only to we see this story differently. We view life differently. In a world governed by greed and the urge to take care of one’s self, we set a different standard. We believe we are called to make a difference in the world around us. We look at our lives, at our abilities, at our bank accounts, and we do not see things meant to satisfy us–instead we see our gifts, our talents, our abilities, indeed our silver and gold as gifts for the King of kings. We know when we give to food pantries, to charity, buy presents for those who have nothing, give to the church, we are not giving to these places alone. We know we are giving to God himself. We know we are making a difference. And we know this because we say, "I believe."

Said the king to the people everywhere
Listen to what I say. Pray for peace people everywhere.
Listen to what I say. The child, the child, Sleeping in the night
He will bring us goodness and light. He will bring us goodness and light.

Our world is fraught with more than enough opportunities to stumble and fall. In recent years, this has become all to tangible for many. Job loss. Illness. Disease. Political fighting. Churches splitting. Riots. Drought. Divorce. Such things trouble us deeply. They bite into our hearts. They lead to worry. To fear. To despair.

But, "I believe."

I believe Christ came into this world, not to take all of these things away, but to restore hope. We know the birth of Jesus leads not to worldly glory and exaltation. Instead, we know the birth of Jesus leads to the cross–to Jesus’ act of sacrifice to redeem the world. Even in the midst of death, Jesus brought life. Jesus shines a light into the darkness of our world bringing goodness and light. You can see this. I know you can. All you need to do is utter the words, "I believe."


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