PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “CHRISTMAS-GOD HOOKING AN EXTRA ON THE FRONT OF ORDINARY” (By: Ron Woodrum)
Thanksgiving is now past. The major post-Thanksgiving sales are on. Black Friday-Small Business Saturday-Cyber Monday. Then all the ads that remind us exactly how many days to Christmas. The Christmas season is suddenly on us! Every year each Pastor is faced with the challenge of preaching the great Christmas themes and presenting the incredible Christmas story. The preacher finds himself in the role similar of the monument-cleaner. A monument cleaner is someone who comes and removes the debris that has covered up the beauty of the original artwork-to polish up the monument to help us perceive the original beauty. That is the challenge of preaching the Christmas story. The goal is to help us see the Christmas story as we have never seen it before-letting the original message and beauty come shining through. That is a challenge!
Much of Christmas’ beauty is its sameness. Think about it. The same traditions. The same meals. The same songs. The same candlelight services. The same shopping habits. Yet each Christmas is a little different. Sometimes the change is noticeable and unexpected, at other time a mere matter of flexibility. But each year’s celebration somehow speaks its familiar message with freshness that can only be heard by ears a year older. So in the next series of Christmas messages let me invite you to bring your this-Christmas life within the reach of God’s Christmas story, to look at these same pictures of love and grace from a new vantage point, to spend a few weeks letting God’s comforting sameness reveal His new-every-morning side. It’s time to experience Christmas again-in the same old-brand new way.
As we begin our journey toward Christmas 2018 the first consideration, I want you to meditate on is this-There is one word that describes the night that Jesus was born-ORDINARY! The sky was ordinary. An occasional gust stirred the leaves and chilled the air. The stars were sparkling diamonds on a black velvet backdrop. But then they ordinarily do! Fleets of clouds floated in front of the moon. It was a beautiful night-but not really an unusual one. No reason to expect a surprise. Nothing to keep a person awake. An ordinary night with an ordinary sky. The sheep were ordinary. Some fat. Some scrawny. Some with barrel bellies. Some with twig legs. Common animals. No fleece made of gold. No history makers. No blue-ribbon winners. They were simply sheep-lumpy, sleeping silhouettes on a hillside. And the shepherds were ordinary. Ordinary peasants. Probably wearing all the clothes they owned. Smelling like sheep and looking just a wooly. They were conscientious, willing to spend the night with their flocks. But you won’t find their staffs in a museum nor their writings in a library. No one asked their opinions-about social justice-the Torah-or actually about anything! They were nameless and simple. There you go-An ordinary night with ordinary sheep and ordinary shepherds. And were it not for a God who loves to hook an “extra” on the front of ordinary, the night would have gone unnoticed. The sheep would have been forgotten, and the shepherds would have slept the night away. Neither would have been memorialized from generation after generation in bath robes in local Church Christmas pageants!
But God dances amidst the common. That night it was the greatest of Waltzes! The black sky exploded with brightness. Trees that had been shadows jumped into clarity. Sheep that had been silent became a chorus of curiosity. One minute the shepherds were dead asleep, the next they were rubbing their eyes, scared out of their wits, staring into the face of a host of aliens-angelic hosts praising God and saying “Peace on earth, good will toward men!” The night was ordinary no more. The angels came at night because it is at night that lights are best seen and when they are needed most! God comes into the common for the same reason. He delights in making the “ordinary” into the “extra-ordinary”. That is what His Son had come to do for the entire human race! He came to transform ordinary sinners into extraordinary saints-all through the birth, life, death of resurrection of his ordinary, but extra-ordinary Son-The Lord Jesus Christ. Isaiah would say-“His name shall be called “Wonderful”. The Hebrew word “wonderful” is the word “pela”. It refers to something or someone that makes a person marvel. It is something or someone that causes wonder, amazement, astonishment, worship and awe! That is exactly who He is and what He does for everyone that encounters Him. Let the celebration of His birth be that and more for you this year!
One of my favorite authors, as you know, is Frederick Buechner. In his book Secrets in the Dark, he gives a perspective concerning Christmas that spoke volumes to me. He writes, “Those who believe in God can never in a way be sure of Him again. Once they have seen Him in a stable, they can never be sure where He will appear or to what lengths He will go or to what ludicrous depths of self-humiliation He will descend in His wild pursuit of human-kind. If Holiness and the awful majesty of the Power of God were present in this least auspicious of all events, this birth of a peasant’s child, then there is no place or time so lowly and earthbound but that this Holiness can be present there too. This means we are never safe, that there is no place we can hide from God, no place where we are safe from His power to break in two and recreate the human heart, because it is just where He seems most helpless that He is most strong, and just where we least expect Him that He comes most fully!”. That is an awesome start to our celebration of Advent! Let Him transform our ordinary to His extra-ordinary. He loves doing that. That is why He came!