Psalm 148 December 27, 2020 Colossians 3:12-17
I want you to imagine that you are going to a really wonderful concert. You’ve been standing in line for a long time, and the outside speakers have been playing music from the featured group to really get you in the mood for the concert. Vendors have been moving up and down the line, selling souvenirs that focus on this concert, and your whole group is loaded up with fun items.
The expectations for this concert are now at fever pitch, and they have finally opened the door to let everyone inside. You settle into your seats, everyone eager for the experience, and the music begins. It’s just the warm-up band (or, if you are imagining a symphony or opera or musical—it’s just the overture that sets the stage for the performance.) During the applause, someone in your group says, “Wow! That was great! Too bad it’s over. Hey, can we stop for ice cream on the way home?” And, of course, your response is, “What? It’s not OVER! That was just the first thing—there’s lots more to come!” It’s not over—there’s more to come.
The same thing happens at the end of the day on December 25. We have a sense that Christmas is over. Oh, sure, we have to go back to work and get on with our daily responsibilities—but Christmas is NOT over! The commercial Christmas that starts somewhere before Hallowe’en is over—unless you count the after-Christmas sales. But, according to the church calendar, only Advent is over (the season of preparation for Christmas). The Season of Christmas continues until next weekend. So, according to the calendar, we’ve only enjoyed the first part of the experience.
Now, are you ready for some other good news? The deepest, most TRUE parts of Christmas are meant to last throughout the entire year! Here’s a poem by Howard Thurman that I have been enjoying for the last 30 years:
WHEN THE SONG OF THE ANGELS IS STILLED,
WHEN THE STAR IN THE SKY IS GONE,
WHEN THE KINGS AND PRINCES ARE HOME,
WHEN THE SHEPHERDS ARE BACK WITH THE FLOCKS,
THEN THE WORK OF CHRISTMAS BEGINS:
TO FIND THE LOST,
TO HEAL THOSE BROKEN IN SPIRIT,
TO FEED THE HUNGRY,
TO RELEASE THE OPPRESSED,
TO REBUILD THE NATIONS
TO BRING PEACE AMONG ALL PEOPLES,
TO MAKE A LITTLE MUSIC WITH THE HEART…
Christmas HAS just begun!
Next Sunday, we are going to celebrate Epiphany, The Coming of the Light. It focuses on the Magi that came from the east to worship the new king. We usually include Wise Men in our depictions of the birth of Jesus, but scholars agree that they actually came much later. They looked first in Jerusalem, the “headquarters” of Judaism. There they were told about little Bethlehem, the place where the Messiah was to be born.
These Magi represent the whole world outside Israel. You know, the people of Israel had an understanding that Israel would be the place where all the world came to learn about the True God. The Temple was built with the understanding that True Seekers would be welcome, no matter their origins. (That’s why a Court of the Gentiles was included in the architecture of the Temple.) When folks come seeking the light, God wants the light to be shared!
This expedition of the Magi makes me think about a much more recent journey made by “outsiders” who wanted to learn more. A couple of centuries ago—in the 1830’s—a group of men from the Nez Perce Tribe in Idaho made the sojourn all the way to St. Louis to ask about “The Book of Heaven” that they had heard about. The Presbyterian Church sent Spalding and Whitman and their wives to carry the Gospel to the Nez Perce people. (And that is why the very oldest Presbyterian Church in Idaho is in Kamiah, not Boise!) People seek the light, and God provides!
The Psalm we heard today (#148) is a wonderful expression of universal praise. It says that everything, everywhere is full of God’s praise. Angels, sun, moon, stars, highest heavens, waters above the heavens—there are no limits or boundaries of God’s praise, because God created all and established it forever. Then it says “Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth…let them praise the name of the Lord.” The scope is universal, so it should come as no surprise that Magi come from the east, and Nez Perce come seeking, because they have glimpsed the light and want more of it.
As God’s Chosen
Friends, you and I are carriers of the light. We can take Christmas into the New Year, all year long. We can share that light by sharing God’s love, starting with our family, our neighbors, our co-workers, and beyond. Paul gives us some practical nuts-and-bolts ways to share God’s love:
- Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.
- Bear with one another, forgive each other (Just as the Lord has forgiven you).
- Clothe yourselves with love which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
- Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.
- Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly
- And, whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
This seems like a pretty tall order, doesn’t it?! We could just sum it all up and say, “Be an ANGEL.” Wow. That doesn’t help at all!
Until we remember that an angel is, by definition, a messenger of God—one who conveys hope and faith from God to those who need it.
I love the story about the fellow who wanted to be more sensitive to God’s Spirit, to follow God’s direction. One evening, he had a sense that he needed to stop by the store to pick up some milk (even though he had some at home). He obeyed that prompting. Then, following another prompting, he took a different route toward his home—even though it was out of his way. He sensed that he needed to stop at a particular house and take the milk to the front door. Now things were about to get embarrassing! But he obeyed, and went to the door. When the door opened to him, he discovered that the family inside had been praying for milk for their hungry baby!
Friends, you and I can also be angels—messengers that carry God’s love to folks who need it. Wouldn’t you love to be a Christmas Angel this year?! Christmas HAS just begun!