“We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” (1 John 4:19–21, NIV)
“This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.” (Matthew 1:18–25, NIV)
G:God or Second Reader
The dialog sermon begins with Bing Crosby singing “White Christmas” on the PA system. During this time the pastor will come into the sanctuary dressed in parka, stocking hat, and overshoes. He looks at a small Christmas tree on the alter.
P: Bah humbug! What kind of a Christmas celebration is this? Last week in the bulletin, I read, “Christmas in July, coming next Sunday.” Well this is Sunday, but where is the Christmas? There's no snow. No Santa Clause with his twelve tiny reindeer. And you call that a Christmas tree? Why I've seen bigger trees on an ant farm. This is false advertising and we've been had!
G: Excuse me, but I disagree. You don't need snow to celebrate Christmas, and you sure don't need Santa Clause or a fancy tree either. All you need is Jesus and the remembrance of his birth.
P: Uh.. who is that talking? And where are you?
G: I am the Lord almighty. You know, the big Kahunah upstairs.
P: You mean you're God?
G: With a capital “G”! The one and only!
P: Did anyone tell you, you don't sound very “God like”?
G: Yah, I get that a lot. But when you're the Lord, you can pick any voice you want! Would you rather I talked like this? “I AM THE LORD.” (spoken in as low a voice as possible)
P: Uh.. no that's ok.
G: Actually the voice thing kind of reminds me of Christmas, because Christmas is kind of surprising!
Unfortunately, Christmas has gotten to be rather predictable in these last few decades. It starts around Thanksgiving, when all the stores shift into high gear trying to sell stuff that supposedly will make Christmas better. Can you imagine that? Trying to make Christmas better? That's kind of like trying to make the Grand Canyon better, or spruce up the pacific ocean. So amusing!
P: It has gotten rather predictable, I guess.
G: And what everybody is working so hard at, is trying to make a “perfect Christmas”. A perfect celebration. But do you know what happens when human beings try to make things perfect?
P: It backfires?
G. Exactly. With all that emphasis on having the perfect Christmas, people begin to realize how imperfect their lives are, and when that happens, they start to feel depressed.
P: Instead of feeling happy, people feel sad?
G: Right. And that is not what Christmas should be. Christmas should be a time of great happiness.
P: Well if buying stuff and having the perfect Christmas is not the source of real Christmas joy, then what is?
G: That's why I invited you here this morning. I figured that if there was a little less pressure on having a “perfect Christmas”, you might be able to understand the true spirit of Christmas, the real reason for Jesus' coming into this world.
P: That makes sense. Avoid the “Christmas rush”, so to speak, so as to learn the real meaning of Christmas.
G: Right again!
P: So ah.. why did Jesus come into this world? What is Christmas all about?
G: Actually the reason for Jesus coming is quite simple. Jesus came into this world to heal broken relationships.
P: You mean, like no more arguing over the remote control?
G: Sort of, but think deeper. One of the reasons people feel down at Christmas time, is, as I explained, the lack of perfection in their lives. They watch all those Christmas movies, and listen to all of that Christmas music, and realize that their own lives aren't that rosy. In fact, their own lives are often filled with lots of struggle and brokenness. That's what Jesus comes for. He comes to repair the human/divine relationship first, and out of that healing, comes the healing of all other relationships. As it says in the book of 1st John, “We love, because he first loved us.”
P: So that's why Gene Autry singing “Here Comes Santa Clause” a hundred times, doesn't cheer me up very much.
G. Actually Gene Autry is helpful, but only to a limited degree. The same thing is true of pastors, preachers, and teachers. They all help as they are able, but they are only human. They struggle with the same problems and limitations that everyone else wrestles with.
Jesus was truly human, but he was also truly divine. In Matthew's gospel, the angels heralded the baby Jesus as “Emmanuel” which means “God with us.”
Jesus can help us like no other pastor, preacher, or teacher, because he is both human and divine. He is a helper without human sin or human limitations.
And, thanks to the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Jesus who helped disciples in 33AD, is still available to us today. Jesus said at the end of Matthew's gospel, “And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the ages.” Jesus is “God with us” when we pray, “God with us” when we worship together and study God's word, “God with us” when we commune and baptize.
P: Wow! I never thought of it that way. Santa Clause comes “but once a year”, but Jesus is with us always. Jesus is our helper in all times, places, and circumstances. And the help he offers knows no bounds!
G: That's what's so surprising about Christmas. Nobody ever expected God to get that involved. People often think of God as too good for this world. Too distant and uninterested. But Jesus puts a human face on God. He helps us to know the love of God in a very personal way. He helps us to know a God who loves us so much he's willing to die for us.
P: That's really good news! The next time I'm in church, I'm going to take advantage of God's offer. I'm going to pray and worship, knowing that through Jesus, God truly is with us, listening and offering his help and guidance every day.
G: Ah.. didn't you notice, you are in church?
P: Oh, I guess I am! I suppose you're saying, I ought to be praying even now?
G: Not a bad idea. Have a Merry Christmas.. in July!
P: (Pastor bows his head in prayer.)