12/12/04, A3A

“What Child is This?”
Matthew 11: 2-11

  Pink Lady was faced with the dilemma of whether to knock on a hospital door with the NO VISITORS sign or to just go on by--- but something led her to knock. She knocked and opened the door just a little and said sweetly, "Merry Christmas! I have some magazines." A gruff response came back, "Didn't you see the sign, and are you one of those pushy religious nuts?"  "No, I'm not a nut but I have Time, Newsweek, and Sports Illustrated."  "I'll take a Sports Illustrated," was his reply. A few days later she came back with several back issues of Sports Illustrated, and this time she was able to exchange a few words of conversation. She was back again the next time with another kind of sports magazine, and they exchanged little snippets of dialogue. This continued for weeks.  One day he blurted out to her, "You know I have cancer and I'm going to die. My wife is gone, I don't have any children, my parents are gone: I don't have any family, I don't have anybody. I am going to have surgery next week and I am afraid I will not survive, and I wonder if it matters, I don't have anything to live for."

She listened and then said, "When you come out of surgery I'm going to be there, because I am so grateful you've shared this with me."  They had a good conversation and finally she said, "You are going to have surgery and I wonder if we could say a prayer together, it would mean so much to me."  "Yes, you may!"  And she prayed a simple prayer about the Christ Child, and for God to protect them both, and closed with The Lord's Prayer--- When she got halfway through, he joined in reciting the prayer, and she felt him take her hand. They both opened their eyes and she looked at him surprised, "I know I said I was not religious, but my grandparents taught me to pray, but I later strayed away.  I have been afraid to come back to God until just now during that prayer."  Two months later he died, but he had met his Messiah through a Christ-like woman who was led to knock on his door in Jesus' name.

The Reason for the Season is to celebrate that the God who became flesh still walks with us and talks with us. Not only did "The Word become flesh..." but, "The Word Becomes Flesh.” The Living Christ is as real to us as rocks and rain. The Incarnation was the Holy Spirit's gateway into our lives. Henry David Thoreau asked a professor friend, “With all your science, can you tell me how it is that light comes into the soul?”

Both TIME and Newsweek had cover stories this week making feeble attempts to debunk the Nativity. They asked the same old hollow questions that we have heard forever. But, just their interest in the birth of a baby two thousand years ago must mean something. One of them said that over 90% of Americans will celebrate Christmas this year in some way: sending cards, listening to music, a trip home, just one service with the kids. The Season haunts us all. That in itself is almost Reason enough.

Christmas was just the beginning of the Savior's ongoing work. For example, this morning we have entered into Carrollton 's most beautiful church all decked out for Christmas, and who among us can deny that we have not felt the Christ Child's presence? He has come through smiles, and songs, and sights, and sounds. We feel something real happening here! And it will be transmitted to others if we follow the leading of the Christ in knocking on closed doors.

A friend was in St. Louis on a Sunday morning and he asked a Police Officer where a good church was. The officer gave him directions and my friend was heading off, but turned and asked the officer, “Why did you suggest that particular church?” "That church has the happiest looking people in St. Louis coming out of it, and I thought you would want to visit that kind of church." Because of God's Incarnation as Word, our words, and stories, and lives take on a new and nobler dimension. I hope people see this joy in us today as we leave church and become His megaphones.

In our text we hear John the Baptist sending his personal disciples to Jesus to ask them if he was the Messiah, or if they should wait upon another. Of course John himself knew that his cousin was the long expected Christ, but he wanted his disciples to meet Jesus and to hear him say that he was the Savior of Humankind. John, sensing his impending execution, was giving his dear ones to Jesus who would lead them into higher realms of service. Today, God's Spirit is sent to us so that we might have an assurance of our personal salvation, and that we might know our calling. John the Baptist's disciples became servants of Christ, as are we.

Under a cultural exchange program a rabbi from Russia was visiting with a Methodist family in Texas . Since it was Christmas they wanted to take him to some of the finest places in Houston , so they all went to a favorite Chinese restaurant. Throughout the meal the rabbi extolled the wonders of America in comparison to the bleak conditions of his homeland. When they had finished eating the waiter brought the check, a fortune cookie, and a small brass Christmas tree ornament as a present for the rabbi. They all laughed when the rabbi pointed out that the ornaments were stamped "made in India ."  But the laughter soon subsided when they saw that the rabbi was quietly crying. They all thought that the rabbi must have been offended by receiving a Christmas gift; but no, he smiled and shook his head and said, "Nyet, I was shedding tears of joy to be in a wonderful country, in a Chinese restaurant in which a Buddhist gives a Jew a Christmas gift made by a Hindu!" Such joy transcends barriers and opens hearts to Christ. There in the restaurant a rabbi realized that the inner voice that had been calling out to him for many years was the voice of the Babe of Bethlehem. The Season often brings these profound evangelical moments. This Child wants to be reborn in us today!

We often hear it asked, "Why can't we have Christmas joy all year long?" Well, we should, and we can, and for many of us it is a reality. I sometimes can't get ready for Christmas, because I am already ready. We are endowed with an eternal joy because Jesus lives in us and works through us daily. We could sing "Joy to the World" in June, July, or January. He uses us daily as instruments of grace to knock on closed doors. This is our Christmas Joy 365 days a year!

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor
12/12/04, A3A