Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
Luke 2:1-20 Sermon
December 25, 2014
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"O Come All Ye Faithful"
"O Little Town Of Bethlehem"
"What Child Is This?"
"While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night"
"Angels We Have Heard On High"
"Once In Royal David's City"
"Hark The Herald Angels Sing"
"Silent Night, Holy Night"
"Joy To The World"
THE MISSING CHRIST CHILD
TEXT (vs. 6-7): “And so it was, that, while [Joseph and Mary] were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.”
Some of you might be familiar with the old crime/drama series called "Dragnet." It's an old show that started on radio and carried over to television. Sergeant Joe Friday and Officer Bill Gannon play the two starring detectives, as they reenact actual cases that have been dramatized for television.
Back in 1969 they filmed a special Christmas episode, which has been replayed just about every year since. I have seen it more times than I can remember. This year was no different; it came on Me TV this morning at10:00.
The story line is simple. It is mid-morning on Christmas Eve, and the phone rings. It is Father Xavier Rojas from the mission church inSan Fernando. It's a real place, built in 1797 as a Spanish-speaking mission. Today it still serves the largely Mexican population living there.
The church has a very special nativity scene, a replica of one that is inBethlehem. They have had this particular crèche for many years. It's made of plaster-of-paris and hand-painted. It shows its age in various areas; one of the wise men has a chipped face, and the donkey is old and cracked. In terms of dollars and cents, it wasn't worth very much. But it was a very sentimental part of Christmas for the people of that mission church.
The reason that Father Rojas called the police, was that someone had stolen the statue of the baby Jesus from this nativity set. Nothing else had been taken or even disturbed; just the Jesus statue was missing. It was the duty of the police to put out the dragnet, and find the missing Christ Child.
The missing Christ Child. Just think of it for a minute. What kind of Christmas would there be if the Christ Child were to be missing? Can you imagine it?
Maybe you can't imagine the Christ Child missing in your own individual and family celebrations of Christmas, or in our celebration here at the church. But look out, just a little bit further. Can't you see people celebrating Christmas all over the country with the Christ Child missing in their celebrations? And maybe, just maybe the Christ Child has been pushed aside in our own celebrations, at least sometimes as well?
This evening we read once again the very familiar words of the Christmas story from Luke chapter 2 verses 1-20. I've heard these words virtually every year that I have been alive. Just look at the focus here. Verse 6 tells us that after Mary had delivered him, that she wrapped him in swathing bands, strips of cloth like bandages, and laid him in a manger. After that, in verse 12 we read about what the angel told the shepherds: "Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger." And finally in verse 16 we read about what the shepherds did: "And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger."
In those 20 verses of the Christmas story from Luke chapter 2, we read a lot of detail about the events surrounding Jesus' birth. But each and every time, our attention is being directed back to the most important thing of all, which is the Christ Child in the manger.
Indeed, what kind of event would we be celebrating if the Christ Child was missing from this story? A woman had a baby, well that happens all the time, every day. A woman gave birth to a baby in a stable? Okay, that's a bit out of the ordinary, but sometimes situations and circumstances dictate how things have to go. For example, I sincerely doubt that any woman plans to give birth in the back seat of a taxi, but it happens. And I would imagine that if Mary and Joseph had their druthers, they would not have chosen a stable as their proverbial maternity ward.
Think about the very nature of this birth. Do you think that the angels would have announced this birth the way they did if it had been an ordinary person, even being born under adverse conditions? Do you think that there would have been anything so noteworthy about a woman becoming pregnant and giving birth in any circumstance?
If we look at the prophecy of Isaiah in chapter 7 verse 14, we read about one of the most miraculous things about this birth: "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel."
Christ's virgin birth is one of the miracles connected with Christmas. This was one way that makes this birth stand out from any other. This completely defied the laws of nature. But aren't all of nature's laws established and controlled by God? Doesn't God do things and control things for his purposes as he sees fit?
God not only tries to keep our attention fixed upon the Christ Child, he also focuses our attention upon the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. This Christ Child in the manger would be God's answer to the promise of the Messiah who would come to the earth in order to save the people from their sins. He would establish a permanent and lasting peace between sinful mankind and God himself.
But people have a lot of trouble wrapping their brains around the idea of God acting in a miraculous way, and in any way doing things that don't fit with the laws of nature and the logic of mankind. The virgin birth of Christ is often regarded as nothing more than pure sentiment, and that Mary somehow got pregnant in the normal way. With this line of thinking, people are believing that the Bible is lying to them when it details the virgin birth. When human logic trumps what God has done, there is no room for anything miraculous. This is but one of the ways that the Christ Child goes missing from this story.
But we know that God doesn't lie to us or mislead us. So we listen once again to the angelic announcement to the shepherds in verses 10-12: "And the angel said unto them, 'Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.'"
So what does that mean for us? How does the birth of a Saviour affect our lives? If we look at the familiar words of John chapter 3 verses 16-17, we read about what the love of God actually does for us: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved."
God loves the world. He loves you and me! He came that we might be saved and give us the gift of everlasting life. Wow! What a concept! God loves the likes of you and me individually that he was willing to send Jesus to this earth just for us, just so we could be saved and enjoy eternity with him. That's something that is indeed worth celebrating!
You might be wondering what happened to the missing Christ Child in our Dragnet story. Sergeant Friday and Officer Gannon spent the whole day trying to find this statue. They followed every lead they could, but they came up empty. So they go back to the mission church to tell Father Rojas the sad news.
As they were standing in front of the church talking to the priest, they heard the sound of metal being bumped around coming from the back of the church. They turned around and saw this very small boy pulling a red coaster wagon up the front aisle. And in the wagon was the missing Christ Child from the nativity scene.
They were all happy to see the statue. So they ask where the boy found it. The boy was a member of the parish; his name was Paquito Mendoza, and he could only speak Spanish. Paquito told the priest that he didn't find it. No, he had taken it.
When asked why he did that, he explained that he had said a prayer at the nativity scene, asking for a red wagon for Christmas. He had promised Jesus that if he got the red wagon, Jesus would be the one who would get the first ride. And Paquito kept his promise. Father Rojas assured Paquito that he had done nothing wrong, and God wasn't mad at him for what he had done. The boy laid the Jesus statue back in the nativity scene, made the sign of the cross, and left the church pulling his new red wagon behind him.
Officer Gannon asked the priest why he had gotten his red wagon before Christmas; didn't kids wait for Santa Claus any more? Father Rojas explained that Paquito's family was very poor, and that these were old toys that had been collected by the neighborhood firemen. They would take them and fix them up and give them to the children. They knew how much Paquito wanted a red wagon, and so they made sure he had one, coincidentally painted the exact same color of red as the fire engines. I wonder how that could have happened?
When Father Rojas told the police that Paquito's family was very poor, Sergeant Friday looked him in the eye and simply replied, "Are they?" He knew that true wealth wasn't measured in terms of dollars and cents.
The missing Christ Child wasn't missing at all; he was safe and sound in a young little boy's heart. In the midst of his poverty, little Paquito Mendoza thanked Jesus in the only way he could, which was to give the baby Jesus the first ride in his new (or newly restored) red wagon.
We can see so many ways around us where the Christ Child is missing from the Christmas celebrations. Maybe we ought to look at the way the simple faith of a little boy manifested itself. He didn't have to search for the Christ Child, because the Christ Child was central to his life. The Holy Spirit works faith even in the hearts of the very young, and that faith can show itself in very simple, yet very profound ways.
This evening, I am going to close with a story that was Emailed to me this week, which I think puts a nice cap on this. It's entitled, "Who started this Christmas thing?"
I recently heard a story on the radio of a woman who was out Christmas shopping with her two children. After many hours of looking at row after row of toys and everything else imaginable, and after hours of hearing both her children asking for everything they saw on those many shelves, she finally made it to the elevator with her two kids.
She was feeling what so many of us feel during the holiday season: overwhelming pressure to go to every party, every housewarming, taste all the holiday food and treats, getting that perfect gift for every single person on our shopping list, making sure we don't forget anyone on our card list, and the pressure of making sure we respond to everyone who sent us a card.
Finally the elevator doors opened and there was already a crowd in the car. She pushed her way into the car and dragged her two kids in with her and all the bags of stuff. When the doors closed she couldn't take it anymore and stated, "Whoever started this whole Christmas thing should be found, strung up and shot."
From the back of the car everyone heard a quiet calm voice respond, "Don't worry, we already crucified Him."
For the rest of the trip down the elevator, it was so quiet that you could have heard a pin drop.
Don't forget this year to keep the One who started this whole Christmas thing in your every thought, deed, purchase, and word. If we all did it, just think of how different this whole world would be.