“The Other Side of Christmas”
Sermon: “The Other Side of Christmas”
Rev. Glenn G. Grant
Kirkridge Presbyterian Church
Transcription from January 1st, 2023
Sermon transcription is automatically generated. Please forgive any grammatical errors
We are on what most people think of as the other side of Christmas. You know, the presents have been unwrapped, some of the kids' toys have already gotten broken, and other kids are playing with the boxes instead of what was in 'em. The adults are exhausted, and we're all set, you know? Now we've even gotten through the next holiday, new year’s. And we're looking forward to the next religious holiday, you know that first Sunday in February called the Super Bowl.
And some folks understand that that's not a religious holiday. But we are on what the majority of people that we would meet think of as the other side of Christmas. The day is past us, it's behind us. And so, there is that thought that we are on the other side of Christmas. But there is another definition of the other side.
You know, so often when we think about Christmas, we have all these beautiful images of decorated sanctuaries and homes. We have these idyllic images of Mary and Joseph serenely kneeling by the manger with the baby that's asleep, of course because babies always sleep. And of course, you know you have the sheep and the donkey and the cow all calmly laying there, and the shepherds looking on in awe, and that's our image of Christmas.
But today's gospel lesson gave us another image of those days following Christmas. Now, of course, we don't know how long past this really happens. You know, one gospel tells us that, that Mary and Joseph take Jesus to the temple for the rights, which of course is circumcision, which would've been at eight days old.
But in Matthew's Gospel, it just says that having been warned in a dream, Joseph takes Mary and Jesus and heads in another direction, and then when he hears that Herod has died and that it's safe to go back, he does so.
But of course, the rest of that little piece in there that we gloss over is that Herod had all of the children under age two, that were in Israel, killed. Because he was afraid of someone usurping him or taking his throne from him.
So, we skip over that little piece and that's kind of that other side of Christmas, that not-so-nice side. And we know that for a lot of people, Christmas is not necessarily a nice time. It may be memories, the fact that they lost a loved one at Christmas. It may be that some other catastrophe happened at Christmas. It may be that they are missing all those family gatherings because either they can no longer get to where the gatherings are happening or there is no longer family gathering. And that is another side of Christmas. People that are lonely, people that are hurting, and people that are living on the streets because of whatever reason. The carpenter that is homeless now because his tools got stolen and he can't work without his tools.
You know, there are all kinds of people for whom the Christmas celebration is not as joyful as most of us would like it to be.
And yet Joseph takes Mary and Jesus and goes back. But upon hearing that Archelaus has taken over for his father, decides that even though he was told those who sought the child's life were dead, he wants to avoid any issues. And instead of going to his home, goes to Galilee, to the town of Nazareth, and settles his family there.
Now one might look at that and say, well, why didn't he trust the message he got from God that those who were after the child's wife were dead?
And I would like to ask a question about that. How many of us have always trusted the messages we get from God?
How many of us know when we're getting a message from God? You know, I was listening to ABC News, I think it was last evening, and they were doing their year review kind of thing, and going through some of the stories, this was ABC 12, so it was local, and they were going through some of the stories from the past year. And one was about a car wreck where a woman and a couple of other people saw it happen and she was running late for a doctor's appointment, but something told her, she says something told me that I needed to stop and see if I could help. And by the time she got to the car, it was smoking. And a couple of other people came over and the woman that was driving the car wouldn't get out. She said I can't get out, I've got a broken leg. And so, she couldn't, she wouldn't get out. And finally, this woman leaned over her and said, come on honey, you're gonna come with me, put your arm around my neck and we're gonna stand up, I'm gonna help you out. And by that time, the flames were coming into the cabin of the car. If she hadn't listened to that little voice that said, stop and check and see if you can help, there may have been a life lost. Instead, only the car was burned.
You know, we get those little things. And maybe Joseph was actually following exactly what God wanted him to do. Because if you think about it, if Joseph had taken Mary back to their hometown, people may have looked at Jesus and done a little math. And figured out that, hold it, they weren't married yet, But by going to Nazareth, there was no one that would've known that. So, by doubting things, maybe he was actually listening to God and was doing what was gonna be best for his family. And that's another side of Christmas. You know, we get this message that God has come and been with us and we get all these little bits and pieces of it that we wanna focus on this part, or this part, or this part, and it's all part of it.
And what we have to remember is that all of this, the final verses that Alicia read for us. This was so the prophecy may be fulfilled. And so, we go back and we listen to the words from the prophet Isaiah.
I probably have to put my glasses back on for this.
I will recount the gracious deeds of the Lord, the praiseworthy acts of the Lord because of all that the Lord has done for us. The great favor to the house of Israel, that he has shown them according to his mercy, according to the abundance of his steadfast love. And then finishes up in his love and in his pity, he redeemed them. He lifted them up and carried them all the days.
God carries us all the days.
And the true message of Christmas is not that the message comes through angels, not that the message comes through special messengers, but that we get that redemptive message through God. God's self.
And that God is with us all of our days. Whether it's one side of Christmas or the other side of Christmas, doesn't matter. God is always, always, always with us, and sometimes those little nudges that we get, that's God. That's God. When you get that nudge that says, pick up the phone and call your friend you haven't heard from in six weeks. That's God.
When you get that little thing that says, no, I'm gonna wait until the next gap in traffic before I pull out. And then down the road, you find out that you are right behind an accident. That's God.
Or those times when maybe, maybe you remember the Christmas, maybe it was this Christmas, maybe it was years ago, but you remember Christmas where you got a gift that at the time you really weren't all that thrilled with. And over the years it turned out to be one of the best gifts you ever got.
There was a thing on Facebook yesterday about a teacher that was talking with one of his students who had just lost his mother. And the teacher had recently lost his mother. And then the student said to him, this is the first-grade student, and said to him, well, our mothers are together as angels watching over us.
And he explains to the student that he was having a hard, oh, this was on a note. He was having a hard time reading the note through his tears, and the first grader says, just sound it out. Just sound it out. Maybe that's what we need to be doing with Christmas and the true message of Christmas is just to sound it out.
You know, there's a lot of ways of sounding. One is by making the sounds that the letters represent, or that the notes on the page represent. But remember that sounding is also a way of exploring the depths, and knowing whether you're in shallow or deep.
So maybe we need to just sound out the Christmas message because it's not just for a day. It's not even just for a season, but it's for all time. Amen.