Blue Christmas Sermon 2018

Psalm 42

As a deer longs for flowing streams,
    so my soul longs for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
    for the living God.
When shall I come and behold
    the face of God?
My tears have been my food
    day and night,
while people say to me continually,
    “Where is your God?”

These things I remember,
    as I pour out my soul:
how I went with the throng,
    and led them in procession to the house of God,
with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving,
    a multitude keeping festival.
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my help
and my God.

My soul is cast down within me;
    therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
    from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep
    at the thunder of your cataracts;
all your waves and your billows
    have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
    and at night his song is with me,
    a prayer to the God of my life.

I say to God, my rock,
    “Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I walk about mournfully
    because the enemy oppresses me?”
10 As with a deadly wound in my body,
    my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me continually,
    “Where is your God?”

11 Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my help and my God.

Jeremiah 29:10-14

10 For thus says the Lord: Only when Babylon’s seventy years are completed will I visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For surely, I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. 12 Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. 13 When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, 14 I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.


Sometimes we are confronted with circumstances and feelings that destroy our hopes and dreams. Sometimes as our world’s move in relation to our circumstances, time itself can appear to stop, speed up, or change the way we consider the ends and purpose of our lives. That’s simply a part of life. But there are different ways to respond to this. We can flee or we can look forward towards whatever it is that we might think that we have left. This second option, this practical stance of recognition, frees us because it illuminates all the possibilities God might have ahead of us. As we take a step towards this unknown future, we are not entering a singular moment, but rather a process by which we try to answer the question, “how should I live now?”


 The scriptures that have been read for us this evening run along this theme, but they also assure us with something even more profound. Namely that God fulfills his promises and heals our pains even when we go through period of exile, alienation, or loneliness. There are some Christmas seasons that are unlike other Christmas seasons. When we are young everything is a wide-open new adventure, but as we age, we start to accumulate memories and bonds that can make things difficult. For some of us, this might come as a shock. It can feel a little bit like the story of the third-grade class that was putting on a nativity skit.


In the story, Mary and Joseph visit the inn – probably a scene familiar to us all. But in this particular class there was one little boy who wanted to be Joseph. But when the parts were assigned, his biggest rival was given that role, and the boy who wanted to be Joseph was given the part of the inn keeper instead. The little boy was really bitter about this, so during all the rehearsals he began to plot how to get even with his rival.


Finally, the night of the performance came. Mary and Joseph walked across the stage. They knocked on the door of the inn, and the inn-keeper opened the door and asked gruffly what they wanted.


Joseph answered, “We’d like to have a room for the night.” Suddenly the inn-keeper threw the door wide open and said, “Great, come on in and I’ll give you the best room in the house.”


Now, that obviously wasn’t in the script and for a few seconds the boy who played Joseph didn’t know what to do. But finally, the young Joseph had an idea. He stepped up to the innkeeper, and looked beyond him through the door that represented the inn. He made a big production of looking right and left. He stepped back out beside his “wife” and said, “No wife of mine is going to stay in a dump like this. Come on, Mary, let’s go to the barn!” Now obviously the audience was shocked and everyone laughed.


There are times when Christmas doesn’t go according to place. There are times when we can feel like the script has been changed on us and everything isn’t as it should be. Sometimes after the loss of a loved one, a divorce, the loss of a job, or the fight that comes with a serious illness we find ourselves feeling afloat on a body of water that just doesn’t feel familiar.


Christmas can sometimes resemble the Elvis song where he sings, “I’ll have a blue Christmas, that’s certain and when that blue heartache starts hurting you’ll be doing all right, with your Christmas white, but I’ll have a blue, blue Christmas.”


Sometime I feel that way. I’ve had some rough times and even rougher holidays. That’s one of the harder parts of life. But the scriptures that we heard tell us some pretty assuring things. First, God has a plan for us, our loved ones, and our world. The fact that God loves us means that he is intimately concerned with our welfare and our future – a future of hope.


In this week of advent, we are reminded of the Joy that Christ brings to the world. And there’s a funny thing about this joy, it’s different than happiness. Happiness is more fleeting. It’s associated with what we do, what we eat, what we may feel after jumping out of an airplane or going to Disney World. But happiness isn’t really substantive when it comes to how we look at our future. When we’re staring at all of the possible future that we can imagine ahead of us, happiness is more about what happens to us and not so much about what we want to try and accomplish in terms of the world we want to create – the world that God might want us to strive for.


Joy is a type of longing. When we think about things past and things to come, we can find and create joy when we long for the things of God. When we strive make the world just a little more like the Kingdom of God, and remember our loved ones in that process, we can find joy because we are overcoming the bad things that life throws at us. When we look at the scriptures, we just heard we hear voices of deep longing – longing for freedom, for hope, for healing.


When Jesus came to us 2,000 years ago, he came to offer us the hope that we had been longing for. You see, God hears our prayers. When we search for God, even if it is a long and windy journey, we will find God. Jeremiah tells us that God gathers those who seek him from all the nations and draws them in like a mother hen sheltering her chicks. That’s what God’s love looks like. It frees us to live forward into the future – to remember the values that our loved ones carried and to realize them in our actions.


Jesus came to breathe new life into all of creation and to offer us hope - a hope rooted in the goodness of love and God’s continuing work of bringing about a New Heaven and a New Earth. May we take comfort in this path and in the promises of God. Amen.

Kadin Williams