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                     of Almelund, Minnesota

         

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Come and See!

Pastor Marla Amborn

Immanuel Lutheran Church

Christmas Eve Sermon, Dec. 24, 2017

Luke 2:1-20

 

When he accepted their invitation to come home for Christmas, Brad knew what it meant. He knew his folks would expect him to go to church with them on Christmas Eve. The thought of that made his stomach churn. He had grown up in that church. It is a beautiful little country church, especially pretty at Christmas. But since his divorce and all, he had a hard time believing in God, or at least a hard time accepting that God had anything good for him.

 

If there is a God, it seemed that God had abandoned him. What kind of God would allow his beautiful wife to be tempted away by someone else? Hadn’t they made their promise to be faithful “’til death do us part” at this very altar. He had seen how well that worked out! So, the idea of coming to church on Christmas Eve made Brad think a long time before accepting his folks’ invitation to come home for the holidays. But he didn’t have any other offers and he really didn’t want to spend this first Christmas on his own by himself, so, he agreed.

 

His mom made a wonderful dinner – baked ham, green bean casserole with the crunchy onions on top, twice baked potatoes, and almond cake with lingonberries for dessert. He had missed her almond cake. She had outdone herself making all his favorites. You don’t find lingonberries in Naperville, Illinois, where he now lived. In fact, there are a lot of things you can’t find there that he really missed. Swedish sausage, rice pudding, good cheese. And the people are just not the same. When you grow up in the country, you learn to take care of one another. You look out for each other. There, in the suburbs of Chicago, it seems like it’s everyone for himself.

 

As dinner was wrapping up Brad’s mom looked at her watch and said, “I need to get going. The choir is running through it’s songs before the service. We’re singing a piece from the Messiah a new song Come and See What’s Happening in the Barn. They are both tricky in their own way, and we want to get them just right. You guys can come a little later, but I have to go now.”

 

“Sure, Lois.” Said his dad. “We’ll see you in a little while.”

 

“George, don’t forget to bring the braided bread to give to the pastor for Christmas. It’s hot out of the oven and it will be better if it sits a little longer before transporting it. See you at church.”

 

So, it fell to Brad and George to pick up the dinner dishes, load the dishwasher, and put away the left overs. As they were at the kitchen sink, Brad looked out the window. “What’s going on over there?” he asked.

 

“That’s odd,” said his dad.  “It looks like someone has made a campfire at the old Jenkins farm. I wonder who that would be? No one has been around there since Old Man Jenkins died last spring. I hadn’t heard that anyone has bought it.”

 

“Let’s go check it out.” said Brad.

 

“Okay. We’d better bring this braided bread, to keep your mom happy. It will cool just fine in the truck.”

 

So, they set off, down the dirt road, to see what was happening at the old Jenkins farm. As they approached they noticed two figures huddled around a fire just outside the barn. It was a cold night to be outside, even with the fire. There was no cloud cover.  The sky was clear, and stars shown bright, but that made it all the chillier.

 

As their truck pulled up, a man got up and approached them. George got out, and so did Brad. Reaching out his hand he said, “George Johnson, and my son, Brad.”

 

“Pleased to meet you. I’m Joe.”

 

“Hey, what are you doing here tonight?” George asked.

 

“We’re just camping out. Ain’t causing no harm. We’ll be gone in the morning” said Joe.

 

“How did you get here?” asked Brad noticing there was no vehicle parked nearby.

 

“It’s been a long journey. We traveled various ways.”

 

“Is that a baby?” Brad asked, looking over at the woman who was sitting by the fire, with a bundle in her arms.

 

“Yah, that’s our son, Jake.”

 

“How old is he?”

 

“Two months.”

 

“It’s an awful cold night for a little baby to be out here.”

 

“He’s a tough little guy. He’s used to it. We’ll be fine.”

 

“We’ve got an extra room at our house, just down the road. How about you come and stay with us tonight?” offered George.

 

“Oh, thanks, but we’re okay,” said Joe. “If we need to get out of the wind, there’s the barn over there.

 

This is Marian.” Said Joe, motioning toward the woman at the fire.

 

Brad walked with Joe toward Marian as his dad headed back to the truck.

 

“Just a minute,” said George and returned with the braided bread. “Merry Christmas, ma’am” he said, giving Marian the bread.

 

“Oh, thank you.” she said. “How kind of you. It’s still warm!”

 

“My mom made that just an hour ago,” offered Brad.

 

In the distance the church bells began chiming. The Christmas service was starting.

 

“We need to get going.” said George.

 

“Dad, do you still have a blanket in the truck and your winter survival kit?” asked Brad.

 

“Yah,” said George.

 

“Let me get that for them,” said Brad.

 

“Sure, do that,” his dad agreed.

 

“Are you sure you won’t come back to our house with us?” said George, “We’d love to have you as our guests for Christmas.”

 

“That’s a mighty kind offer, but you’ve already done enough. We’ll just stay here. Thank you!” said Joe. His tone made it clear it was decided.

 

With that Brad gave them the blanket and winter kit and his dad signaled him to go to the truck.

 

“Merry Christmas,” they said, waiving as they pulled away.

 

They arrived at church as the congregation was singing ?“Away in a manger no crib for his bed, the little Lord Jesus lay down his sweet head.”

 

As Brad and George slipped into the back pew, a wave of emotion washed over Brad. It was not the was sinking feeling he was expecting. It was more of a sense of … connection.

 

As he joined in singing the familiar carol about Jesus in a manger with no crib for his head, he couldn’t get that little baby, Jake, out of his mind. “Some people have it really tough!” he thought, “Tougher than me, that’s for sure.”

 

The pastor launched into the sermon:

 

“What if Jesus were born in your barn? It’s the question before us tonight. Yes, Jesus was born in a barn over 2000 years ago, but Jesus is born anew in people’s hearts each day.

 

On that first Christmas Eve, the angels announced the good news to the shepherds as they tended their flocks by night. The shepherds were ordinary folks, country folk like you and me. Can you imagine being one of those shepherds? Can you imagine hearing the angels bringing that good news and realizing it was for you?

 

‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger’(Luke 2:10-12).”

 

The pastor continued. “Now I know that some of you have had a tough year of it. You might wonder if this ‘good news’ is really for you. It is important to remember that not everything that happens is God’s will. In fact, much of what happens is not. Human sin is rampant in the world, because of free will. In fact, human sin is the reason for Christmas. It is why Jesus came, so that we might be forgiven. God walks with us through whatever life brings our way. God can bring blessings out of the toughest situations. Jesus’ birth is truly good news for you and me and the whole world.

 

What did the shepherds do, when they heard this good news? The got up and left their flocks – their livelihoods. They responded to the angel’s invitation to come and see for themselves.

 

It is the same invitation that Jesus issued to his first disciples – Come and see. And it is the same invitation that God makes to each of us – Come and see. Whoever you are – Come and see. Whatever your situation in life – Come and see. Whether you’re rich or poor – Come and see. Whether you’re young or old – Come and see. Whether you’ve been a lifelong Christian, are new to the faith, or have been away for a while – Come and see. Come and see that your sins are forgiven. Come and see that God loves you now and forever.

 

God knows all that you have been through. God knows your joys and your sorrows. He knows your hopes and your fears and your doubts. He knows you at your best and at your worst and he loves you all the same. He invites you to be his beloved child.

 

Two millennia ago, shepherds left their responsibilities to witness the first Christmas. Today it falls to us to share the good news with others by inviting them to Come and see!”

 

Then the choir began singing that song Come and See What’s Happening in the Barn. It’s got a catchy melody. It makes you think. It makes the Christmas story personal.

 

Suddenly Brad knew that even if he was disappointed about the way his life has gone, God is with him. Just as he is with that family at the Jenkins farm. Just as he was with Jesus and his family that first Christmas night.

 

The candle lighting and singing Silent Night had always been Brad’s favorite part of the Christmas Eve service. As Brad tipped his candle toward his father’s singing ?“All is calm, all is bright,” a sense of calm washed over him. And he knew that it would be okay – for him, for that little baby, Jake, and for the whole world. Christ the Savior is born, and that makes all the difference.

 

Merry Christmas! Amen.  

 

A YouTube recording the Gaither Vocal Band singing “Come and See What’s Happening in the Barn” can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nxqRr1-eiDg