Pastor's Weekly Newsletter

Each Friday, Dr. Daniel Hagmaier posts his weekly newsletter. Catch up on what's happening and plan ahead.

LUKE 2:8-14 | COME, AND BEHOLD HIM

COME, AND BEHOLD HIM

LUKE 2:8-14

DECEMBER 24, 2017

 

SOME OF YOU MAY REMEMBER THE EPISODE OF FRIENDS WHERE JOEY IS TRYING OUT FOR A PLAY WHERE HE NEEDS TO BE ABLE TO SPEAK FRENCH; ONLY HE DOESN’T KNOW HOW TO SPEAK FRENCH.

 

HE MAKES UP A BUNCH OF NONSENSICAL PHRASES PRETENDING TO SPEAK FRENCH; HOPEFULLY, THIS WON’T BE LIKE THAT.

 

SO, IF YOU’LL PARDON MY FRENCH THIS MORNING, AND I MEAN THAT LITERALLY, REPONDEZ, SI’L VOU PLAIT – OR, IN ENGLISH, R S V P – PLEASE RESPOND.

 

WHICH IS SOMETHING AKIN TO OUR LATIN CHRISTMAS CAROL FOR THIS MORNING, AND AGAIN, WITH MY PRONUNCIATION APOLOGIES, ADESTE FIDELES – “O COME, ALL YE FAITHFUL.”

 

BOTH ARE AN INVITATION; BOTH REQUIRE A RESPONSE; BOTH, OFFER US A CHOICE AS TO WHETHER WE WILL GO; OR COME; OR ATTEND; BE PRESENT.

 

THE INVITATION HAS BEEN OFFERED; NOW IT’S JUST A MATTER OF HOW WE RESPOND.

 

IN THE CASE OF ADESTE FIDELES WE ARE IN THE SAME BOAT AS THE SHEPHERDS WHO WERE WATCHING THEIR FLOCKS BY NIGHT, WHEN THE ANGELS APPEAR TO THEM, TELLING THEM OF THE BIRTH OF THE CHRIST CHILD IN BETHLEHEM, AND THOUGH “SORE AFRAID” THEY SAY TO ONE ANOTHER:

 

“LET US GO AND SEE THIS THING THAT HAS COME TO PASS, WHICH THE LORD HAS MADE KNOWN TO US.”  THEY ANSWER… IN THE AFFIRMATIVE.  THEY GO.  THEY BEHOLD!

 

SO WE DO THIS MORNING.  SO DO MILLIONS OF PEOPLE THROUGHOUT THE WORLD: WE “GO TO BETHLEHEM TO SEE THIS THING THAT HAS COME TO PASS.”

 

AND PEOPLE HAVE BEEN DOING SO FOR A COUPLE OF THOUSAND YEARS NOW.

 

THE GREAT AMERICAN POET, CARL SANDBERG, MARVELED AT THIS, IN HIS POEM STAR SILVER:        

THE SILVER OF ONE STAR

PLAYS CROSS-LIGHTS AGAINST PINE-GREEN

AND THE PLAY OF THIS SILVER CROSS-WISE AGAINST THE GREEN IS AN OLD STORY.

THOUSANDS OF YEARS.

AND SHEEP GRAZERS ON THE HILLS BY NIGHT

WATCHING THE WOOLY FOUR-FOOTED RAMBLERS

WATCHING A SINGLE SILVER STAR.

WHY DOES THIS STORY NEVER WEAR OUT?

 

AND A BABY, SLUNG IN A FEED BOX BACK IN A BARN IN A BETHLEHEM SLUM

A BABY’S FIRST CRY,

MIXING WITH THE CRUNCH OF MULE’S TEETH ON BETHLEHEM CHRISTMAS CORN

BABY FISTS, SOFTER THAN SNOWFLAKES OF NORWAY

 

THE VAGABOND MOTHER OF CHRIST

AND THE VAGABOND MEN OF WISDOM

ALL IN A BARN ON A WINTER NIGHT

AND A BABY THERE IN SWADDLING CLOTHES ON HAY

WHY DOES THIS STORY NEVER WEAR OUT?

 

THE SHEEN OF IT ALL-IS A STAR, SILVER AND A PINE, GREEN

FOR THE HEART OF A CHILD ASKING A STORY,

THE RED AND HUNGRY, RED AND HANKERING HEART

CALLING FOR CROSS-LIGHTS OF SILVER AND GREEN.

 

WE GO TO BETHLEHEM, YOU AND I DO, AND WE ENCOUNTER A BEAUTIFULLY HUMAN STORY OF A MAN AND A WOMAN;

 

AND HER GIVING BIRTH TO A BABY IN A STABLE, LAYING HIM IN A MANGER, AND THE STAR, AND THE SKY FULL OF LIGHT AND SINGING, AND THE SHEPHERDS.

 

AND BENEATH THE STORY, THE INCARNATION, THE WORD MADE FLESH, AND THE STAGGERING ASSERTION THAT GOD IS ONE OF US;

 

GOD IN HUMAN HISTORY, GOD IN THIS NEWBORN, GOD IN THIS LIFE, IN THESE STORIES, THESE TEACHINGS, IN HIS DEATH AND RESURRECTION.

 

WHERE IS GOD?  WE ASK.  “WELL, HE’S RIGHT HERE: IN HIM, THIS BABY, THIS CHILD, THIS MAN, THIS LIFE.”

 

BUT, CAN IT BE?  IS IT REASONABLE?  DOES ANY OF THIS MAKE SENSE?

 

COME TO BETHLEHEM.  COME AND SEE.  BEHOLD!

 

COME SEE THE STORY OF UNTOLD MILLIONS OF PEOPLE OVER THOUSANDS OF YEARS OF HISTORY.  LIVES MADE WHOLE BY HIM.  LIVES HEALED BY HIM.

 

LIVES SAVED.

THE HUNGRY FED, THE HOMELESS SHELTERED, THE STRANGER WELCOMED, THE NAKED CLOTHED, THE PRISONERS FREED.

 

COME AND BEHOLD HIM!

 

THE CHURCHES, SCHOOLS, HOSPITALS, COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES, WHICH BEAR HIS NAME, FULFIL HIS TEACHINGS, OFFER HIS MERCIES, NURTURE HIS CHILDREN.

 

THE ART, THE MUSIC, THE LITERATURE, CREATED IN HOPES OF CATCHING A GLIMPSE OF WHO HE WAS; IS; AND WHAT HE MEANS TO THE WORLD; TO US!

 

COME AND SEE THE OPPRESSED RESISTING THEIR OPPRESSORS, THE SICK COMFORTED, AND THE DYING GIVEN COURAGE AND HOPE.

 

COME AND SEE HIS KINGDOM, WHICH KEEPS BURSTING INTO THE LIFE OF THIS WORLD; COME AND SEE HOW CHRIST IS BORN AGAIN AND AGAIN WHEREVER LOVE IS.

 

SEVERAL YEARS AGO, GARRISON KEILLOR, WROTE A STORY FOR THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE ABOUT AN INCIDENT HE WITNESSED IN NEW YORK CITY.

 

HE WAS IN A DELI ON 10TH AVENUE, WHERE A YOUNG WOMAN WAS MANAGING A HERD OF EIGHT TEENAGE BOYS, ORDERING THEM BREAKFAST FROM THE LADY BEHIND THE COUNTER.

 

“THE BOYS SPOKE SPANISH, WHICH THE YOUNG WOMAN TRANSLATED FOR THE COUNTER LADY.”  KEILLOR IS STANDING, OBSERVING, WAITING HIS TURN – A LITTLE IMPATIENTLY, PERHAPS.

 

THE BOYS – IT DAWNS ON HIM – ARE MILDLY CHALLENGED, CONGENITALLY OR MAYBE BECAUSE OF BRAIN DAMAGE.  THE YOUNG WOMAN IS THEIR SHEPHERD.

 

A TEACHER’S AIDE – PROBABLY AT MINIMUM WAGE.

 

THE BOYS WANT MUFFINS FOR BREAKFAST, EXCEPT ONE BOY, WHO EARNESTLY DESIRES A SESAME BAGEL, TOASTED, WITH CREAM CHEESE, BUT THE DELI IS OUT OF SESAME, AND THIS IS A CRUEL DISAPPOINTMENT TO HIM.  HE REALLY WAS COUNTING ON IT.

 

WHEN YOU ARE FOURTEEN AND SO DESPERATELY VULNERABLE IN THE BIG CITY, YOU DO PIN YOUR HOPES ON CERTAIN SMALL PLEASURES.

 

HIS FACE CRUMBLES AND HE IS ABOUT TO MELT, AND THE YOUNG WOMAN PUTS HER HEAD DOWN NEXT TO HIS, WHERE HE SITS SLUMPED ON THE DELI STOOL.

HER PALE CHEEK AGAINST HIS CHEEK, SHE MURMURS TO HIM, AND A STRING OF ENORMOUS TEARS RUNS ONTO HER FACE, AND SHE WIPES IT AWAY, AND SAYS SOMETHING IN SPANISH WHICH MAKES HIM LAUGH.

 

A GIRL, USING HER SPANISH TO CARE FOR DAMAGED BOYS IN A CALLOUS WORLD, WHERE THE POOR AND THE POWERLESS GET SHORT SHRIFT… SHE IS MY CHRISTMAS ANGEL;” KEILLOR WRITES.

 

(BY THE WAY, IF YOU EVER HAPPEN TO BE AT MCDONALDS, OR ANOTHER OF THE LOCAL RESTAURANTS, OR THE DOLLAR TREE, OR ELSEWHERE ABOUT TOWN, AND YOU’RE THERE WHEN ROSIE WARE IS THERE WITH HER 5-6 CHARGES FROM THE MARC HOUSE, YOU’LL WITNESS SOMETHING OF THIS SAME STORY.)

 

CHRISTMAS COMES… CHRIST IS BORN… WHENEVER HUMAN LOVE APPEARS IN THE ORDINARY LIVES OF ORDINARY PEOPLE.

 

THE CHILD OF BETHLEHEM IS BORN WHEREVER UNEXPECTED GRACE AND KINDNESS AND JOY BREAK IN.

 

LAST SATURDAY NIGHT I WAS FLIPPING CHANNELS, LOOKING FOR SOMETHING TO WATCH, WHILE KAREN WAS PREPARING CHRISTMAS GOODIES FOR LAST SUNDAY’S GATHERING AFTER CHURCH.

 

AT ONE POINT I HAD SORT OF NARROWED IT DOWN BETWEEN ANOTHER AIRING OF THE ORIGINAL MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET, AND ONE OF THE EARLIEST OF THE COLLEGE BOWL GAMES FOR THIS SEASON.

 

KAREN, KNOWING THAT AS A CHILD I FELL IN LOVE WITH NATALIE WOOD AS A CHILD, AND THAT AS A TEENAGER, HAD A HUGE CRUSH ON HER AS AN ADULT, WAS GOOD-NATUREDLY KIDDING ME ABOUT WHY I WAS SWITCHING OFF A SCENE WITH “MY GIRL” AND KRIS KRINGLE TOGETHER.

 

“I’M WAITING FOR THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT TO HIT,” I RESPONDED, BEFORE FLIPPING BACK TO WATCH BOISE STATE PUT ANOTHER SCORE ON OREGON.

 

AND IT WAS TRUE – THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT HADN’T QUITE KICKED IN FOR ME YET.

 

I DON’T KNOW WHEN AND WHERE THAT WILL HAPPEN FOR YOU THIS CHRISTMAS, OR WHERE IT HAS ALREADY HAPPENED FOR YOU.

 

FOR YOU, IT MAY HAVE HAPPENED WHEN AVA, PLAYING THE PART OF MARY IN LAST WEEK’S CHILDREN’S CHRISTMAS PLAY, PICKED UP THE BABY DOLL JESUS, AND BEGAN TO GENTLY ROCK HIM IN HER ARMS.

 

OR WHEN NICOLAS READ HIS “LINUS’ LINES” ABOUT THE TRUE MEANING OF CHRISTMAS;

 

OR AS TAYLOR RECITED HER ANGELIC TALE: “FEAR NOT: FOR BEHOLD, I BRING YOU GOOD TIDINGS OF GREAT JOY… FOR UNTO YOU IS BORN THIS DAY IN THE CITY OF DAVID, A SAVIOR, WHO IS CHRIST THE LORD…”

 

MAYBE IT WILL COME WHEN YOU BEHOLD YOUR OWN CHILD, WHATEVER THEIR AGE, ON CHRISTMAS MORN…

 

IN THE SMELL OF COOKIES BAKING… IN THE TUNE OF A HYMN… THE LIGHTING OF A CANDLE… AT THE SIGHT OF THE POPE AT MIDNIGHT MASS… OR IN THE HANDS AND FACE OF ONE IN NEED…

 

MAYBE IT HAPPENED AT THE MEMORIAL SERVICE, ON THE LONGEST NIGHT OF THE YEAR, FOR THOSE WHO LIVED AND DIED, HOMELESS, AMONG US, THIS PAST YEAR… MAYBE, WHEN STEVE’S NAME WAS READ…

 

WHENEVER, WHEREVER, HOWEVER UNEXPECTED GRACE AND GOODNESS AND KINDNESS HAPPENS… WHEN HUMAN LOVE IS OFFERED… AND HOPE APPEARS…

 

CHRIST IS BORN… AND THE INCARNATION, THE WORD MADE FLESH, HAPPENS.

 

THIS, MR. SANDBURG, IS WHY THIS STORY NEVER WEARS OUT.

 

BECAUSE AS MUCH AS IT WAS CHRIST’S STORY THEN AND THERE, IT IS OUR STORY, HERE AND NOW…

 

BUT, HOWEVER IT COMES FOR YOU THIS YEAR, REMEMBER, IT IS MERELY THE INVITATION:

 

REPONDEZ, SI’L VOU PLAIT; PLEASE RESPOND;

 

ADESTE FIDELES – “COME, ALL YE FAITHFUL…”  “COME AND BEHOLD HIM, BORN THE KING OF ANGELS…”

 

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT, IS ENTIRELY UP TO YOU…

 

WELL, SORT OF…

 

SPEAK TO HIM OR BE SILENT.  WORDS OF PRAISE, OR CONFESSING GROANS.

 

HANDS FULL, OR EMPTY; HEART LIFTED, OR SHOULDERS SLUMPING UNDER THE WEIGHT OF THE WORLD… WITH TEARS OR NO TEARS…

 

ON BENDED KNEE OR PROSTRATE FALL…

THE GREAT PROMISE IS THAT TO COME TO HIM, TO BEHOLD HIM, WHO WAS BORN IN BETHLEHEM, IS TO FIND HIM BORN IN US…

 

BORN IN A WAY THAT MAKES US STRONGER, BRAVER, GLADDER, KINDER, HOLIER, THAN EVER WE KNEW POSSIBLE.

 

SO, YES…

 

COME TO BETHLEHEM AND SEE

HIM WHOSE BIRTH THE ANGELS SING

COME, ADORE ON BENDED KNEE

CHRIST THE LORD, THE NEWBORN KING.

 

 

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Pastor Daniel writes and posts a weekly newsletter that keeps members and friends of the congregation up-to-date. His earlier newsletters are also online, so if you missed something, check those past editions.

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