A Star’s Tale

The following is this year’s Christmas Eve sermon. It is longer than a normal blog post, but not as long as a normal sermon. I did a lot of research into stars, and most of that material landed in the trash bin. But because I don’t want it to fully go to waste let me share two quick facts with you;

1- I placed the Bethlehem Star in the general vicinity of virgo, which seemed poetically correct, but I have no idea if it is true. 

2- I was curious if stars could ‘talk’ to one another, and I found out that they do send out radio waves, which is good enough for me. 

If you want to check out the whole Christmas Eve  service, you can click here.

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Tonight, I would like to tell you a story. It is a story about a wonderful person who goes by 13, 23, 53, -4, 14, 12. You probably don’t know them by that name, and I suppose saying that they are a wonderful person is misleading because they are not really a person. But just because they are not a person doesn’t mean they are not wonderful. The story I would like to tell you is about the Bethlehem Star, or Beth as she prefers to be called.

Before I go on there is something you need to know. Stars love shining their light and being seen. There are lots of complicated lessons in physics to help us understand how stars twinkle and shine. But the why of it is simple, it gives them great joy to be seen and admired.

TZ-Star-of-Bethlehem.grid-6x2

I should also tell you, if you were to look into the sky tonight trying to find Beth, you won’t see her. Of the 9,096 stars that we can see on a clear, dark night Beth isn’t one of them. In truth that sort of bums her out. That fact actually makes Beth let’s say unique. Every other star in the sky, the ones we can see and the ones that we cannot see have always felt like they were living out their purpose in life.

They provided light and heat to the objects that surrounded them. They light up the night skies here, and on worlds we don’t have names for. They nudged comets, and planets here and there. They orbit, rotate and are happy. Beth enjoys all of those things, but there was a time when she couldn’t help shake the idea that she wasn’t quiet where she was supposed to be, she felt that there was more that she was called to do. She just didn’t know what it was.

Beth would talk about these feelings from time to time with her hero and role model the North star. The North Star is a strong confident star who always points people in the right direction. And the North Star is kind and friendly. She always encouraged Beth to dream big, but to also enjoy the life and tasks that she had been given. Beth appreciated the advice but hoped and prayed that one day she would be just like the North Star.

Because of this it was hard on Beth not to be noticed. She hated feeling invisible, and at times it seemed like she didn’t really matter. She was going through all the stellar motion but in truth her heart wasn’t always in it.

One day while Beth was considering what to do with an asteroid headed her way, she heard the rumour that God was about to do something new, something that no one in the universe had seen before, and something only a very few had expected. God himself would fully enter the universe, he would come to be a person, an infant no less.

Now Beth was hardly the newest star in the sky, she had been around for a while. But this sounded crazy to her! I mean she knew that God loved the whole universe, and that he had a special love for the people he created, but he always sort of interacted at a distance. I mean God was there for sure, but he would shift world events along behind the scenes, or he would interact with a few very select people, or maybe a show of a miracle now and then. But this, well this was so beyond anything she had ever heard of, and so beyond anything that she had ever imagined. It was wondrous, and strange. It was exciting, and kind of scary.

While she thought about what all of this would mean for the universe, in particular the people on earth she was hit by a sudden feeling of sadness. This was great and all for the people down on earth, and she supposed it was great for everyone who was handy earth but she was so far away. It didn’t really impact her, it didn’t really have anything to do with her.

Just as she was about to turn her attention back to that nearby asteroid another thought entered her mind, ‘what if people don’t notice God? What if they don’t see him, just like they don’t see me? I’m a star, and they can’t see my light because I am too far away far, but God is coming near is such a strange way, they might not even think to look. Or if they do they might not have any idea where to look!’

She talked with the other stars, and they all agreed it could be a real problem. The stars that knew the people the best said that many of them we busy, most rushed from here to there just getting through one day to the next. It would be easy for them to miss something even as spectacular as God coming into the world. Beth knew what to do. She would talk to the North Star! Surely, she could get everyone’s attention and help the people know about God’s great miracle.

But the North Star said she couldn’t help get the word out. The people knew her, trusted her, and even depended on her. But much like the Sun and the Moon she already carried a message to the people from God, she couldn’t tell the people anything new.

There Beth was filled with a mixed sense of determination, worry and purpose. She knew the message of God needed to get out, but she didn’t know what to do about it. Then and there she whispered a short but meaningful prayer, a prayer whispered by countless people aware of a problem that they don’t have a solution for. ‘I don’t know how I can help but here I am God, use me.’

With that something remarkable began to happen. The light the Beth was giving off began to get brighter, and brighter, and brighter still. Beth didn’t fully understand what was happening but within a few short moments the light that she was admitting became so bright that a 9097th star began to dance in the night sky, a tail beamed off it so much so it couldn’t be ignored. No star gazer on earth had ever seen anything like it. Everyone who looked into the sky saw Beth, few understood what she was trying to tell them. But the wise amongst us did, and began a journey to meet this new king, this son of man, this son of God, Emmanuel with us.

Once they discovered the baby, and the word began to spread Beth’s light returned to normal. However, those feelings of not being in the right place went away forever. Sure, she wasn’t seen by the people of earth anymore but we would never forget her. The change though was deeper than that. She felt her purpose had been met, and with that she felt more joy doing all her normal star activities.

Christmas is a wonderful time when we gather with friends and family. But perhaps you find yourself just going through the motions, doing life but not really feeling complete. And today you have paused to hear some about the Christmas story, but it can feel far away from you, to the point that you’re not sure if it really matters. Maybe you are here asking those big question in life, why am I here, and what is my purpose? I can’t answer those questions with individual precision for each of you tonight, but I can suggest an answer. We find our purpose in knowing and being known by God, and enjoying God forever. There is no better place to start that journey than here tonight thinking about the baby Jesus lying in a manger.

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She Placed Him In What?!- The Final Day Of Advent

Today is the final day of Advent.I want to thank everyone who journeyed with me and Meghan as we tried to tell God’s story from the beginning to the birth of Jesus. I also want to say a giant thank you to Meghan for making such lovely Christmas Tree ornaments everyday to help us to remember our Advent lesson. If you want to take a look back on any post you may have missed  you can do that by clicking here.

The Christmas story is a big one. There are so many people involved. There are world leaders like Ceasar and Herod. There are distant travelers like the Magi. There are great heavenly beings like the Angels. There are outcasts like the Shepherds. And of course there is Mary, and Joseph, and finally a baby named Jesus.

I have heard and told the Christmas story more times than I can remember. But I remember a few years ago when the story pierced me like new again. It was when I read a version of the story that decided not to use the word ‘manger’ but instead said ‘feed trough’. When I read the words feed trough I felt kind of mad, almost upset. I thought, ‘that’s not right. Jesus shouldn’t be placed in something that animals eat out of.’

I think for the first time it hit me I never actually knew what a manger was. I had only seen one in Christmas pageants with kids dressed up as shepherds, angels, sheep, and Mary and Joseph. It was a little wooden thing filled with blankets that fit a doll just perfectly. It was neat and tidy and clean and cute. Feed troughs aren’t any of those things. They are filled with bits of food, and dirt, and bugs and animal slava. I am sure Joseph brushed it off first but still, it was a feed trough.

Jesus entered our world fully and muk first. He came to be with us, as one of us, to help us. The manger, the feed trough has become a symbol to me now. Kind of like the cross. It reminds me that Jesus came in a humble way and lived in a humble way. It reminds me that he is teaching me to live in a humble way too.

Today on the final day of Advent we remember that Jesus entered to world humbly to teach us humility as well. 

Jesse Tree Final

The Innkeepers Tale

This post was my Christmas Eve sermon from 2012. I really enjoyed writing it and have written something similar for tonight, The Wise Man’s Tale. If you are in the HRM and are considering taking in a Christmas Eve service I think we have a lovely one starting at 7pm lasting about 45 minutes. We’re at 1240 Old Sackville Rd Middle Sackville NS.

Tonight I would like to tell you a story. It is a story of a man that we don’t know much about, but one who is very familiar to us. He is the inn keeper of Bethlehem. We know him as the man shouting, ‘there is no room in the inn. But tonight I think we ought to try to get to know him a little better. So let’s get to know Larry the innkeeper.

Larry the innkeeper was a fixture in the small town of Bethlehem. His inn was the most popular inn in the entire town. That fact should be in no way cheapened with the knowledge that it was the only inn in the town. Larry took pride in what he did and he wanted to make sure that you enjoyed your Bethlehem visit.

Bethlehem was not what you would call a thriving metropolis. It was what it always had been a shepherd town. But the town does have two things going for it. First it is rather near Jerusalem. Being only 8 or so kilometers away Larry enjoys some business from pilgrims heading to and from Jerusalem. And second Bethlehem was the town that King David grew up in.
Oh sure David came and went well over 700 years ago but he was still a source of local pride. Larry was known for keeping a few David slingshots, small plush lamb dolls, and toy harps in stock to sell to families taking the ‘David tour.’ In fact if you asked, Larry could take you to the very hill that David once as a small boy fought off both a lion and bear.

Once a year a few locals would even act out the boyhood adventures of David, Larry loved that day. One person would dress as up as a lion roaring and growling trying to attack another person dressed up as a lamb. The height of the day is when Larry puts one of his custom made slingshots into the hands of a young boy that gets to defeat the lion and save the day.

Kids Christmas 1

Simeon and Ariella at the 2012 kids Christmas concert. They have gotten so big in a year.

 

Yes the town of David was a point of pride for Larry and all of those who lived in Bethlehem. Until Rome decided the tax they were collecting was a little lacking. Caesar Augustus issued an edict; everyone had to return to their ancestral home to be counted. Now David was known for many things. His defeat of Goliath, his capture of Jerusalem, on and on we could go.
But one of the other things David is known for a fact that tends not to come up on ‘the David tour’ is he had a bit of an eye for the ladies. David had 8 wives and at least 10 concubines which is surely nothing to sneeze at. But Solomon, one of David’s sons took marriage to a whole new level. He had over 300 wives and 700 concubines. Now a lot could be said about this, but one thing is for sure having that many wives meant there were an awful lot of people who could honestly track their family history to Bethlehem.

At first Larry was excited about this edict. Lots of people coming to Bethlehem meant his inn would be full, his dinner would be busy, and oh the slingshots, plush lambs, and toy harps he could sell. This would be a great boon for the little town of Bethlehem.

Soon after the edict was issued Bethlehem was overflowing with people. The number of guests outnumbered the people who really were from Bethlehem. Larry like the rest of the town tried to be a kind and welcoming. Soon the inn was full, and then every house was filled with guests.

Even though the town was full, the people still keep coming. Some of them slept in tents just outside the town, and those that didn’t have tents well they slept in the open air.

Kids Christmas 2

 

This was not the Bethlehem experience that Larry was used to offering. Oh sure his rooms were full, his dinner packed but no one would honestly say they were enjoying their stay. And neither was Larry, he was just so busy. When he wasn’t cooking, cleaning, or collecting payment for his services he was turning people away. Poor Larry never liked the sound of the words, no room at the inn, and he was caring less and less for the harsh tone he began to take every time he said it.
Then it happened, in the middle of the night. Just after Larry had finally managed to get enough done that he felt he could risk a few hours of rest a frantic knock came on the door. Normally Larry would leap out of bed ready to welcome and assist someone even if they arrived in the middle of the night. But tonight, what could he do for anyone tonight. He was tired, soar, and he just wanted to stay in bed. For the first time since he started to run the inn he found himself shouting out the window from his bed, ‘THERE IS NO ROOM IN THE INN!’

But the desperate knocking wouldn’t stop. A man’s voice shouted back; ‘please sir don`t you have any space? We have traveled so far and my wife she is having a baby’. Larry’s good nature out weighted his exhaustion just enough to get him out of bed, and take him down the stairs. When he opened the door, the man standing their staring back at him looked even more tired than he did, and that poor woman, she looked about 10 months pregnant.

Larry didn’t know what to do, he had no rooms, no beds, no blankets, and even his sofa was full! But they couldn’t stay out under the stars. So he offered the family the last space he had, the stable for his animals. He took the family there and gave them some food to eat and went back to bed feeling a little better that he had helped. He even found himself whispering a small prayer for the couple. A barn is no place for a baby to be born. And worse a father being there, and helping during the delivery now that was laughable.

When Larry got back into bed he found it difficult to sleep. The stars seemed so bright, the shepherd’s outside of town sounded like they were having a party with all the singing he could hear and worse still it seemed like that the family had guests coming and going all night.

When he first got out of bed he thought ‘I should check on them, when things slow down a bit’ But the sun rose and the sun set and Larry crawled back into bed forgetting about the couple in the stable. It was a busy time of the year after all, who really has time to stop and slow down to think about a family staying in a stable.

Christmas time is without a doubt a busy time. We all have so much cooking, cleaning, shopping, and wrapping to do. In the mists of that most of us even find some time and energy to do a few good deeds, to help out those in need and to whisper a pray or two. But tonight is almost over, and tomorrow will be a frantic day filled with food, merriment, and cheer that again will end oh so quickly. Everyone here tonight in the midst of their business has found some room for Mary, Joseph and of course Jesus. The question we have to ask is, can I find more or will this time simply pass by in a rush of activity?

Kids Christmas 3

My little angel