One of the changes that comes from moving from parish ministry to judicatory or consulting ministry is that one gets to listen to other people preach on a regular basis. During this Christmas week I’ve been blessed to hear some fine sermons. One was by Pastor Tom Clocker, guest proclaimer at Holy Nativity Lutheran Church in Arbutus, Maryland, on Christmas Eve. (Click here for Holy Nativity) Pastor Clocker skillfully painted the word picture of a waiting room in the labor and delivery section of an old hospital where friends and relatives had gathered to welcome the birth of a long awaited child. All of the emotions were there: hope, anxiety, dreams. But this waiting room was filled with Old Testament personalities: Adam and Eve, Abraham, David, Moses, and others. And each of them shared the same longings, anxieties, hopes, and shortcomings as those of us who had gathered at Holy Nativity on this Christmas Eve. And then the Good News was proclaimed to all of us: The wait is over! The Child is born! All the longings, anxieties, hopes, and shortcomings have been addressed for them, for us, and for those to come.
It brought to mind a poem I also read this week. The poem is by Todd Hiestand and entitled “The Wait is Over”. (Click here for a slideshow presentation of Hiestand’s poem.)
God is with us.
God is with us.
God. Is. With. Us.
God is with you.
But God is with me?
You don’t need to come to Jesus.
He’s has come to you.
He has pursued you.
The wait is over.
Another fine sermon I heard was by Pastor Martin Schultheis at Emmanuel Lutheran Church, Catonsville, MD, (click here) on the Sunday before Christmas. Pastor Schultheis preached on the OT lesson for Advent 4, Year B, 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16, a portion of which is as follows:
7:1 Now when the king was settled in his house, and the LORD had given him rest from all his enemies around him, 2 the king said to the prophet Nathan, "See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent." 3 Nathan said to the king, "Go, do all that you have in mind; for the LORD is with you." 4 But that same night the word of the LORD came to Nathan: 5 Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the LORD: Are you the one to build me a house to live in? 6 I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle. 7 Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, "Why have you not built me a house of cedar?" 8 Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: … the LORD will make you a house. 16 Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever.
Pastor Schultheis connected with the busyness of our culture getting ready for Christmas. All the emphasis is on what WE are doing as we shop, bake, visit, prepare. Even in the church, we may think of our Christmas celebration as something we do for God. The truth is that Christmas is about what God does for us, not what we do for Him. When David wanted to build a house for God, God said, “Have I ever asked, ‘Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” Instead, He tells Nathan to tell David that God will make a house for David – not a house of cedar, but a house and a kingdom that shall be sure forever. At Christmas God still is the giver, the doer, the servant. Christmas is not what we make it, but what He has made it. It is a gift from God, and a gift that shall last into eternity.
The following video gives a similar message: