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Here we are again, to hear these words and to tell this story.
Among our tales of magical elves, reindeer, and Santa in his red suit readying his sleigh, tonight we make room for angels singing to shepherds in a field, for a teenage girl and her husband, and a for the birth of the Son of God in a cave with the animals in an overcrowded town.
Why do we keep telling this story?
The Christmas story is a strange story, hard to make wrap our heads around it even now.
There was no birthing suite.
No royal attendants.
The only ones who knew anything about it were shepherds who were considered unclean and a bunch of foreign astronomers who took years to arrive.
And none of them were expecting it.
They were going about their daily life when heaven broke open.
No religious church folk here.
It seems like if the savior of the world, the prince of peace, (titles reserved only for Caesar) were going to be born, things could have gone a bit differently.
I don’t know if you know this or not, but I am married to my own Clark Griswold.
He loves tradition and to have a good old-fashioned family Christmas.
He took out the Christmas decorations on November 1st.
He bought a 12 foot yeti to go in the front yard that says “Is it Christmas yeti?”
We just love Christmas!
In the film, Clark tries so hard to have the perfect Christmas vacation with everything according to plan.
He wants to cut the perfect tree.
He wants to have the most Christmas lights.
He wants all the family to stay together.
He wants to have the perfect meal.
He has the perfect sled.
He has the perfect pool picked out for how to spend his Christmas bonus.
I’m willing to bet you have some traditions you go through each year that make it the perfect Christmas.
A pan of dressing.
Christmas breakfast.
Matching pajamas.
A family game night.
Decorating cookies.
A movie that you all watch.
One of my traditions growing up was to help set up the nativity.
My mom had this old porcelain nativity set and my favorite thing each year was to help place it underneath the tree.
It felt like this sacred moment, probably because I was scared to death I would drop the pieces and break them.
The holy family was this fragile thing that every year we would set out underneath the Christmas tree.
Piece by piece, we would tell the story.
Slowly but surely, all the presents would begin to accumulate and be stacked on top of each other.
There in the midst of all of it was the nativity: the“stuff” of Christmas surrounding the source of Christmas.
There are nothing wrong with any of these fun traditions.
It’s just that they don’t make Christmas.
That is because Christmas isn’t something we make.
It is something we receive.
It isn’t having our name on the nice list.
It is having our name on the grace list.
Christmas is less a story about us making room for God, and more a story about the love of God making room for the whole world.
It isn’t something we spend or buy or unwrap.
It is something we experience and keep.
My mom kept the tradition of the nativity going for many years and both of my girls have loved it.
They especially loved baby Jesus.
Last year Adalyn would take baby Jesus and play with him and carry him around with her all day.
Jesus isn’t meant to stay in the manger.
The light of the world is meant to dwell within us, to abide with us.
Tonight we come to tell this story and to light these candles.
We come to keep Christmas.
We come because we need to be reminded that no matter how dark things get, the light of the world breaks through.
We come because we need the news of peace ushered through a baby’s cry.
We tell this story because our weary world needs rejoicing and a thrill of hope.
We tell this story because long after the presents have been unwrapped and the songs sung, we need a savior, and we need to be invited to the manger.
A local church in South Mississippi started having dinner church in one of the parks in town.
They recently had a caroling and cocoa night and went around placing door hanger invites on the doors.
When it came time, they were preparing to start, and a little boy ran up to them waving his invitation in his hand and saying “I’ve been invited.
I can come to the party.
Look, here’s my invitation.”
Oh what joy it is that God invites all of us to his birth, invites all of us to the manger, the place where GK Chesterton says “God was homeless and all men are at home.”
Friends, you are invited, and you are worth it.
One of my favorite lines in O Holy Night is” when he appeared and the soul felt its worth.”
The story of Christmas is the story of God saying you are worth it.
Your precious and beautiful soul is worthy of the love of God.
You are invited.
Come and celebrate the story that gives life to your soul, the story that never gets old, the story of God’s great love.
Come to the table.
Come and keep Christmas.
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