1 Kings 14:21-22 (The Message)
Rehoboam son of Solomon was king in Judah. He was 41 when he took the throne and was king for 17 years in Jerusalem, the city God selected from all the tribes of Israel for the worship of his name. Rehoboam’s mother was Naamath, an Ammonite. Judah was openly wicked before God, making God very angry. They set new records in sin, surpassing anything their ancestors had done.
Only days before Christmas and here’s scripture talking about how a nation set new records in sin. I would have included the next two verses but I’m always afraid a child might get hold of this and begin asking unpleasant questions! For the Old Testament historians (who were priests, you know) the greatest sin, of course, was not worshiping God the right way and (even worse) worshiping other gods.
I was listening to the Hallmark Christmas songs channel on the radio on the way to the mountains. (Rachel made me do this, you know. I was content listening to the classical station.) But it was an education. Every artist who has ever recorded a song has ALSO recorded “I’ll be Home for Christmas.” Every one: Elvis, Sinatra (Frank AND Nancy), Bing, Tony, Perry Como, Dolly Parton, Harry Connick, Jr, just to name a few. Some of them have recordings about how they felt about Christmas. I think it was Dolly who described her Christmases at home and included this phrase: ‘And Daddy would always take a minute to read us the story of what this season is all about.’ In other words, they would take a break from the CHRISTMAS festivities to read about the birth of Jesus and then RETURN to those festivities.
So I starting thinking; the season was REALLY about getting together and the food and the presents and the laughter and the family…and there had to be this “down” moment when the Luke story was read. Rachel sent cookies next door for our neighbors who will pick up our mail. She made them. They’re really good. Some of them are Christmas trees. I said, “Rachel, our neighbors are JEWISH!” She just looked at me. “Yes ma’am.” (Those words have saved me again and again.) So I took them. Marvin and Sue had their menorah lit…six of the eight candles were burning. I gave them the Christmas trees.
So I wonder what kind of gods we worship during this time before we take a moment to understand what the season is all about…and then resume what WE think the season is all about. Christmas is different this year. Maybe some of the things we THOUGHT the season was about haven’t happened and we’ve found that it still happens. I can’t tell you how many insightful and profound Christmas Eve sermons I’ve written through the years that were spoke amid babies crying and restless children of people who thought they might show up at church to find out what things are really about. But my words were lost in the cacophony. I just hope that Christ’s birth and it’s profound effect on our lives don’t get lost in our celebrations.
O Holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray.
Cast out of sin and enter in, be born in us today.
We hear the holy angels, their great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide in us, our Lord Emmanuel.
Pastor Rick Moser