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December 24, 2020

 “Plain and Simple”

(From Luke 2: 1-14)

     Tonight I have a special guest to introduce to all of you.  This is Cathy, Chatty for short.  She used to love to “chat” with me.  I have known Chatty for more years than I will admit to you folks-nearly all of my life.   As a child, she was a trusted companion and loyal friend.  Chatty has lived with me in all of my homes, and she now resides on a comfy chair in the Parsonage office. She is my all-time favorite doll-plain and simple.

     I do not know if it has been the COVID-19 pandemic, the uncertain and changing times, or simply the unusual holiday season we have been experiencing this year, but I have found myself feeling more nostalgic than I usually feel.  I have drifted into many remembrances of long-ago Christmases spent with close family and friends.  Among them, are fond memories of lessons my Mother taught me at Christmastime about appreciating traditions like playing Christmas music albums on the old record player and attending Christmas Eve service to welcome each year the birth of our Savior.  She also taught the value of simple things like the love of family and dear friends who gather together at Christmas.

     One particular example is a story my Mom related to me from her childhood.  Like my Chatty, my Mom also had a favorite doll she cherished and with which she most often played house.  It was not a fancy doll, but a simple baby doll clothed in a plain dress.  One Christmas, a wealthy young playmate of my Mom received a very fancy and beautiful doll for Christmas.  She had a fancy hairdo and a beautiful dress with a matching hat and shoes.   The girl had other dolls like this that she had received on past birthdays and Christmases.  This doll had no particular meaning for her.  So, as they played together, the girl asked my Mom if she would like to trade her plain doll for the fancy new doll.  Immediately. My Mom said yes, as she admire the beautiful doll.  But later, at home, my Mom regretted the trade.  Even though this doll was very beautiful, it was not as special to Mom as her favorite doll-one with which she had shared many happy playtimes.  She even cried over her loss.  My Grandmother saw that my Mom was unhappy and asked her what was wrong.  Mom shared that she had traded her favorite doll and now regretted the trade-she missed her baby.  Grandma suggested that my Mom ask her friend to trade back the dolls.  So. Mom approached her friend.  The baby doll my Mother held so dearly had no special meaning for her friend, who gladly received her beautiful doll back in return for the baby doll.  My Mom was delighted to have her best friend again.  She related to me that she learned her lesson about what was truly important-a doll she loved-and she never parted with her again.  Mom loved her familiar baby doll-plain and simple!    

     Over two thousand years ago, God’s deep and abiding love for us caused God to send God’s Son to us.  He was Emmanuel, God present with us and dwelling among us.  Jesus was not born in a castle surrounded by wealth and possessions.  He was born to modest parents in a humble dwelling, without worldly wealth or lavish amenities.  This was not by chance, but by God’s chosen design.  You see, God wanted Jesus to be a man of the people.  He lived among common people and was like them.  He understood suffering and the difficulty of common daily living.  Jesus was approachable, and through his good news, made access to God through himself both possible and inviting.  God could have gone big-announced the birth of Jesus with lightning bolts and crashing thunder.  Jesus could have been a worldly king sitting upon a throne of wealth, as well as the king of eternity.  But, God knew the deeper value of the plain and simple things in life.  God knew that Jesus’ life and ministry would have the greatest meaning and impact if Jesus was like us-acquainted with all the aspects of the human condition. Jesus could have been clothed in beautiful garments that would impress his disciples and followers.  But instead, God wanted Jesus to be approachable, and through more intimate and personal relationships, lead many to believe his message of hope and eternal salvation.  God knew what my Mom had to struggle a bit to learn-true beauty is not found in the outward appearance of things, but in what lies deeper within.  That is why God sent us a Jesus of humble birth-that was God’s plan-plain and simple.  A blessed and Merry Christmas to all.  Amen-let it be so.

“Away in a Manger” ( words-from Luke 2:7, music-James R. Murray)

Away in a manger, no crib for a bed, the little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head.                                The stars in the sky looked down where he lay, the little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.