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December 27, 2020

“All God’s Children”

(From Galatians 4: 4-7)

     And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him (Luke 2:40, NRSV).  These are the words that the author of the gospel of Luke shared with us about Jesus in our reading today.  Jesus truly was a most exceptional child, filled with goodness and wisdom far beyond his earthly years. He grew to be a servant-leader that stands as our example for daily living, even when we sometimes fall short. Yet, these words describing the qualities of the young Jesus from our lesson above truly resonated with me this week.  You see, it stands in contrast to a conversation I had with a very negative co-worker on Monday afternoon.  She was going on and on about the difficulty of working with and dealing with some of our younger employees.  “They do not take pride in the accomplishment of good and hard work, and I have to cover for them so that I can still end up looking good,” she complained.  My co-worker was stereotyping “these kids,” and in so doing, pigeon-holing them into a group as lazy and uncommitted workers.  I attempted to soften her mood by sharing the good achievements I had recognized recently from some of our young employees.  She would have none of this, and followed my speech with more negative ramblings.  I was “saved by the ring” when Peter called me on the phone from outside, and I was able to excuse myself to take his call.   Whatever her reason for her negative spirit, this woman, a woman I know to be a person of faith, had lost her holiday spirit.  More importantly, she had also forgotten the command of our Lord Jesus to love all God’s children.

     In contrast to this gal’s rantings, I was blessed to have heard several stories this week that stand in opposition to her negative opinion of our younger generation.  I would like to share a few of them today as a way of reminding all of us to beware of stereotyping and labeling youth or any of God’s children.  One example is a story I saw on the local news.  A young local girl discovered that several of her friends and their families were struggling during the COVID -19 pandemic because their parents had either lost their jobs or had their work-hours significantly reduced.  She asked her mother if she could use money she had received for her birthday to purchase gifts for them to help them have a brighter and happier Christmas.  So, her mom took her to the store, where they bought presents for several families in her community.  Because of the thoughtfulness, kindness and sacrificial, agape love shown by this young girl, several of her friends and their families were able to enjoy a Merrier Christmas this year.

     In addition to this story of the sacrifice and generosity of a young person, I was told this week the story of a young man who made a great personal sacrifice on behalf of his friend.  It seems that this young man, we’ll call him Ben, had been given an art set for his birthday.  In it was a picture of a beautiful hummingbird to be colored.  Ben knew as soon as he saw the picture that it would make the perfect Christmas gift for his mom, who enjoyed watching the hummingbirds feeding in their back yard.  He took great care in coloring the picture, and then he put it on the shelf in his closet for secret and safe keeping. Then, just a week before Christmas, Ben stopped to visit his neighbor, Annie, who had muscular dystrophy and was wheelchair bound.  As they talked about how Christmas was coming soon, Annie shared with Ben that she did not have a gift for her mom, who was so good to her and who took such great care of her every day.  Hearing this, Ben went home, retrieved the picture he had colored for his mom, wrapped it, and brought to over to Annie, so that she would have a special gift to give to her mom.  Now, having no gift for his own mom, Ben got out his art set, and he drew and colored his own version of the hummingbird picture for her.  He left it on his dresser, where his grandmother happened to see it.  She asked Ben about the picture, and she learned the story behind it.  She shared this story with her Bible Study friends, and word of mouth spread like wildfire—even as far as Ben’s mom.  So, when she opened her handmade hummingbird gift, the lopsided drawing of a 10 year old, she praised it as if it were a fine work of art of museum quality.  She put it at the top of the Christmas tree, where all could see its beauty, beauty as much on the inside as the outside.  But, the story does not end here, for Annie’s mom was so taken with her gift of the beautifully colored hummingbird, she took a photo of it.  She then sent it to Ben’s mom to show her the wonderful gift she had received.  Now, Ben’s mom had not only his precious handmade gift of love for her, but she could also see for herself the beautifully colored hummingbird picture; the one that became a gift of Ben’s sacrificial love for his friend, Annie.  Her heart overflowed with joy at her son’s most kind and generous act.

    Church family, perhaps we may have felt a bit “Grinchier” during this Christmas season.  As the story goes, it may be that our shoes have been too tight, or that all of the COVID restrictions and uncertainties we have experienced have rendered our hearts to become a few sizes too small.  But, the birth of the Christ-child anew in our hearts this year brings to us a new hope, brings us God’s incomprehensible peace, and brings us the joy of new possibilities to share the love of God in Christ that we have received with all God’s children in the coming New Year.  Amen—let it be so.

“Joy to the World” (words-Issac Watts, musical arrangement- G.F. Handel in 1741; Lowell Mason in 1848)

Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King; let every heart prepare him room, and heaven and nature sing, and heaven and nature sing, and heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.