Christmas Eve - "An Encounter"

December 24, 2020

Series: December 2020

Category: Christmas Eve

Speaker: Rob McClellan

First Scripture Reading


Isaiah 9:2-7 

2The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
on them light has shined.
3 You have multiplied the nation,
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as people exult when dividing plunder.
4 For the yoke of their burden,
and the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
5 For all the boots of the tramping warriors
and all the garments rolled in blood
shall be burned as fuel for the fire.
6 For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 His authority shall grow continually,
and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time onward and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.


An Encounter

Scene: setting up to practice Christmas sermon.  Readies to speak and notices another presence. 

          Okay,.(takes off mask, drinks water, clears throat)…Oh, I didn’t see you there.  What are you doing here?  I was just getting ready to work through some of my thoughts for my sermon…You’d like to hear it?  Oh, okay… yeah, I guess that would be fine.

          Christmas 2020, when I think of Christmas this year…

          Let me try that again..It’s 2020, a difficult year for many, but it’s Christmas, and that means…sorry still working on it.  It’s a bit rough.

          How about this…The shepherds were out in the fields.  It was cold and dark…

          Alright, I, uh, could we just talk?  I don’t really have much a sermon.  I mean what do you say?  What do you say?  Nobody taught us how to do this, and by us, I don’t just mean pastors.  Nobody was taught how to do this.  We’ve all been operating on figure it out as we go/survival mode for almost 10 months.  I don’t know how to do this any more than anyone else.  I can’t make sense of it.

          How can you make sense of hundreds of thousands of lives lost in this country alone, more who’ve lost their health, more still their work, all of us precious precious time with loved ones.  People are scared, and who could blame them?  It’s easy to say, “Do not be afraid,” but I’ve got to tell you, I understand why people are afraid.  People are also angry.  I’m angry too at what I see were avoidable losses.  People are sad.  Maybe most of all, people are weary.  They’re really weary.  Christmas is supposed to be about hope and joy, family and loved ones, being together, but so many of those things have been taken from us this year.    

          I’m sorry.  I don’t mean a downer, but it helps to kind of air this out.  It just doesn’t feel like a typical Christmas.  You know that reminds me of a story.  When I first started out, I was a youth pastor.  I guess you know that.  Well, a mother of one of the youth told me a story of a Christmas unlike others.  It had been a hectic time, and not long before the holidays she and the family had to take a trip several states away for the funeral of a beloved figure from her childhood, her childhood pastor as a matter of fact.  This person had been a tremendous figure in her life as well as her future husband.  They had grown up in the same area.  This woman was balancing a lot.  She had two teenage sons.  Life was full and it left her utterly unprepared for Christmas.  She was feeling all the inadequacy one feels in such moments.

          Then at the funeral, right there in the church, seemingly out of the blue, her eldest son who must have been reading her mind turned to her and said, “Mom, I know what you’re thinking.  I know what you’re thinking and stop it.  You took me to pick out a camera and that’s what I wanted.  You don’t have to buy me anything else.  This year is different and that’s okay.” 

          It’s okay.  He understood, and in that moment of grace, he allowed it to be okay for her too.  In doing so, he communicated to her that she’s okay, that he had understood that she had shown up best she could and that was enough.  Just like that, he made room for her in the inn of his compassion.  I wish I could help people do that.  I wish I could do it better myself.

          …Why don’t I tell them that?  Tell them this year’s different, and it’s okay…and they’re okay?  Do you think it would help? 

          I guess I could do that.  I mean I could tell them that I’ve seen how hard it’s been for them.  I want to tell them how proud I am at how they’ve carried on in the face of what none of us have really ever seen before.  I don’t want to sound patronizing, but it’s true.  I mean people are so brave, from people who work on the medical field who go in every day to face this, to grandparents at home separated from their families, to those who live alone and have had their connections stripped from them.  I want them to know they’re amazing for making it here, and the same things that have brought us this far can help carry us through.

          I want to tell them God is with them, but not in a way that feels hollow.  I want to tell them at the heart of the moment, there is real presence there, sustaining, lifegiving presence, and that it’s not lip service to say that we can be the body of Christ, a humble part of God’s presence and action on earth.  We can help one another make it through. 

          And maybe I don’t have to spell it all out for them, maybe I can just remind them of the story that born to a family that must have been scared to death was a babe that came to save the world. 

          So, you can see that I don’t yet have a sermon, but I’ll think of something.  You what?  You have an ending for me?  Great, those are always hard. 


          Very funny.  But, thank you.  And, Merry Christmas.