Cross of Grace

A community of grace sharing God's love with no strings attached.

Summer Sunday Worship:
8:30 am & 10 am

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)

G2A #8: "A Baby Changes Everything" – Luke 1-3

There is nothing quite like a birth to completely interrupt our lives.

We fill our lives with plans and routines; a birth always interrupts all those plans and routines.

Even if having a child is part of you plans, the baby’s arrival still manages to set you on a new and unforeseeable journey.

For some of us, a new and unforeseeable journey is exactly what we are longing for. Perhaps you are desperately waiting for something – such as the news of a birth – to interrupt your life and change its direction.

Such an interruption is what the Israelites were hoping and praying for. The Hebrew Scriptures conclude with a scattered and occupied Israel. Time after time God’s chosen people have been guided to victory and peace by God’s hand, only to turn away from God, placing their faith and trust in idols, earthly rulers, and their own selves. The people have experience slavery, freedom, independence, power, defeat, and exile. Like the rebuilt temple, the people are a mere shadow of their former glory. And so they wait.

In the throes of violence, death, and darkness, they wait for something to completely interrupt our lives – a light to shine in the darkness, new life to come out of death, the cry of a child to pierce the silence.

We, too, have been waiting.  We have been waiting to hear and to share the good news that is found in Luke’s Gospel – the words of an angel to a terrified world, saying, “Do not be afraid; for see–I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”

Good news of great joy!

Great joy that interrupts our lives.  Joy that shines in the darkness.  Joy of a baby’s cry piercing the silence, reminding us that there is new life to nurture and enjoy.

I would likely find myself looking for an entirely new career path if I would ever counsel someone that having a baby would solve their problems.  And that’s not the message I want you to hear.  However, the birth of Christ does remind us of the gift that we have as people of faith: joy!  Great joy!  Joy in the midst of our pain and disappointment and fear.

In the ensuing weeks following the devastating school shooting in Newton, Connecticut, Rev. Matt Crebbin, the Senior Pastor of Newtown Congregational Church, spoke about joy – joy in the face of despair and darkness; joy that we dare not confuse with happiness.  He said,

Happiness comes from the same root word as happenstance and haphazard, which means it is something that is dependent on events and circumstances going on around us. Joy is something we are held in because we know that God is with us in the midst of even the most awful circumstances. Even in grief and tragedy, when we have no sense of happiness, we have the sense that abiding joy carries us even when we cannot sense it ourselves. We are held by something greater than ourselves.
— Rev. Matt Crebbin

Very bold, don’t you think, for a pastor from Newtown to talk about joy in the midst of the violence that happened in that town?  Bold indeed.  And yet, speaking about joy–believing in joy–in the midst of tragedy, is precisely what we, as people of God, are bold to speak and believe.

We are here today, shoulder to shoulder with friends and family, signing songs, praying, and feasting on the gifts of forgiveness.  We have been drawn together out of a common longing for an interruption – an interruption brought about by the birth of a child; an interruption to instill hope in the midst of fear, and remind us that we are being held in joy – being held by something greater than ourselves.

As much as I’d like to, I cannot promise you that tomorrow will be better than today.  I cannot point to a day in the future and say that is the day when all your problems will be solved. 

But I can proclaim the good news that the God who lived as flesh and blood, as one of His own creation, enduring the same joys, sorrows, pain, happiness, birth, death, and new life that we will experience….this God will hold us in joy.

“Do not be afraid; for see--I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”

There is no greater interruption than the birth of a child; and there is no greater joy than the birth of a child.

There is no greater interruption than the love God gives to us every day; and there is no greater joy than the love God gives to us every day.

Even when the world seems at its darkest, there is always a light.  There is always joy to be found.  That’s a promise.  A promise I’m bold to proclaim; a promise you are bold to believe; and it’s the only promise bold enough to save the world.

There is reason to be optimistic – reason to believe in a bright future – all you have to do is look into the face of a child and realize that we are being held in something greater than ourselves.

My prayer for you is that you would be filled with joy at the unexpected grace and love in which God is holding you. May this joy lead you to share this grace and love with those who desperately need to hear it. Amen.

All Rights Reserved. Background image by Aaron Stamper. © Cross of Grace Lutheran Church.