Merry Christmas!

<p>A righteous and devout man, Simeon, waits for the birth of the Messiah, the Christ. He has been promised by God that he will not die until he sees the Christ. As in the passages we have looked at this Christmas/Advent season, Simeon speaks forth a hymn of praise in seeing the Christ child. He then speaks some interesting words to Joseph and Mary, which will be our main text today.</p>

<p><a href=”;&amp;version=31;”>Luke 2.22-35</a><br />“This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”</p>

<p>Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays<br />Simeon said that Jesus would create quite a stir; the birth of Christ is still creating quite a stir.</p>

<p>How many of you have been touched by the Christmas vs. Holiday controversy? Is it Christmas or is it just a generic Holiday? In the workplace, some of you were probably told what greeting was politically correct. Some of our shopping stores say “Merry Christmas” with their ads and decorations and others are having yet another holiday sale. One pastor in the Bible Belt encouraged his congregation to shop at only stores that were proclaiming “Christmas.” Barnes and Noble is probably the most politically correct of all: the workers are instructed to reply in kind: if you say, “Merry Christmas,” they say, “Merry Christmas”; if you say, “Happy Holidays,” they say, “Happy Holidays.”</p>

<p>I went to the Post Office in our small community and asked to see their Christmas stamps. The Postmaster pointed to a poster below the counter with five different stamps on it. Only two of them were Christmas stamps; and really only one portrayed the true meaning of the season: the Madonna and Child. But there was one stamp that almost fooled me. At a quick glance I thought it was a Christmas tree, but at a closer look it was an Islamic stamp for some holiday called EID. I remarked to the Postmaster, “Not all of these are Christmas stamps.” She responded, “Oh no. You know we’re not allowed to celebrate Christmas anymore.” She said, “Look around.” And I saw a few feeble decorations. She continued, “We’re not even allowed to put a tree in here.” As I left I chimed a cheery, “Merry Christmas!” to her.</p>

<p>A church in one community, asked permission to put their Nativity in their yard … and the town said, “no.” The church next door didn’t bother asking – they just put their’s out.</p>

<p>We live in a country that stands for freedom, that continues to fight for freedom in faraway places, that guarantees us the “right to free speech.” And yet we are told if we are Christmas or holiday shopping. We are told if we may say, “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays.” And we are told how we may decorate. What kind of freedom is that?</p>

<p>On CBS The Early Show, following an interview with a commoner (someone not famous, someone like you and me that did something news worthy), the announcer said, “Happy Holidays” and she responded, “Merry Christmas.” And I thought, “You go girl!” Right there on national TV, you say it like it is.</p>

<p>I am grateful we live in an area that still advertises Christmas concerts on their school activity boards; and where newspapers carry stories of Christmas activities and Christmas charitable events held and led by our school students. Not all communities are so blessed.</p>

<p>Christmas is causing some to fall and some to rise<br />Listen to Simeon’s words to Joseph and Mary, once again,<br />“This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”</p>

<p>Christmas, the birth of Christ, is causing some to fall and some to rise. It is a sign that is opposed, that is being spoken against by the media, by businesses, by educational institutions, and by the government. Simeon’s words to Mary were that some would oppose Jesus so violently, that a sword will pierce your own soul too, this word speaking toward the death that Jesus would suffer, and of course, a mother suffering alongside her son.</p>

<p>Christmas is causing many to stumble and fall still today. Will you stumble or will you rise?</p>

<p>~Will you rise up and enjoy Christmas?<br />~Will you arise and take hold of your salvation?<br />~Will your spirit rise up within you in praise and adoration for the birth of the Christ?<br />~Will you arise and commune with, fellowship with, God’s people?<br />~Will you give others gifts, Christmas gifts, gifts that bless others, gifts that tell others you love and appreciate them, gifts that help those less fortunate, gifts that remember the wisemen bringing their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the Christ Child. Remember the original Saint Nicholas was named a Saint by the Church because of his generous giving to those in need at this time of year.<br />~Will you enjoy the blessing of family and friends?<br />~Will you celebrate Christmas, remembering that this is your gift to God?</p>

<p>Thank you for rising<br />I want to take a moment to thank you for the many ways you have given your gifts in celebration of Christmas throughout Advent and beyond. This has been an exceptional year for Christmas programs in each church, as well as many missional projects that have reached those within our faith community and extended to those near and far. You make Christmas Eve services a focus of your Christmas celebration, some of you attending both services. We had a wonderful attendance at each service. And here you are again this morning. This is your gift to me! This is your gift to Christ!</p>

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