Small Things

{What follows is the homily I gave at last night’s Christmas Eve Candle Light Service at First Christian Church of Glenwood, IA}

 

Small Things.

 

 

 

 

Welcome & Prayer of Invocation:

 

Welcome in the Name Of The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I believe God is Sovereign over all life and that it is providential that you are here tonight. I pray that you are drawn close to the God who loves us in our sorrow, failure, sins. May you be drawn close to the truth that God is real, God loves you, and that Christ came not for the healthy, but for the sick.

 

Prayer

 Father God we thank you that you sent your Son to Earth to liberate captives and prisoners like us. Your Son gave up everything He had so that He wouldn’t have to give us up to hell. Many think Christ was a fool for turning the other cheek, preaching love, and dying on a cross for His enemies. We confess with St. Paul, “The foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”  Lord Jesus, it is on Christmas Eve especially that we ponder the truth that you became weak in order to rescue us from our sins.

 

May we sing your praises on this night and every night to come.

 

Amen

 

 

 

John 1:1-14 has always knocked my socks off, and it’ll knock your socks off too if you listen to these words with your heart. The best part about these words is that they’re all true too.

 

John 1:1-14

 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

2 He was in the beginning with God.

3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.

7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him.

8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.

11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.

12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,

13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

 

I have a dog named Professor Frank. I have often shared his adventures and exploits from this pulpit. Every time I let Professor Frank in from the backyard He runs headlong into The Hermitage. He runs in every time without exception. I do not know why. This is how He makes his grand entrance.

He is also a creepy dog. And, by creepy I mean that he will literally creepy up on you all silent and stalker like. You’ll be cooking dinner and there he is staring at you. You’ll be reading a book and there he is breathing on you. He can be eerily silent when he wants to be. In keeping with the festive nature of the season I put a bell on his collar. Now I can tell when he is coming by the ominous “jingle, jingle” behind me.

Many of the Old Testament Scriptures read tonight were saying, “Perk up your ears, He is on His way.”  Yes, as the Chronicles of Narnia puts it, “Aslan is on the move”.

And surely Christ did come to Earth. He was born, and grew up into the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, and He died upon the cross in our place, and walked out of the grave three days later.

You may wonder, “So what?”

What does it have to do with you and I? He seems so big, and we seem so small. The concept of Jesus is hard to wrap our minds around.

What to do with Jesus?

We trust Him. We believe In Him. We follow Him. We embrace His promises. That’s what we do with Him.

For though He is big and we small, He still loves us.

Zechariah 4:10a says, 

“For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice…”

 

Christmas is a time in which we celebrate and reflect upon the power of little things, and little people.

 

I was reading a book titled “The Bruised Reed” by Richard Sibbes, who was this puritan preacher in 17th century England, and he was writing about how God loves and even uses small things and small people the world has counted out.

 

Sibbes writes that a mighty oak tree starts out life as a tiny acorn. And this is true for The Hermitage has a mighty Oak Tree in the front yard and it rains acorns on the driveway and the street and the truck as well as little depraved school children walking home from school. It is a thing of wonder to hold an acorn up to a sky blotted out by the branches of a grown Oak Tree.

Sibbes writes, “We call a little plant a tree, because it is growing up to be so.”

 

Bethlehem was small and of no importance save for the fact that God ordained it to be the city of King David and the Christ (Micah 5:2, Matthew 2:6).

 

Jesus is compared to a sucker tree.

 

Isaiah 11:1

 1 There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.

 

Have you ever seen a stump? A stump is not much to look at really. There was a stump in the backyard of my childhood home in Black Hawk County Iowa. A stump is sort of an eye sore. It’s a rather useless thing that only gets in the way when you’re a kid pushing a lawn mower almost as big as you are.

 

The only thing a stump is good for is staging your Army men, Ninja Turtles, and He-Man action figures for a late summer’s afternoon battle. But other than that: a stump isn’t much to look at.

 

Joseph was from the house of David. Long ago his ancestors were royalty.  The House of David fell, and great was its fall!  So great was its fall that the once mighty house of David is referred to as stump.  Joseph was a carpenter, and there is no shame in being a carpenter, indeed, being a carpenter may be a grand thing in the eyes of a God who values an honest day’s work, and creativity.  But being a carpenter is a far cry from the life of privilege most royals enjoy.  Isaiah says that the shoot will come from a stump, and this is observable in nature itself.  Often sucker trees will spring up from a stump if it is not chemically treated or ripped out of the ground all together by truck and chain.

 

God loves to bring glory from ruin.

 

Poor Mary, and poor Joseph laying the once and future king to sleep in an animal’s feeding trough. How dubious would those weather beaten, manly, men’s men of Shepherds have been of the lofty things said about that swaddled baby had not a mighty host of Angels told them so?

 

God loves the small things. God loves the little people of this world. God loves to confound the wisdom of this Age (1 Corinthians 1).

 

Isaiah 53:2-5

 

For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.

He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.

But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.

 

Yes, God even gets a kick out of using the things we despise the most to advance His plan. Small and despised things like small faith, and  execution.

 

 

 

 

 

Matthew 17:19-23

19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?”

20 He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

22 As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men,

23 and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” And they were greatly distressed.

 

Sibbes writes,

 

“Christ values us by what we shall be, and by what we are elected unto.”

 

Maybe you feel small and unimportant right now. Perhaps you think God is too great to have much concern for you. You’re wrong, you know. It is not overreaching for me to tell you that God desires to do great things in your life. After all, God desires to save you. Forgiveness is the most valuable thing a person can have. He promises to forgive people who call out to Him. He delights in forgiving people.

 

Communion

And now we’re going to take and eat little things, bread and the fruit of the vine, things that God uses mightily in the life and sanctification of the believer. If you believe in Christ as Lord and Savior, your forgiver and Redeemer, then you are welcome to come forward and partake of the bread and the cup, then grab a candle and form a circle around the Sanctuary. In a bit we’ll light each candle one by one from the flame of the Advent Candle.

 

And if you’re not ready to say Christ is Lord then I invite you to skip the bread and cup and grab a candle and join the circle nonetheless, for you are loved by God, and Christ came to save you. Christ is for you. Christmas is for you.

 

Just as He told His disciples long ago so I say to you,

 

“Take, eat; this is my body.”

27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you,

28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

29 I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

~ Matthew 26:27-29

 

Communion Prayer

Father God, 

We confess as a body that we have sinned and fallen short of your glory. We ask for your forgiveness, and truly we live in your pardon. Your Son has done great things. We praise you for them.

 

In your Son’s living name.

Amen.

 

Communion.

Lighting of Candles & Singing.

 

Closing Prayer

 Father God we thank you for that little baby born in Bethlehem many long winters ago. In Him is Light and Life. Help us to put our faith and trust in Him as Lord and Savior, for He will not be relegated to seasonal holidays, He demands every part of us, for He has saved every part of us, and purchased every part of us with His very life.

 

In His name we pray,

 

Amen. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *