Merry Christmas to all of you! Sherry and I have been watching a lot of Christmas movies. Mostly classics. Miracle on 34th Street inspired me to write last Sunday's Christmas sermon.
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "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. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
"Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!"
[When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us." So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.]
I just finished watching Miracle on 34th Street and it inspired me. I watched the new version which came out in 1993. Miracle on 34th Street is set in New York around Christmas time. The main character is working at a major department store as Santa Clause. He actually believes he is Santa and he calls himself Kris Kringle. Let me just say he is the best Santa Claus ever. He knows things about people that only Santa would know like if we've been naughty or nice. Well, some people in the movie become jealous because he is such a good Santa. They are upset because he is taking business away from the other department stores and they figure out a way to get Kris in trouble with the law. There is a court trial to determine if Kris in mentally incompitent and through some great legal work on the part of a six year old it is decided that Kris is truly Santa Claus. In the movie they asked the question “do you believe?”, and you see people all over the city of New York wearing buttons and posting signs saying “I'm a believer”. The question in the movie had to do with Santa but it inspired me to ask some questions of my own.
Do you believe that:
We should love each other
Visiting the sick is important
We should feed the hungry
Everyone should be treated with respect
Kindness is what God wants of us
Forgiveness is better than getting even
God's message is one of hope
If you believe these things then you believe in the teachings of Jesus because he spent so much of his ministry talking and exemplifying these traits. If you believe in his teachings then you believe in him.
This gospel reading tells us that Jesus was first visited by shepherds on the day of his birth and I do not think that was a coincidence. Jesus was to become the greatest shepherd of all. He was not a shepherd of sheep. He was a shepherd of people, of you and me. As followers of Jesus, we follow those guiding principles of care and love for others.
I choose to follow the shepherd's teachings and as a Christian, I follow Jesus. I'm a Believer.
God's peace be with you,
Fr. Fred Steinbach