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The Original Love Story
A Sermon For Christmas Eve
- by the Rev. Bill Adams -


READING:  Luke 2:1-20
SERMON :  "The Original Love Story"

by Rev. Bill Adams
Trinity Episcopal Church, Sutter Creek

     In 1991 the Rev. Bill Adams, of Trinity Episcopal Church in
     Sutter Creek, California, wrote a Christmas Eve Sermon and posted
     it to the Preaching The Revised Common Lectionary Preaching List. 
      We appreciated what it had to say, as did another reader of the
     preaching list, who wrote to Bill at the list address: "I have
     lurked on this mail list for some time but I can lurk no longer. 
     Your Christmas sermon is the best I have ever read or heard.  It
     moved me to tears.  You have preached the Good News in a powerful
     way addressing many who only come to Church at Christmas and
     Easter.   Thank you so much for the inspiration and may God bless
     you this Christmas as much as your sermon has been a blessing to
     me and, I'm sure, to many others."   

     Upon reading this testimonial and looking once again at the
     sermon we decided to ask Bill if we could reproduce his sermon on
     our Site.   And he agreed.   The following sermon is his.  It is
     called, "The Original Love Story".  The story within it of the
     Christmas Pageant in shambles was shared on the PRCL List.


         * ,  , *   * ,  , *   * ,  , *   * ,  , *   * ,  , *   *  
                              
                         THE ORIGINAL LOVE STORY
                       A Sermon For Christmas Eve
                            - by Bill Adams- 
     
One of the greatest theologians that ever lived, Karl Barth, was asked to
be a guest lecturer at the University of Chicago Divinity School.  At the
end of a captivating closing lecture, the president of the seminary
announced that Dr. Barth was not well and was quite tired, and though he
thought that Dr. Barth would like to be open for questions, he shouldn't be
expected to handle the strain. Then he said, "Therefore, I will ask just
one question on behalf of all of us."

He turned to the renowned theologian and asked, "Of all the theological
insights you have ever had, which do you consider to be the greatest of
them all?

It was the perfect question for a man who had written literally tens of
thousands of pages of some of the most sophisticated theology ever put into
print.  The students held pencils right up against their writing pads,
ready to take down verbatim the premier insight of the greatest theologian
of their time.

Karl Barth closed his tired eyes, and he thought for a minute, and then he
half smiled, opened his eyes, and said to those young seminarians, "The
greatest theological insight that I have ever had is this: "Jesus loves me,
this I know, for the Bible tells me so."

My dear friends in Christ, I submit to you that the Gospel of Jesus Christ
is the greatest love story ever written!

I wish with all my heart that everybody could read it that way, but I'm
afraid to say that I meet people every day for whom it reads more like a
Cal Worthington Used Car contract.  Somehow in the midst of all those
beautiful love verses, they hear only clauses and conditions and the
spelling out of all the consequences should any or those clauses and
conditions ever be infracted.

So I thank God that Christmas comes around once a year to remind us that
God isn't in the business of keeping books and tallying ledgers, nor is God
concerned about our status or position in life.  If God were concerned
about any of those things,  then I submit to you that the Christ of God
would never have been born into such disagreeable circumstances as we find
in the second chapter of Luke this evening.

No.  Christmas is the beginning of a classic love story with all the right
ingredients:  infatuation, pursuit,  risk and relationship...

But in all relationships of love, there does have to be that first meeting
doesn't there?

When I was a child, I remember asking "what if I had been born to another
set of parents?  I would never have known the love of the parents I know
and love now."

My wife Kathy and I met 30 years ago when I went away to college for the
first time.  I still occasionally find myself asking those curious "what
if"questions.   Do you ever find yourself asking those kinds of questions?

"What if I had gone to another college in another part of the country? 
What if I had taken a job instead of going to school?  Our lives might have
never crossed paths... we might never have known this love."

--- My dear friends in Christ, I submit to you, that Christmas is a
crossing of paths... Christmas is where we find the Christ of God
intersecting with humanity!  Christmas is our first best meeting with the
God who has desired us from the very beginning.

I submit to you that if it weren't for Christmas we might never have known
the intensity of the love that God has for us.

Mary and Joseph, far from home because of imperial rule,  a peasant mother
giving birth in unsanitary substandard housing... There was no fanfare, no
royal delegation.. They just laid him in that manger and they watched his
little face, and they listened for his breathing, just like every new
parent does.

No... this couldn't be anything but true love!

True love accepts the beloved for who they really are; God chooses to love
us precisely because we are subjects of the human condition...  not because
of a favourable bottom line on a social and moral profit and loss
statement.   Mary and Joseph had nothing to commend them save their
humanity.

God had waited ever so patiently for One to be born into our world who was
willing to finally embody this love that God has for us... not some of the
time, not when it was convenient, but in every waking, breathing minute of
every single day... It is the birth of that love into our world that we
celebrate tonight!

Who would have ever guessed that this crossing of paths, this intersection
of the divine and the human,  would take place so long ago in a remote,
speck of dust village called Bethlehem of Judea?

Who would have guessed that in that time and place One would be born into
our world who would one day fill his life so much with the experience of
God, so much with the love of God, that in him thousands upon thousands
would be moved to make the incredible claim that they had actually met
their God in person.

This is the night when God sent out a love letter of cosmic proportions.

This is the night in the little town of Bethlehem when God and humanity
were joined as a bride and groom on their wedding day.

And as Jesus grew and went out into the world, so our understanding of just
how much God loves us also grew.  We find in Jesus that God's love doesn't
demand perfection, that forgiveness isn't given away sparingly but
recklessly and indiscriminately, that unconditional really means
unconditional, and that God's love is completely and thoroughly inclusive.

We find that even the likes of us gathered here tonight fall within the
embrace of that love, and that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor
principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor
height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to
separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Since September 11th, we have been talking a lot about peace, and rightly
so.  But I submit to you, that peace does not begin on the battlefield,
peace begins in our individual hearts...

Peace begins with the knowledge that God loves and accepts us just that
much.   It begins with Christmas!

--- Now having said all this, I know that Christmas is a time of sentiment
that, as such,  can cause a measure of sorrow to come into focus.  The
Christmas season can give rise to some painful memories for a good number
of people...   People often think about the failures they have suffered and
about loved ones they have lost...

I lost my mother at Christmastime just last year, so I can resonate some
with those feelings....

But I also know this...without Christmas my life would be positively
unbearable!

I would like close by telling you a story about a nativity pageant that
like life itself, didn't go quite as planned...

The youth group at a certain church was performing a manger scene.  Joseph
and Mary and all the other characters were in place and ready.  They did
their parts with seriousness and commitment, looking as pious as they
possibly could.

And then it came time for the shepherds to enter.

--- Dressed in flannel bathrobes and toweled head gear, the shepherds
proceeded to the altar steps where Mary and Joseph  looked earnestly at the
straw which contained a single naked light bulb that was playing the part
of the glowing newborn Jesus.

With his back to the congregation, one of the shepherds said to the person
playing Joseph, in a very loud whisper for all the cast to hear, "Well,
Joe, when you gonna pass out cigars?"

 The solemn spell of that occasion was not simply broken by his remark, it
was exploded. Mary and Joseph's cover was completely destroyed as it became
impossible to hold back the bursts of laughter.

The chief angel, standing on a chair behind them was the worst of all.

 She shook so hard in laughter that she fell off her chair and took the
curtained back drop and all the rest of the props down with her.  She just
kept rolling around on the floor holding her stomach because she was
laughing so hard.  The whole set was in shambles.

But do you know what?  The only thing that didn't go to pieces was that
light bulb in the manger. ... it never stopped shining.

--- My dear friends in Christ, that baby in the manger is the light of my
world, even when my world is in shambles...For in that baby the Divine and
the human cross paths.

The infant Jesus  is our living, breathing sign of the immeasurable love
that God has had for all of us from the very beginning.

Christmas  is the living promise that we are never ever alone.  No matter
where we are in life, no matter in what condition we find ourselves, no
matter how far we might stray away, or how unfaithful we are, God, the
supreme lover, will pursue us in love for eternity!

It's a love that never stops shining.

May God bless each of you and those you love this Christmas night!


copyright - sermon by Rev. Bill Adams, 2001, 2002
          - page by Rev. Richard J. Fairchild 2002 - 2005
             please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.



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