One of my favorite movies is about a weatherman who is sent to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to cover the annual Ground Hog Day festivities. For an unexplained reason this poor weatherman is caught in a time loop and relives Groundhog Day over and over. No one around him is aware or remembers, but month aftermonth, Phil Conners relives the day. It is a great movie and I could say a lot about it. But there is a salient point for today.
In one scene, the weatherman is making his report about the ground hog appearing to see his shadow. He has done so for an untold number of days in a row. His words, “Well, here we are, again, up on Gobbler’s Knob, waiting to see if the ground hog sees his shadow.” The speech is stilted, and unenthusiastic. He know the outcome before it happens. Phil, the ground hog, sees his shadow, a storm moves in, and tomorrow will be just like today.
The feels of that day are something I never want to experience this time of year. No matter how many times I hear the story of the babe of Bethlehem I want to see and hear it afresh. At every stage of our lives we can find a connecting point with the nativity of Jesus.
As a child, we are learning the story. We learn the simple songs of Christmas, like Away in the Manger. Some of us got to play parts in the Christmas program. I was usually a shepherd, though I remember at least once donning a crown and carrying a gold colored Kleenex box to place beside a cardboard crib. A few of us were fortunate enough to memorize much of Luke 2. Many kids here, thanks to Mrs Korver and MCC have had that privilege. I too had the privilege:
8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
For years I wondered how one got so afraid they were sore. Finally I was brave enough to ask, only to be told, “Oh, quit it you smart aleck.”
As we grew older, many of us became aware of the whole teenager having a baby thing and the trouble we would have been in if we came home with such a story. “Honest, mom, an angel told us it was God’s idea!” As an adult, I watched my children take their turn on the stage. I still remember the Kimberly rendition of Angels Aware. A play that my son was the lead angel. No type casting there. Throughout those years the message of the birth of Jesus had different impacts at different times, depending on the circumstances of life.
Now that I am a grandfather and I have a new appreciation for what it means that “the Word became flesh.” The significance of this night was never lost on me, but it continues to impact me in new and more profound ways.
1. I have more friends now than at any time in my life. As an introvert, I have few friends and many acquaintances. I am beginning to understand a little the depth of love that caused God to sacrifice his son for us, the people he loves.
2. As the oldest living member of my extended family I am beginning to understand the idea of generational responsibility. I have children raising children. My siblings are grandparents. My cousins look to my sister and me to keep our families connected.
In order for God to keep us connected to him, and to make such connection a reality, we needed someone to come to our aid. We were loved by God, but his enemies. We were part of a shattered family, the family of man. Through the actions of one man, Adam, we became a messed up, dysfunctional family. We still are in so many ways. But God took upon himself, on this night some 2000 years ago to repair the dysfunction. To offer us, hope, and peace, joy, and holiness. Tonight is about healing the family and making friends of enemies.
As we go from this place tonight most will go with family and friend. But not all. My prayer is that we find ways to make the message of Christmas one that is heard and experienced by more and more people. Thank you for being my church family and my friends. Thank you God for making it possible because of this night.