Sermon for December 24, 2008
Christmas Eve, 2008
Year after year we hear this same story about Mary and Joseph, the baby Jesus, angels, and shepherds. Yet the details of this old story continue to shape our prayers.
In this story, Mary and Joseph were travelers on the road. Let us pray this night for travelers, for those who are traveling home or who are on journeys that keep them from the ones they love. Let us pray for those who travel because they are forced to do so or are refugees. Let us pray for all those on the journey of the soul. Let us pray for those who travel this night not through space but time, as they find themselves shaped by memories of Christmas past, moving through memories with a candlelit mixture of sorrow and joy. May all those traveling this night be safe.
In the story, the holy family in this story faces challenges. Remembering the difficulties of the journey during pregnancy and Joseph’s wonderings about Mary’s conception, let us pray for all families no matter what their shapes or states of perfection. Let us pray for those facing difficult situations at home and for those facing changes in their families this season. May all households, like the new holy family in this story, be sustained in their life together.
In this story, there was no room in the inn. Let us pray for those who have no place to stay, for the homeless and those who need shelter. Let us pray for those who have lost their sense of place and those for whom home is a distant memory. May all find shelter.
In this story, there were peasants, shepherds and carpenters. Let us pray for those who labor and those for whom life is difficult. Let us pray for ordinary people who quietly and simply serve the needs of society and who often receive little recognition. May all peasants, store clerks, shepherds, farmers, civil servants, snow plow drivers, and laborers know that God is with them.
In this story, a village is named. Let us pray for our own village, for this city, our neighborhood, our citizens, and our community’s welfare. Let us pray for communities throughout the world, that all who live in villages, towns, and cities may know harmony and justice.
In the story, an emperor makes a decree. Let us pray for the leaders of states, nations, and governments, that their governance be just and gracious, and that taxes and laws enhance the general good. Let us pray for peace among nations, so that soldiers keeping watch may return safely home. May leaders follow the wise and compassionate path.
In this story, animals shared their stable quarters. Let us pray for the animals among us, for those creatures with whom we share our lives, and for the wild creatures with whom we share this planet. May we be given wisdom to care for nature found in this story of an infant God surrounded by cattle, sheep, under the brightness of the star light night sky, and laid in the grass of the field.
In this story, a child was wrapped in cloth. Let us pray this night for children, that the excitement of Christmas be followed by loving care, wise guidance, and shared joy. Let us pray that the child’s voice in each person be renewed in Christmas joy. Let us pray for children everywhere who may be in want or need, that all young people may have safety, health, and gentle care
In this story, people come over to visit. Remembering the visiting shepherds and sages, let us pray for all visitors, friends, neighbors, guests and hosts. Let us pray for gracious hospitality in our rooms, and for good conversation worth pondering in our hearts. Let us give thanks for the joy of being together. Let us pray for our own congregation’s hospitality, that we may offer shelter to those looking for a place to stay. May we share through our hospitality the message of God’s love.
In the story, angels entered the world. Let us pray for those who carry good news, and those who bear difficult news with grace. Let us pray for those who say what needs to be said and for those who bring us a timely word of wisdom. May all those who bear tidings have courage and strength to speak the truth in love.
And finally in this story, a Christ is born. Let us pray that this manger child will be welcomed in our hearts. Let us pray that we share the love of Christ’s birth, and that we proclaim the good news that God in this child brings new hope.
For once again we hear this story about Mary and Joseph, the baby Jesus, angels, and shepherds, and the details of this old story continue to shape our thoughts and prayers.