Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Nicest Thing Anyone Has Ever Done For Us

There is a story of a young man who had fallen asleep at the wheel one night while he was driving home from work. His car crossed the median and hit a motorcycle. The driver of the motorcycle was killed instantly and this young man was faced with knowing his actions resulted in the death of another human being. He was facing charges of vehicular homicide and reckless driving among other traumatic circumstances. The world seemed to be closing in around this young man at a time when he should have been focusing on graduating from high school. Rather than preparing college applications he was preparing his defense for trial. Just imagine the hopelessness he must have felt at that time!

He couldn’t speak about the accident without becoming emotional but he shared many of the details with others. During conversations he shared what he considered the “nicest thing anyone had ever done for him.” The morning after the accident he was in his hospital room when his brother came to visit. It had only been a few hours since it all happened and he was still without a shirt. His shirt had become saturated with blood at the scene of the accident. His brother removed his own shirt and placed it over his head. “He gave me the shirt off his own back,” this young man said while he was choking back tears. The sound of young people suffering is very painful.

This morning we read from the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel Luke about the birth of Christ and what happened shortly after. When King Herod heard of the birth of God he wanted so badly to capture Jesus, but was outsmarted by the wise men. “Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem from two years old and under.” (Matthew 2.16) And the entire city of Bethlehem wept with the suffering pain of dying children.

Just last week our neighbors in Horry County buried an abandoned baby who was found dead. The news of death and destruction just feels overwhelming at this time of year. Job loss, devastating fires, murders and burglary. Just when people should be preparing for Christmas, they have been preparing funerals and insurance claims. Society feels like it is crumbling around us, but just as the young man I told you about, Christ gives us the shirt off his own back.

This is what Christmas is all about. Two thousand years ago, in the midst of oppression and poverty, God became a human being. The same God who created the entire universe was born as a baby and grew up just as we did in the midst of crime, poverty and death. But He brought us life. He brought us hope for the future.

The birth of Christ my dear brothers and sisters brings us hope for a better tomorrow. What we celebrate this evening is “the nicest thing anyone has ever done for us.” God lowered himself from heaven and became a human being so that we could live forever with Him in Heaven. That is the benefit of Christmas. There is no suffering in Heaven. There is no death in Heaven. There is no pain in Heaven. There is no sighing in Heaven. There is only peace, life and love.

As we pray at every memorial service in our Church, “Give rest to the soul of the departed servant of God in a place of light, in a place of repose, in a place of refreshment, where there is no pain, sorrow or suffering.” (From the Memorial Service) With the birth of Christ, we are now able to become citizens of paradise. Just think, if Christ wasn’t born, He could never have been crucified and resurrected, and if He had never been resurrected we would not be able to get to Heaven. What a great gift He has given us today on Christmas.

Christmas is a time for gifts. We give gifts and we receive gifts from our family and friends. Some of us even receive gifts from our co-workers. Christmas is a time when we should focus our attention on the blessings that are in our life and the blessing of life, the gift we receive from God is precious.

With the birth of Christ God gives us the permission to hope for a better future rather than dwell on the pain and suffering of today. He gives permission “to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” (John 1.12) If we believe that God, the same God that created the universe – the only God – became a man and was crucified, buried and raised from the dead, then we already have received the greatest gift anyone could ever give us……forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

I would like to tell you the end of the story for the young man, but it is still being written. The family of the motorcycle driver forgave him and he was never jailed. He went to college and is now a promising bright young man with a college degree and with the hope of a great future. God has blessed him with knowing there is comfort in God when all else seems to fail, and that is a great gift.

Tonight my dear brothers and sisters, when we return home for our own family traditions of Christmas, let us remember that there is always hope for a better tomorrow when Christ is part of our lives.

Christ is Born, Glorify Him! Merry Christmas!

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