Our Witness to the Good News

On December 26, 2016, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

“Mary 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.” Luke 2.7 Our Witness to the Good News As we gather for worship on this last Sunday of the year, which happens to be Christmas […]

“Mary 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.” Luke 2.7

Our Witness to the Good News

As we gather for worship on this last Sunday of the year, which happens to be Christmas Day this year, I want to open my sermon with a line that I will close with and that is, our ending experiences of this year are not the totality of who we are, there is more be done.

Our gospel reading for today is only one verse, yet it is loaded with all kinds of intrigue and wonder: “Mary 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.”

Most are very familiar with this particular story.
But what of this girl named Mary? Who is she? Who are her people?
What is implied by the use of the phrase ‘gave birth to her firstborn son’? Could this imply that Mary had other children after Jesus?

She gave birth. Did she do this by herself? Were there no midwives around to assist with the birthing process? Who was there to assist with cutting the umbilical cord? Did someone at least sterilize something for a birth that was about to take place in a barn?

What is one to make of the bands of cloth? A new baby wrapped in rags that were probably used to clean the animals. There was nothing new for this baby, just whatever they could get their hands to wrap a newborn baby with to keep it warm.

And of all things, she placed a new born baby in an animal’s feeding trough. A trough that I would image had not been clean. Slop, leftover food and grain, still present for the last animal feeding, this is the place that this new born baby was laid after he was born.

Under some rather difficult circumstances, the actual birth and survival of mother and baby, may be more of the miracle of the story than anything else. This birth that took place was by no means under the best of circumstances.

And yet, here we are today, some 2,000 plus years later, remembering and retelling a story about a woman named Mary and a baby called Jesus who has changed lives forever.

Mary, a chosen woman of God, gave birth, that was good news!

Now, that was the black and white version of the story. Remember black and white TV —

Now the in color version of this same story would go something like this:
Girl, did you hear what happened to Mary. She done went and got herself pregnant before she got married. Now what kind of life is she going to have and what of that baby?

And you know what else, I’m not buying that story that she is going around telling everybody …about her not knowing what happened … the only way that might be is someone slipped something into her drink and took advantage of her. But honey the icing on the cake is this … the man she is marrying, well honey that is not even the baby’s daddy! What do you make of that?

Well, I tell you what, Joseph, that is a good man because he went ahead on and married Mary even though she got pregnant by someone else.
And Mary gave birth to a healthy baby boy and they lived happily ever after, for about 33 years … you have to come back at Easter to get that story.

Now if we heard this story in a cable news commentary it might go like this -– news flash, families are having to leave their current home to return to place where they were born, among them, a woman who is pregnant. Do we send them back because they are undocumented? Do we send them back because they speak a different language? Do we take them off the plane because someone over heard them speaking a different language. Is the woman pregnant or is it it someone dressed as a pregnant woman, in disguise who is up to no good.

If Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus were trying to get into any country today, would they make it? Would they be welcome? Would they fare better than a stable today?

In our own personal real life TV, we all want to live in a world where we can feel safe and live without fear. Fear of the other, the unknown, what can happen, what might happen are all things that are meant to divide us at a time when we need to be coming together. Maybe that is part of the good news of our gospel reading of the birth narrative, learning not to fear the unknown or the other. Mary and Jospeh faced a unwhole lot of unknown, and they faced it together.

Now,
I do not believe that our world would be safer by building up nuclear arsenals.
I do not believe that our world is safer when someone is arrested or shunned for speaking a different language.
I do not believe that our world is safer when we are treated differently just because of the color of our skin.
I do not believe our world is safer when women are to treated less than because of their gender.
The Christmas story of outcasts surviving, being chosen and loved by God, is not just a feel good message, it is a moral message, and a call to build a more just world.

The story of Mary continues to provide us with a witness of peace, love, joy and hope today, and it reminds us that we still have work to do, for the rest of this year, next year and in the years to come.

But for now let us take a moment to reflect on this year.
- for some it was a year of loss of a loved one; for others it might be been the joy of birth.
- fo some it might have been a year of change in relationship status, for others it might have been of year of finding new love — as we all learned about it on facebook.
- for some it has been a year of change; for others it has been a year of working to find stability.
- for some there may have been more downs than ups; and others more ups than downs.
- for some in the world it was met with bombings, natural disasters; and yet humankind in various areas rose above such tragedies to prove that we are still one human family.
And yet, we are still here.

For Sunshine Cathedral as a faith community it has been another year for as well.
- We have honored those who have made their transitions; celebrated love in marriage; welcome the birth of new life.

- We have journeyed with those who have questioned their faith; and we have celebrated with those who because of their faith journey now call Sunshine Cathedral their home and to each an every one, we say Welcome Home.

- We welcome 29 groups that call the Sunshine Cathedral their home and in just a a couple weeks that number will move to 30. We value the presence of all the groups on this campus including the Gay Men’s Chorus of South Florida and our wonderful partnership with SunServe and we still have room for more.

- We celebrate the installation of a new columbarium on our property, two new stained glass windows, the early completion of CC3 – paying off our property and the launch of CC4 to replace our pews with new seating. And we are grateful for our relationship with our own Sunshine Cathedral Foundation for working with us to make this a reality. And, we are not done yet with our brick and mortar work, we still have more to do.

- We celebrated the launch of a feeding program to help meet a human need. We still have more outreach to be done and we celebrate this knowing that we are making a difference.

-We have expanded our assisted living ministries, provided pastoral care to hundreds, offered grief support groups, worked to increase awareness about transgender issues, reached out to people in the Caribbean and Africa, and we’ve done even more.

- We celebrate and thank all of our donors for all that you have done to make this the wonderful year that we have had here at Sunshine Cathedral. And yet we know that our witness is not only just to this location, but our call remains to our community, near and far, who need us to be who we are.

As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.”
My friends, we are not only facing a new day but a new year as well.
As we prepare to face another new year, let us do so knowing that:
God will be our protection.
God will be our light
God will be the source our joy
God will be our joy and the strength of our lives,
And just like in years gone by, God will continue to keep us and never to leave us.

And let us not forget the wisdom of Howard Thurman:
“When the song of the angels is stilled, when the star in the sky is gone…when the shepherds are back with their flock, the work of Christmas begins:…to heal the broken, to feed the hungry, to release the prisoner, to rebuild the nations, to bring peace…to make music in the heart.”

Because, as you heard at the beginning, our ending experiences of this year are not the totality of who we are, there is more be done.
Amen.

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