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Based on the Scripture reading:
Luke 2: 1-20

2005 December 24
Christmas Eve (second worship service)
Rev. Kenneth F. Baily, Senior Pastor

Controlling Christmas

Sometimes I have control issues. Sometimes I have control issues. I'm not speaking here as myself -- don't get me wrong. I'm quoting someone with whom I was talking a few weeks back, and that's how he explained his anxiety during this season of numbered shopping days and drop-in friends. He said, "I can't take all the Christmas craziness because sometimes I have control issues."

You didn't think that I was like that, did you? I'm Mr. Just-let-go!

I don't think I have to define control issues for anyone here in the room. But let me do it anyway. For the kids. "Control issues" means you have standards and a clear sense that your own hand at the helm of any vessel is superior to anyone else's. The phrase means if it's your puck in the hockey game, you get to referee the ice. It means that "the buck stops here" is not a desk ornament but a commandment.

Control issues are OK, I guess, if they don't wear you down or wear down anyone around you, the way that someone else always being in charge can do, squelching the spirit. A lot of us have these issues lately.

Things must have been different two thousand years ago. Imagine Mary with control issues. The scripture reports that when Gabriel first visited and told her she would have a son she was "deeply troubled," but then she spoke the mantra of higher consciousness: let it be. Mary would bear God's child, but she wouldn't have done so if she had control issues.

Imagine Joseph with control issues. Actually that's easy. He didn't have the perfect reaction to the angel's first news about what was going on in Mary's life. He pondered what the scriptures call "privatelyBack to top breaking the engagement." It sounds like what we do before a blind date. But another angel visited him in a dream, and when he woke up, he let go, and he married Mary without a hint of hesitation.

Imagine God with control issues. The God who is in charge of everything all of the time, finding parking places here and holding off hurricanes there, the God with lists of thou-shalt-nots and pages of dietary mandates will wear lots of people down, substituting law for love. The God who runs a universe with no space for human creativity and no hope for free will, who therefore makes war inevitable and peace unworthy of our earnest work, this puppetmaster god doesn't pass the test of faithful human insight if God has control issues. But if two thousand years of theology are correct, and our God became human in a baby, if the heart of our faith is right and the word became flesh and dwelt among us full of grace and truth, if God was once not only human but an infant -- an infant -- then God must be able to let go on a scale that none of us can even comprehend. But we can imitate it. We can imitate Mary and Joseph and Jesus and God. Not in avoiding what is our responsibility but in giving a measure of trust to the ways of God that are not our ways as well as a measure of trust to the ways of people that are not ours either. When we trust God and each other, something new is born.

If we can get over our control issues, maybe God has something new to show us this Christmas. Something new that will grow in us. Something to imitate and something to adore. Flesh and blood as precious as all divinity, sitting right next to us in a pew, living homeless in our city, serving in our armed forces, married to us, trying to inspire us to see that in Jesus we find a new way to be alive.

Birth is the ultimate act of vulnerable letting go. Life is the heart of what we value in our faith. Love is the way Jesus would have us live. If we're willing to pursue another's way and let them lead, not by directing us, but inspiring us. I think that's what Jesus would do.

Merry Christmas. Amen.

Copyright 2005 Kenneth F. Baily.  Used by permission.

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Parent page ] Sermon "Christmas Eve" ] Sermon "Sacred Vessels" ] Sermon "No System to Save" ] Sermon "Entitled to be Thankful" ] Sermon "Welcome Food" ] Sermon "Waking Devotion" ] Sermon "Sitting at the Welcome Table" ] Sermon "Table Manners" ] Sermon "Speaking of God" ] Sermon "Singing New Songs" ] Sermon "Prepare the Way" ] Sermon "Here-ing God" ] Sermon "The Possibility of Possibility" ] Sermon "Sweet Creations" ] Sermon "Not at All Dead" ] Sermon "March for Life" ] Sermon "Planning, Praising and Pondering Palms" ] Sermon "Imagination, Dreams, and Vision" ] Sermon "Following the Magi" ] Sermon "Pushing Christmas" ] Sermon "Forecasts" ] Sermon "Ready for Christmas" ] Sermon "God in the Middle" ] Sermon "The Days to Come, the One to Come" ] Sermon "Earthly Healing" ] Sermon "Digesting Communion" ] Sermon "The Change of Prayer" ] Sermon "Unbreakable Body" ] Sermon "Seeing Clearly" ] Sermon "Right for Present" ] Sermon "In Memory of Hope" ] Sermon "These Baptisms are Killing Us" ] Sermon "Wanting Prayer" ] Sermon "Last Minute Gifts" ] Sermon "Praying Well = Praying Much" ] Sermon "Peace Repent, Peace Remember" ] Sermon "Choosing Church" ] Sermon "A Model Church" ] Sermon "The Empire Struck Back" ] Sermon "Love is Patient and Primary" ] Sermon "Manifestations" ] Sermon "The Green Grace of God" ] Sermon "Signs of Sacred Things" ] Sermon "A Deal with the Future" ] Sermon "With God in Death; with Each Other in Dying" ] Sermon "Facing God's Miracle" ] Sermon "Finding All Three" ] Sermon "God as a Baby" ] Sermon "What Does It Mean" ] [ Sermon "Controlling Christmas" ] Sermon "Finding Jesus" ] Sermon "Katrina's New Covenant Call" ] Sermon "Elevate your Expectations" ] Sermon "See: the Healing" ] Sermon "Lifeless Chaos and Living Creation" ] Sermon "Rapt Gifts" ] Sermon "Welcome to Reality" ] Sermon "Blue State Blues" ] Sermon "Are we not entitled to thanks?" ] Sermon "Ancient Pieces of Peace" ] Sermon "Noticing Neighbors" ] Sermon "Easter" ] Sermon "Sin: Currently Tense" ] Sermon "Why Are You Angry?" ] Sermon "Anxiety over Sin" ] Sermon "Isn't Marriage Gay?" ] Sermon "A Marriage Grade in Heaven?" ] Sermon "Miracles:  Seeing More in our Midst" ] Sermon "Why are You in Churchl" ] Sermon "Remember your Baptism" ] Sermon "Every Day Spirituality" ] Sermon "The Cross and Joy of Love" ] Sermon "Welcome Back" ] Sermon "Living Together" ] Sermon "Transforming Destruction" ] Sermon "The Work of Healing" ] Sermon "Peace" ] Worship details ]