Sermons from Christmas Eve 2020

Here is the sermon from our Jazz service:

The Home of God
Christmas Eve; December 24, 2020
Christmas Jazz Service
Revelation 21:1-6

The sermon was delivered not in the Sanctuary but by a fireplace.

Cozy scene, isn’t it? The sort of scene we wish for at Christmas. Everything is different this year, and although Colleen read you the Christmas story, I’m preaching from Revelation, just as I have all through Advent. And since we can’t be together anyway I thought I would talk to you from the fireplace in Dr. Krampe’s home.

Home. It may be a big house in the suburbs, an apartment in the city. It may be a room in your parents’ house, or a cardboard box under an overpass. Some sell their houses and live in an RV or an old VW minivan. Home is never really permanent, is it? You may have lived in the same house for twenty years but find yourself preparing to move into something smaller; or you’re getting married and buying your first place together. Home is on the move.

When John has his vision of the holy city, the new Jerusalem, he hears a voice from the throne say that the home of God is among human beings. The very first image the Bible gives us for the home of God is a tent that the people carried with them as they wandered, a nomadic God for a nomadic people. For several hundred years a stone temple in Jerusalem filled the bill, but even that was somehow temporary, always needing repair, once destroyed and rebuilt after decades of ruin, and then finally destroyed and never rebuilt.

Christmas is the story of God making a home among us as a baby, looking into his Mother’s face for the assurance of safety, taking hold of Joseph’s finger when he would hold it out for him. As with every baby, this child soon enough is on the move, and the home of God is surrounded by disciples and apostles, by admirers and detractors, by enemies and supporters. You know the story. If not, or if you want to understand it better, then keeping tuning in to our webcasts, or give me a call, or read it for yourself in that dusty old book called the Holy Bible.

What John ultimately sees is the home of God, still on the move, but finding its place: among us, wherever the people of Jesus are. This Christmas night the people of Jesus are not in church buildings, but at home or in prison or serving at a soup kitchen or being served at a soup kitchen. “See, the home of God is among mortals,” among human beings, wherever the people of Jesus are.

In John’s vision, the Holy City is not some heavenly realm that we hope to get to someday; you and I are privileged to be the Holy City. Wherever the people of Jesus are, there is the home of God.

And here is the sermon from the late night service:

Give the Lord No Rest
Christmas Eve; December 24, 2020
Late Night Service
Revelation 22:1-7

Although I think the commercialism goes overboard, you won’t hear me complain that Christmas is too materialistic. You can’t get much more materialistic than God does at the heart of our celebration: the Word was made flesh. Not idea, not spirit, not a slogan on a church sign, but flesh. And flesh of the most troubling kind: a baby. The Lord God Almighty joined in some wonderful, puzzling way with matter, nursing and pooping and sleeping in the straw. Babies are such a blessing and so much trouble; you can’t get much more materialistic.

So please don’t get too spiritual about Christmas. The Book of Isaiah has some advice I’d like you to follow:

You who remind the Lord, take no rest,
And give the Lord no rest until the Lord establishes Jerusalem
And makes it renowned throughout the earth. (Isaiah 62:6-7)

Give the Lord no rest. Pester the Lord with your praying for the Lord to establish Jerusalem. When I pray that, I think of two things: the literal city in Israel/Palestine, finally at peace and administering justice for all citizens of the State of Israel and all residents of the occupied territories. And I think of God’s Church, no longer indulging in ridiculous quarrels but faithfully welcoming those left out in the cold, literally and figuratively, and being a safe space for everyone.

We can work on that. We won’t get there on our own, we won’t get there if we overlook the reality of the one who is snoozing in the manger this evening, we won’t get there if we fail to pester the Lord in our praying. But we can work on it.

The words from our reading in Revelation are a vision of Jerusalem renewed, fully established as the Prophet said. In the midst of it is the Tree of Life, and John says that the leaves of the Tree are “for the healing of the nations.” We can work on that too; we can help with the healing of the nations, beginning with our own but not stopping with our own. You and I can do something toward the healing of the nations, whether it is a letter to a member of Congress or a donation to an international charity or a friendship with someone who isn’t from our own place. Don’t get too spiritual about Christmas; remember to do something material, something helpful, something toward the healing of the nations.

So please, this Christmas, celebrate the Word made flesh by doing something material. If health circumstances permit, hug somebody. Eat something special and enjoy it. Play a game. And give the Lord no rest until Jerusalem is established, until the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.

Robert A. Keefer
Presbyterian Church of the Master
Omaha, Nebraska