Sermons

Here you will find samplings of Pastor Melissa’s sermons. This page is updated regularly with sermons from various dates.

Darkness Cannot Drive Out of Darkness 

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“Unwrap the Gift!”  Christmas Eve 2011, Luke 2:1-20

Have you heard the legend of the blind men and the elephant?  It’s a story that appears in different religious traditions: Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, and Muslim.

Here’s the gist of it:

Six blind men are introduced to an elephant.  Each of them feels a different body part.  They begin to argue about what the animal must look like.

The blind man who feels a leg says the elephant is like a pillar; the one who feels the tail says the elephant is like a rope;  the one who feels the trunk says the elephant is like a tree branch; the one who feels the ear says the elephant is like a hand fan; and the one who feels the tusk says the elephant is like a solid pipe.

Another version of this story, as told by the 19th century poet John Godfrey Saxe, offers these concluding words:

And so these men of Hindustan

Disputed loud and long,

Each in his own opinion

Exceeding stiff and strong,

Though each was partly in the right

And all were in the wrong.

[LET US PRAY.]

When we come together to worship God, to experience the sacred, to hear the stories of faith, we’re a bit like those blind men identifying the elephant.

Our vision is partly obscured by many things.  One thing that obstructs our vision is our 21st-century worldview.  As heirs of the Enlightenment, of the scientific revolution, we tend to think that something is valid only if it can be observed with the five senses, verified empirically, objectively proven to be factual.

I’m not dismissing this post-Enlightenment worldview.  We reap the benefits of it every day, with countless advances in science & medicine.  It’s been an important step in our evolution as a species.

But we get into trouble when we forget that our post-Enlightenment worldview is, in fact, a worldview.  It’s a particular set of lenses through which we interpret our experience, and as such, it is inherently limited.  It does not give us the whole picture.

There are other things that obstruct our vision: prejudices, expectations, the baggage we carry around with us from life’s hurts, our particular social context.

And so here we are, Christmas Eve 2011.  We’re introduced to this enormous, weighty thing that’s captured in ceramics over here. [Nativity scene]  None of us can see it completely; we each have a piece of the picture.  We’re feeling around it:

One of us says, ““I love the traditions and rituals of Christmas, but I’m too busy and stressed-out to enjoy them.”

Another one says, “I feel out of sync around Christmas.  Grief hits me hard this time of year.  I’m supposed to feel merry and jolly, but I feel sad.  And lonely.”

“I believe in a higher power, and I do celebrate Christmas in my own way,” says another. “But I see how a lot of Christians actually behave and it makes me want to stay far away from church.”

And yet another, “I’m so moved by the beauty and the truth of this story.  It’s frustrating that it gets drowned out by Black Friday and Frosty the snowman and arguments over how to greet each other this time of year.”

“I’ve read that the details in the stories of Jesus’ birth aren’t exactly accurate.  There are places where one gospel contradicts the other.  And I’m not sure about a virgin birth or angels appearing to shepherds anyway.  So if these things aren’t factual, how do I know what to believe in?”

None of us can see it in its entirety, and yet every year we’re given this enormous, weighty thing.  Christmas.  A gift from God.  What do we do with it?

I want to tell you one more story.  Three 21st-century people find a wormhole that transports them back to the very scene of the birth of Jesus Christ.  They immediately begin firing questions at Mary & Joseph and company:

“Are we actually in Bethlehem, and what year is it, exactly?”

“Mary, are you really a virgin?”

“Joseph, are you actually descended from David?  Or is it Mary?  Or neither one of you?”

“Is Quirinius the governor now, or is it someone else?  And did you really have to travel to your hometown for the census?  Was there really a large-scale census?”

“Have the wise men showed up?  No?  I thought they came when Jesus was a toddler!”

“Are there really angels around here?  Show me.”

“Is this a stable, or would you say it’s more of a cave?”

“Joseph, Mary, did you really talk to angels when Mary was pregnant?”

And before they can ask any more questions, the three time-travelers are transported back to 2011.  They tell some trusted friends about their experience, and their friends ask them, “What was it like?  Did it feel different?  Sacred?  What was the sky like?  How did Mary seem?  And Joseph?  Tell us about Jesus!”

Silence.  The three time-travelers look at one another, look uneasily at their friends.  “We didn’t actually notice Jesus.”

Jesus.  The enormous, weighty gift that we’re given.  We’re invited to unwrap this gift!

See what’s inside:

What’s inside is the Word Made Flesh.  A human being who embodied the sacred in an unparalleled way.

What’s inside is a clue about the very heart of the universe, about who God is: God is self-giving, generous, loving.

What’s inside is a baby who became a man, a man whose words and deeds are Truth (with a capital “T”).

A man who said,

“Blessed are the poor…

Blessed are the merciful…

Blessed are the peacemakers…

Do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets…

Do not worry about your life…

Forgive, as you have been forgiven…

Do not judge, lest you be judged…

You cannot serve God and greed…

Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you…

Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted…

Not my will, God, but yours…”

What’s inside is a baby who became a man who reached across all social barriers to embrace clean and unclean, rich and poor, male and female, Jew and gentile, sick and healthy.

A man who was filled with divine light.  A man who knew how to pray.

A man who stood by what was true, even if it cost him his very life.

This is the gift of Christmas.  I hope you and I won’t put it on the shelf to gather dust until next year.  Instead, come and see!

In the year ahead, learn more about what Jesus said and did!

In the year to come, grow deeper in your own faith and practice.

In the year ahead, take time to pray, to be quiet, to nurture the divine in you.

In the year ahead, connect with God by loving & serving others.

In the year to come, accept that God forgives you, no matter what; that God loves you, no matter what.

We have an enormous gift that we can spend a lifetime exploring and experiencing.

Let’s unwrap it!

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Responses

  1. THANKS FOR THE MESSAGE. I READY LIKE THE STORY AND THE TOPIC.
    PAS. J.METHUSELAH SACKIE IS MY NAME FROM LIBERIA AFRICA. I AM ALSO A UNITED METHODIST TOO.


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