For the 10 AM Christmas Day - I used the Russian fable of Baboushka
The 7:30 pm Christmas Eve sermon follows...
Into this holy place at this happy time, O Lord, we come to worship that little child whose nature revealed thine own and what ours might become. We ask that the lovely things in his nature may grow in us and that all things hostile to his spirit may fade away. For his name's sake. Amen. (Leslie D. Weatherhead)If you were to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem, it would be around 100 miles, it would take 34 hours to travel it on foot, according to Google Maps. Thinking of that journey that Mary & Joseph had to take, at the request of Caesar Augustus, I can only imagine the time it took. Google Maps didn’t take rest in mind thieves along the route or poor roadways, inns with no room, or even a full-term pregnancy.
But to Caesar Augustus, Mary & Joseph were nobody. On the edge of the empire. They were poor. Just two among many for a census. And yet, God chooses them to bring forth the hope we all long for.
We all are on a journey. The shepherds, the wise men, even the angels made the journey. For some it was long, arduous. Others only learned that night of the glorious gift and travel into the city from the surrounding hills.
As Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it, “The shepherds, like the wise men from the East, stand at the manger, not as 'converted sinners,' but simply because, just as they are, they have been drawn by the manger.” And now it is we who stand drawn to the manger. We have journeyed here. For some it might have been a long journey. For others, it might have been a spur of the moment decision.
As we think about our hopeful journey to Bethlehem, I invite you to sit back and listen to an old Russian Folktale for Christmas (adapted by Amy Friedman) & what it might say to you tonight:
Long ago, an old woman named Baboushka lived in a tiny cottage far from the city. One snowy evening, just as she was preparing her meal, Baboushka heard a knock at the door. She opened it to find three men standing before her. From their rich clothing and fine features, Baboushka guessed that they were men of learning who had traveled from far away in the East. They were shivering in the cold, and little slivers of ice hung from their beards. In their arms they each carried packages, and these were dusted with snow.May we who have been drawn to the manger, not miss our chance, not worry about the journey or what we need to get settled or what gift we have to offer, but come and place our self before the Christ Child tonight. And what should we give? Let that old hymn tell us:
"Oh my," Baboushka said, "you must be freezing out there. Please come in and warm yourselves by my fire."
The three wise men bowed in thanks and followed the woman into her cottage. "Forgive us," one of the men said, "but we have been walking for a long, long time. Tonight our journey ends, for we are going to the place where the King of Kings will be born this very night. We are bringing Him gifts, and we wish only to stop for a while to warm ourselves."
"Of course," Baboushka said, "but you must eat something. I have prepared a nice hot soup. Please join me." She set a table for the four of them, filling bowls with steaming soup, placing crusty bread in the center.
They sat down at the table to eat, and the men told Baboushka of the joyous birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, about to occur. "We are waiting for the brightest star to rise," they said, "for we will follow its path. The star will guide us to the place where the King of Kings is to be born this very night."
"How I wish I could join you and bring a gift myself," Baboushka sighed. "Come with us, then," the men said heartily. "The King of Kings will welcome you, but we must be on our way soon. Will you come?"
Baboushka looked around and frowned. "I cannot leave just now," she said. "I must clean the house and prepare myself, but I will come as soon as I am ready." With that she bade the men farewell and watched from the cottage door as they set off, following the starlight's path. She waved until she could no longer see them.
Inside, Baboushka washed the dishes, swept the floor, dusted and tidied the cottage. She bathed and dressed in her finest clothes, and then, looking around, she began to gather gifts to take to the newborn king. Baboushka was a poor, hardworking woman who owned little, but she managed to gather several small toys, some sweets and tiny candles to take with her.
She walked to the door, tightly wrapped her coat and scarf around her to keep out the cold, and set off. Baboushka looked up at the sky, searching for the star that would lead her to the birthplace of the King of Kings. "Oh my," she said, for no matter where she looked, she could not find the star. She had washed and scrubbed and readied herself for a long time, and as she worked, the stars had moved across the sky.
Baboushka tried one road. She walked for a while, but eventually she realized she must have taken the wrong turn. She tried a different road, and then another, and another, always searching the sky for the star the wise men had followed.
People say Baboushka never did find the right road, and that she is wandering still. And every year, at Christmastime, the children run downstairs to search for the gifts Baboushka has left for them as she travels the world, searching for the King of Kings. In every house where a small child lives, the people say, Baboushka leaves a gift in honor of each and every child and Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was born on Christmas Day.
What can I give Him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part; Yet what I can I give Him: I give my heart. Amen.