Monday, January 10, 2011

Christmas 1 Sermon: Born to Run

Matthew 2: 1-11
Matthew 2: 13-23

IF you’ve ever been to the parsonage, you have probably had a difficult time leaving.

Though I’d like to say this is because our hospitality is so charming, but the truth is that you probably have a hard time leaving because we have these confounded plastic things on the doorknob that make it difficult to open the door. You have to squeeze this plastic sleeve that fits over the doorknob at these pressure points, and they grip the actual doorknob.

It’s one of the ways that we’ve “babyproofed” our house. One of the many ways! When I was about Julianna’s age, I sleepwalked right out the front door of our parsonage in Pea Ridge, AR. I scared my parents half to death, and was headed right for the highway (which, granted, was not very busy in that tiny old Civil War battle sight in the Ozarks.

The story of that experience frightens me now that I am a parent, and I can imagine the fear and dread that my parents must’ve felt on that evening when they startled awake in the night to hear the front door opening and closing.

Perhaps our Holy Father knew a similar sense of parental fear and dread when He sent his only son into the world to bring true light and salvation into it in a new and radical way.

The story of the angel’s repeated warnings to the magi and to Joseph are sort of Divine babyproofing, except while I’m concerned about front doors and cabinet doors, Our Divine Father was worried about scheming kings.

The story is itself a foil to those who say that Jesus was “born to die.” (Which is a phrase I think is quite shallow and simplistic, and reduces the life of our savior to the act of sacrifice we believe is so important to our salvation.) Jesus life has something to do with our salvation too, you know—and the things that this Rabbi, born in a manger, has to say to the world are as integral to our salvation as the fact that he was crucified.

After all, if Jesus was “born to die,” then why would God go through all the trouble of sending warnings to Joseph to escape the murderous psychopath who ended up killing all of Jesus’ peers in Bethlehem. If his life really only had some metaphysical effect on the universe, then why not just let the thing play out and let his death occur not long after it had started? God could use his angels instead to instruct the right people as to what had happened, and then set the wheels in motion for the saving grace that was to come about by the murder of an innocent baby who happened to be “Emmanuel: God with us.”

So, please don’t use that phrase, “born to die.” As the carol we just sang goes: “Jesus Christ was born for this!” There are other things mentioned there, “He has opened Heaven’s door, and we are blessed for ever more,” “Now ye need not fear the grave. Peace, Peace, Jesus Christ was born to save. Calls you one and calls you all to gain his everlasting hall,”

You could say from the texts today that Jesus was “Born to Run” as the old Bruce Springsteen song goes. He is born on the run, and he has many obstacles to overcome just by being alive.
And as Joseph will find out, in the words of the Boss, “The highway’s jammed with broken heroes on a last chance power drive.”

Jesus is the one person in the history of the world who was NOT born to die. He was instead born to LIVE and to offer LIFE to us all! I don’t know what kind of sentimentality is intended with that phrase, Jesus Christ was “born to die,” but it isn’t true—this story today proves it.

Was Christ’s ultimate death part of God’s plan to bring us all on his back to redemption? Jesus knew it to be, so I don’t doubt it—but it wasn’t “THE PLAN” it was part of the plan. It was the comma before the exclamation point of the empty tomb.

And, if we only paid attention to punctuation marks, we would miss the content of the sentence! The message conveyed to us in the meantime, between this beautiful story of a birth in desperate circumstances, to the surprising tribute of three strange foreigners, to the life that was preserved by God’s angels so that he could instruct us in the Way, the Truth, and the Life—that’s the content of the sentence. It’s not just a story about salvation—it is a story that is salvation. It’s a story that can be lived out by you and by me.

It’s not a story that ends in death—it’s a story that ends in true life.

No comments:

Post a Comment