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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve, 2011

Merry Christmas, Whoever You Are

2011-12-24 Christmas Eve Sermon
James McTyre
Lake Hills Presbyterian Church (USA)

Merry Christmas. Whoever you are.

If you're one of those people who come to church every time the doors open, Merry Christmas.

If you've memorized large portions of the Bible, Merry Christmas. 

Or maybe you're not that into church, but you're in town and you don't want your mom mad at you on Christmas Eve.
Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas if you're watching online and it's just you and the computer and your mouse at home tonight.

Merry Christmas if you're getting older and it's really close to bedtime.

Merry Christmas if you're young and they're telling you to be quiet and sit still

on the one night of the year when it's physically impossible to be quiet and sit still,
and you're thinking of Santa and new toys,
and the last place on earth you want to be is at church listening to the preacher go on about Jesus.

Oh, I know. 

Back when the earth was young and I was a boy, I felt the same way, too. 

Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas, whoever you are.

And it works, whoever you are. 

Because I this is the one night of the year when the things that make us different don't really matter.

You might be wild about Christmas, crazy about God and have that joy, joy, joy, joy down in your heart.

Or you might feel kind of indifferent.

You might be mad at God, or disappointed by God, or not even all that familiar with God.

You know what?

That's OK.

Because whoever you are, or wherever you are, or however you are, on this night, tonight, this night of nights, God comes to you.

That's what Christmas is all about.

God comes to us.

Whoever we are.


If you were God -
and maybe you think you are -
you've got to model yourself after someone...

If you were God, Creator of the earth, and the sun, and the galaxies full of stars and everything there is...

If you were God and you wanted to come to earth in the fullness of your glory, to reveal to human beings who you really, truly are,

in your wildest imagination, do you think you possibly would ever choose to come as...

a baby?

That's why you're not God.

We'd probably choose something with loud music and a light show, more like halftime at the Super Bowl.

So right away, we learn something about God and about ourselves.

I don't think it's that God's trying to be ironic.

We've just convinced ourselves that God's always going to do things our way, when in truth, God is trying to invite us to see in a different way.

God's way. 

Instead of commanding our devotion, God invites our attention the way a newborn baby does, just by being itself.

God chooses to draw close to us in the rawest, truest, simplest form we can possibly understand.

God chooses to come close to us as a newborn child.

Totally defenseless.

Totally dependent.

Totally agenda-less.

Totally guilt-less.
God comes to us, where we are, whoever we are, and God chooses to do it as a baby.

Now, some of you know firsthand how babies are.
You're really, really grateful we have a nursery.
The idea of God coming as a baby makes you tired.

Maybe you're not into babies, because you're they're kind of scary, and you're going to drop them, or they're going to drop something on you.
The idea of God coming as a baby makes you nervous.

I'd tell you to think of God in a different way, but the Christmas story just doesn't work with puppies or kittens.

I used to be scared of babies, too.

And then we had kids and real fast you realize you're too tired to be scared.

You just do.
You just care.
You just take care.

Because... you love them.
Because they need you to.

In the Bible, especially in the Old Testament, there are lots of times when God's just at wits' end over the infant people Israel.

There are times when God, or God's messengers, like Moses, literally ask, "What am I going to do with these people?"

So when the time is right for God to really, truly teach us about how our relationship to God really, truly works, we're sent an infant.

"Oh, so, God...
"Oh, so, that's how you've been feeling, God? All these years?

"All the time when we were sure we were doing things your way because that's what seemed the best way to us?
"All those times when we were fussy, or rude to you, or forgetful about you?


"You mean we kind of wear you out, God?
"You mean we get on your nerves?

"You mean we're exhausting, but that you keep on loving us because that's just what you do?"

"Oh. Sorry, God. I guess we just didn't think it was that... personal."

God coming as a baby shows us a lot about God.
It shows us God is personal.
God is loving.
God is caring, for all the whomevers.


There are a lot of whoevers in Christmas.

And God comes to them however.

In the Bible, God comes in human form to Mary, who is expecting a baby.

Those of you who have experienced the peaceful bliss of pregnancy know how serene and composed that time is.

Especially the last few weeks, days, and hours.

Especially if you're riding cross-country, on a donkey.

In the Bible, God comes in human form to Joseph.
A carpenter.
A man who's really not trained in religious matters.
God came to him in a dream and explained the plan.
By Christmas night, that dream must have seemed an awfully long time ago.
I'm guessing by the time they made it to Bethlehem, Joseph was too tired to be scared.

In the Bible, God comes in human form to shepherds.
Men working the night shift.
Bored and staring at the sky.
They saw a star.
And then they saw angels.
And then they ran as fast as they could to see the sign of hope that God sent to them.

In the Bible, God comes in human form to three kings.
Three wise men.
Three magi.
Whatever you learned they were in Sunday School.
They were sent as part of a mad dictator's plot against his own people.
They brought gifts.
And they learned just enough about how God is to go home by a different way.

Craftsmen, laborers, academics, a stay-at-home mom, who would probably have rather stayed at home.

God came to all of them on Christmas night.

Some of them dreamed about God, pondered God in their hearts.

Some of them were just doing what they were ordered to do by the government, like it or not.

Some of them were bored, working on a night when everybody else was home.

God came to all of them on Christmas night.

Whoever they were, however they were found, God drew near to them.

God came to them in a way they weren't expecting, not because God was trying to be tricky, but because God is God, and they weren't.

God wanted to be known, and understood.

God wanted the relationship to be understood.

So God chose a way they could understand, whoever they were.


Somewhere between perfect belief and perfect unbelief, is your belief.

Somewhere between sinner and saint, are you.

I guess it's just human nature to compare ourselves to the people around us.

Maybe you're seeing some people tonight you haven't seen in a while and you're thinking,

"I'll never be as good as he is,"

or, "At least I'm not that messed up."

If I could get you to do one thing tonight, if I could give you one gift tonight, it would be for you to put all that comparison stuff on "Pause."

Maybe even on "Stop."

Because I think what God was trying to say two-thousand and twelve years ago, and what I think God's trying to say on this Christmas Eve is that He'll find you.

God will come to you, God will draw near to you, whoever you are, wherever you are, however you are.

God is personal.
God is loving.
And you need God's love.

The way an infant needs a parent.

The way a parent needs and loves back. 


We spend so much time trying to justify ourselves.

We spend so many days of the year trying to analyze and rationalize and explain who we are and why our way is the right way.

Maybe God listens to all that stuff, all that stuff going on in our minds and coming out of our mouths.

But I really have to believe that in the end, it just doesn't matter.

Because God comes to us,
Christmas comes to us,
salvation comes to us,
whoever we are. 
God comes in a way we can understand.

So, whatever it means to you, however you need to hear it:

Merry Christmas.

Whoever you are.

Please pray with me:
Loving, Creator God,
we praise you for the stars of night, for the star that leads us toward you.
But even if we're afraid to get too close, thank you for drawing close to us.
Whoever we are, however we are, we thank you for coming to earth in a form we can understand,
and in a way that teaches us how our relationship is supposed to be.
In Jesus' name.


James McTyre
@jamesmctyre3 (tw)
865.268.9628 (gv)