My sermon/meditation for the 5 pm Christmas Eve service. I had the children come forward which didn’t help the zoo-like quality of the night!
Well hello and welcome! It looks like we have a good group of recruits here! My name is Celeste, and I’m in charge of the STAR Academy! You all are here for orientation right? Well, you might be wondering how I got this job – I’m the star that was put above a special little place over 2000 years ago. Do you know the story? No? Well, let me tell you about it!
A long time ago, before you or I were ever around, God knew that he loved each and everyone of us soooo much and wanted to be with us. So, God dreamt up wonderful plans to make that happen in the future: God was going to send his Son into the world. Now, the time finally came, and it was only a little before the big day, that 1st Christmas Eve, he came to me and said, “My dear Celeste, I have a special assignment for you. I want you to be the star that shines above the place where my Jesus will be born in the world.” I was so excited but flabbergasted…he wanted me??? I was a young, small star back then, and I didn’t shine very brightly. You could hardly see me in the sky even on a clear night. But, I couldn’t say “no” to God, so I happily set out to follow Joseph and Mary, who was full and pregnant with Jesus at that moment.
It was late at night when I caught up to them. They were still on the road to Bethlehem. Right away, I could see the tired look on Joseph’s face as he looked up at the city lights in the distance, but he had this determined and patient look. Mary was on a donkey, slumped forward, asleep. I was worried about whether or not they would find a place to rest. Finally, they got to the outskirts and began knocking on every door. “Please, we need somewhere to stay tonight, my wife is pregnant, and we are so tired,” begged Joseph over and over. But, door after door was slammed in their faces with grumblings of “No Vacancy.” Finally, though, to my relief, a very old and poor woman opened her door a little more than the others, letting a warm light spill out. She looked tired, too, but also like she felt sorry for them, so she said, “I don’t have any room here, but there is the stable, it’s warm and dry, and quiet. You’re welcome to it.”
Joseph cleared out some space, and Mary finally lay down with a sigh of relief. And, I got to pause for a bit right over that little barn.
For awhile, it was so quiet. Everywhere. No breeze, no clouds, it seemed like the whole universe had paused to catch its breath. Suddenly, I heard Mary wail out loud. It was quiet again. And then, there was the sound of a baby…crying, and Joseph and Mary were laughing…It sounded like they were happy. When I peeked in to make sure everything was ok, I saw him, the little baby. I remembered what God had told me about this special assignment, and how it seemed so crazy at the time, that God would send his Son, Jesus, into the world to be with us, but I realized how crazy God is about us. And BAM! My heart swelled with hope, peace, joy, and love, and suddenly I was shining so brightly in the sky! I was the biggest, brightest star you ever saw in your life almost brighter than moon. I couldn’t help it! I was so happy to be a little part of what happened in that moment; it burst out of me like wildfire!
But, that isn’t all that happened in that moment. When I heard the little baby Jesus cry out loud, suddenly to the left of me over some hills where there were some sheep, not too far away, there were thousands of angels filling the sky. They were singing so beautifully, with all these wonderful harmonies, and they were bright, too, bright like the sun; I even had to close my eyes for a second! It was the most glorious music I had ever heard from the angels, I know they can sing, but this night, there was something special, and you could feel it in the air, and in your bones, too. I was mesmerized by the sight! As quickly as they showed up, though they were gone, and I looked down and saw some shepherds flat on their backs jump up and run towards me, and the little barn. When they got there, they fell on their knees and worshipped the baby Jesus, who was sleeping by now. Mary and Joseph were shocked to see them, but when they saw the shepherds praying, they said a prayer of thanks, too. I said a little one myself.
As I continued to shine that night…and later for the Three Wise Men, but that’s another story for another time…in the years that followed I kept a close eye on that baby. As he grew up (just like you boys and girls are growing up) I was able to see how much he cared for and loved everybody—no matter what they looked like, how much money they had in their bank accounts, what their grades were in school, or even their jobs. He loved everyone! When he was a little older he began teaching everyone about God – how having God in your life changes everything, and that we get to be a part of something so much bigger and more beautiful than we could ever dream up. And then, he later did something else miraculous, it has to do with that cross up there, but again that’s another story, too, for another time…
This is the time we celebrate the day he was born in the world…We hear the story, and even though it’s kind of funny that we listen to the same story every year – I think I need it…I need to hear the story and feel the miracle of it, especially when there is so much darkness…There are nights even I’d rather just crawl back into bed and not step out into the sky at all. But I remember what made me shine so bright that night so long ago, and I always feel myself shining a little more on this night every year…I hope you will join me in letting your light shine…the light that was put in each of us by God, who gave us a light brighter than all the stars in the universe…shine with all the hope, peace, joy, and love possible.
Well, that’s the end of orientation, but we have training sessions every Sunday morning at 10 am. I hope you will keep with the program!