Key Verse: Isaiah 1:18
“Come now, let’s settle this,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow.
Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.
INTRO: what in the world does Frosty have to do with the real meaning of Christmas!?!
Google search of “frosty sermon” actually returned a couple of results; (telling me I’m not the ONLY one to have this idea!). The most disturbing from a “Rev. Jim Osbourne” who claims Frosty is the epitome of the secularization of the holiday, and that we should call our television stations and boycott the airing of Frosty; he ends by wishing that Frosty (and I quote) “melt in the fires of hell!” And the most humorous one from an (in my opinion, crazy liberal) Episcopal priest who painted Frosty as a “straw man” (or snow-being, to be pc) for the right-wing conservatives who want us to accept global warming!!
We all know the story; it’s been around in the animated form since 1968, and we’ve sung the song for longer than that (1950, to be exact)! But here is the beginning:
Frosty CLIP 1: “Happy Birthday!”
Frosty is a picture of Jesus:
A creation – fully snow, but with a soul (according to the song)
Jesus was fully God, but fully human
Frosty led the children to celebrate; Jesus called the little children to come unto him
Frosty was only with the children for a short time; Jesus spent just 3 years in ministry
Frosty was relentlessly pursued by the evil Professor Hinkle, who led to his demise; Jesus was pursued by the Pharisees and Saducees, who lied and trapped him, leading to his demise on the cross
Most importantly, Frosty sacrificed his own life for Karen, so that she could live. Jesus sacrificed his own life for all of humanity, so that we could live forever!
Frosty CLIP 2: the Sacrifice
Now, from our text today:
Jesus is no SECRET: Just like Frosty was not able to be kept a secret (after all, he marched through the middle of town!) Jesus is not meant to be kept a secret. The angels proclaimed to the shepherds that they are to go and tell; the wise men were to go and tell; and we, too are to go and tell! It’s no secret!
Jesus gave his life to:
- Free us from sin – all kinds
I find it interesting it notes “all kinds of sin.” This is the season of giving, but far too often we will not give this gift to Jesus: our secret sins, those things we don’t want anyone to know about, or try to shove to the back of the closet like that ugly sweater. But just like that ugly sweater, those sins keep working their way to the surface. Jesus came to free us from ALL our sins, not just the ones we want him to take!
- Cleanse us
- Isaiah 1: 18 “Come now, let’s settle this,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.”
- Make us His, committed to good deeds
- Ephesians 2: 8 – 10
There is a story I love, though it does not necessarily have a Christmas theme. It is about a little boy who meticulously built a toy boat, and when it was finished, he took it to the stream by his home, and launched it. It floats! But he had underestimated the current, and the boat started to get away from him. He ran faster, but the distance between he and the boat continued to grow. Before long, it was hopelessly out of reach, and the boy was distraught. Then, just a few days later, he saw his boat in a store window! He ran inside and told the store owner, “that’s my boat!” To which the store owner replied, “no, that’s my boat: I found it. If you want that boat, you have to pay for it. The little boy then resolved that the boat would again be his; he mowed lawns, did chores, and saved until he had raised enough to buy the boat. Walking out of the store, he cherished the little boat in his arms, and said, “Oh little boat, you are now TWICE mine; I made you once, and I bought you once.”
Jesus gave himself so that we would be TWICE His: He made us once, and He bought us once!
Frosty clip 3 – the resurrection
Frosty was resurrected by Santa, because he was not made out of any old snow; he was made with Christmas snow! Jesus was resurrected by God because he was the firstborn in all of creation, and is now the firstborn from the dead!
I love what Santa says to Frosty right before he puts his hat on: “Come on, Frosty, we’re all waiting for you!” It is in this season of Advent that we say, “Come on, JESUS; we’re all waiting for you!” And if you have this hope in your heart, if you have this desire for Christ to come and reign, you will say it with me, “Come on, Jesus! We’re all waiting for you!”
And Frosty and Jesus both promise they will come again some day!
Key Verse: Matthew 11:5
“…the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.”
INTRO: Clip from Rudolph “we’re a couple of misfits” ch 12 (from the original; it was replaced later by the song “Fame and Fortune” – now I’m showing my geeky misfit side!)
Today, we are going to talk about misfits. I absolutely LOVE Rudolph’s story! It just wouldn’t be Christmas without Rudolph and all the gang telling the story of the misfits!
And here’s more of their story:
Rudolph clip “island of misfit toys” ch 17 (Beginning: “where are we?” end: “hey, we’re all misfits too!”)
My room-mate in college (yes, THE Ohio State University!) Jeff and I would walk around quoting the lines, “I want to be a dentist.” And “Nobody wants a Charlie in the box!” We would say these things to be funny, but also to express a “misfit moment;” when we felt out-of-place in this world.
But what I’ve come to learn, and love, in Rudolph’s story is this:
God has a special place in his heart for MISFITS.
God has always had it in his heart to take care of those who can’t take care of themselves: the widowed, the orphan, the “alien in our midst.” What the world throws out, God throws in!
Deut. 10.18-19 He ensures that orphans and widows receive justice. He shows love to the foreigners living among you and gives them food and clothing. 19 So you, too, must show love to foreigners, for you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt.
And from our text in Matthew today, Jesus did not come just for the prosperous, the powerful, or the persuasive. Jesus came for the blind, lame, the diseased, dead, and poor! If you are one of them, rejoice! If you are NOT one of them, GET CLOSE to one of them; Serve them; love them!
Just look at through the Bible some time and see the misfits that God loved: he used Abraham and Sarah, a childless couple, to make a great nation; He used Moses, an Israelite with a speech impediment raised in a palace (and a murderer, let’s not forget) to lead a group of slaves to freedom; He used a small boy to take down a mighty giant! And…
God called the MISFITS to bring forth the Messiah.
Mary was not much, really; sure, we see these beatified images of the Virgin Mother as this beautiful creature, radiant, even; but by all historical accounts, she was a teenage unwed mother! Talk about your misfits! And her fiancé, Joseph, was just a carpenter: not a teacher of the Law, not anyone with any wealth or import in the least. They did have one thing going for them: they were distant descendants of King David, but that sure didn’t pay the bills! In fact, on the night of the Messiah’s birth, they were sleeping in a cave with farm animals!
And yet, God used these misfits to bring forth the Savior of the World!
But God didn’t stop there;
God called the MISFITS to send out the Good News.
Who were the first at the stable that night? Was it the powerful, the prosperous, the persuasive? NO! It was a bunch of smelly shepherds! And then, according to the book of Luke, 8 days later, the prophet Simeon, who was so old, that he died soon after seeing the Savior. And then Anna, a prophetess (read: a WOMAN!) who was 84 years old, and had been widowed for much of her life.
And then, picture who Jesus called to walk beside him for three years: not the well-educated and authoritative; he called FISHERMEN; he called TAX COLLECTORS; he called the commonplace and even the corrupt to be the ones to deliver the Good News to the world. Imagine that! A bunch of misfits to be sure!
And here’s the thing:
God still calls MISFITS today.
1 Corinthians 1:26-28 Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy[g] when God called you. 27 Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. 28 God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important.
…And we’re all MISFITS too!
You know, a few years ago, there was a tipping point: the time came where less than 50% of the world’s population called themselves “Christian.” That means that a majority of the world – the non-Christian world – became what is “normal.” And, it means that the Christian world then became AB-normal; We are a bunch of misfits! If you call yourself a Christian, we are the misfits! And we live on the island of misfit toys; this world is the place where we await the glorious coming – not of Rudolph and Santa – but of Jesus, to take us to the home which was purposed for us from the beginning!
And the things we fear– the rich, the powerful, the persuasive – are revealed as the toothless Bumbles they are, we can have courage to face the future unafraid! We can fly through the thickest storm knowing that God is with us!
The image that a lot of people have of God is this serious powerful being who is not only out of touch with their reality, but who is also out of their reach. And where do they get that perception of God? Well, they look at God’s followers! For too long, the church has acted like WE are the powerful, the persuasive, the prosperous; that WE are right, and YOU are wrong. That WE have the answers and YOU don’t. What we have missed, is that WE’RE ALL MISFITS! We’ve only got power because it’s Jesus’ power; we’ve only got influence because Jesus has influence; we’ve only got prosperity because it’s BORROWED WEALTH from – you guessed it – JESUS!
I am thankful that this church is a place where visitors and guests are pleasantly surprised to discover how easy it is for them to feel like they “fit in.” This is a church where people don’t think they are better than other people, and I have a hunch it’s because we know that we are all a bunch of misfits! But not for long…
Last clip: ch. 26 – he went down in history!!
And one day, hopefully one day soon, we will see that light rise from the East, as Jesus comes to take these misfits to the place He has prepared for them! Amen!
This week we focus on another one of the classic symbols of Christmas: the Christmas tree. And I can’t think of a Christmas tree without thinking of one of my favorite Christmas movies:
[clip of Christmas Vacation – Griswold family tree]
Reminds me of some of my family’s treks to the woods (actually the tree farm) to bring home that first great symbol of the holiday. (my baby brother – whose birthday is today – later went to work at that tree farm; I used to say his job was to cut the hole in one side so people knew which side went toward the wall; he didn’t like that too much J )
I was asked this week why we call this a Chrismon tree, not a Christmas tree. It comes from the Latin phrase “Christi Monogramma”, or Monogram of Christ. Each symbol on it represents Christ, his work, and his ministry. But the Chrismon tree, believe it or not, has only been around for about 40 years or so. So where did the Christmas tree come from?
The evergreen tree first became associated with Christianity back in the eighth century, when a St. Boniface, working as a missionary in present-day Sweden and Norway, came upon a pagan ritual of sacrificing a human to Thor, the thunder God. They believed the presence of Thor was in a large oak tree and were preparing the sacrifice underneath the tree.
Boniface apparently was a large man with a commanding presence, and just as the sacrifice was to take place he stormed into the gathering and ordered the ceremony stopped. As the group stood in fear of the large stranger he challenged their god and chopped the oak tree down! As the tree fell to the ground, legend says it revealed a young fir tree growing between the broken branches of the fallen oak.. The people were awed by the presence of the young tree inside the old one and before they could claim the miracle for Thor, Boniface claimed it for Christ.
He said to them, “This little tree, a young child of the forest, shall be your holy tree tonight. It is the wood of peace, for your houses are built of fir. It is the sign of endless life, for its leaves are ever green. See how it points straight to heaven. Let this be called the tree of the Christ Child; gather about it, not in the wild woods but in your homes. There it will shelter no deeds of blood, but loving gifts and rites of kindness.”
I don’t know how much of that legend is based in fact. But I do know that the attitude of Boniface in the story represents the true attitude of faith. Faith is not learning which symbols are sacred and truly represent God. Faith is looking at everything in a new way and seeing God everywhere you look. Faith is looking at your dining room table and seeing an altar spread with the love of God. Faith is looking at a dirty, smelly drunk and seeing in him the possibilities for beauty and restoration. Faith is receiving a hug from a friend and feeling the arms of God. Faith is not seeing different things…faith is seeing things differently.
Picture Christmas without a tree. What is the first thing to go up in the stores? The TREES! The first thing in our homes? The TREE!
A tree has always been a part of Christmas
- Isaiah mentioned it in our Advent reading today, “Out of the stump of David’s family[a] will grow a shoot—yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root.” (Isaiah 11:1)
- Isaiah meant that out of David’s family tree (sometimes called Jesse’s lineage (Jesse was the father of King David) – like in the last verse of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” and “Lo, How A Rose E’er Blooming”
Isaiah used a play on words, a nazer, to picture Christ.
- “nazer” in Hebrew means “branch”. Isaiah was foretelling the origin of Christ’s family (Nazareth) in saying “a branch shall spring forth from the root of Jesse’s tree”. Not only do we know that the Messiah will come from Jesse’s lineage (from which King David was a descendant) but thanks to his play on words, we can know that Nazareth will be where the Messiah will live.
- Which makes all the more telling the story from John 1:46, in which Nathanael exclaims, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from Nazareth?”
So why this interest in Jesus’ lineage, his upbringing?
Jesus’ lineage is an important part of the story.
- Jesus’ family tree is so important it is listed twice in the Gospels: once in Matthew 1: 1 – 17, and again in Luke 3.
- It is important to the story of Christ to know that he came from a direct, pure Jewish descent (Jesus was never a Christian?!?). But more importantly, for hundreds of years, even thousands, people had been looking for a Messiah, a leader, to come and rescue Abraham’s sons and daughters. Prophets foretold in several places that the true Messiah would come from pure Abrahamic lines; more specifically from Jesse’s line, “Jesse’s stump”, and the city of David, Bethlehem, was also mentioned, in Micah 5:2: But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,are only a small village among all the people of Judah.Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you,one whose origins are from the distant past.
- And so when we read the Gospel passage for today (Matthew 3:10), we see a tree is also mentioned: that “Even now the ax of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever the roots of the trees. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire.”
- What John the Baptist meant was that those who say they are saved because they are part of the lineage of Abraham, part of Jesus’ family tree, are in danger of being, well, chopped away. What matters for us is not our family line, but whether or not we BEAR FRUIT.
We, too, are to be like trees: to bear fruit.
I can’t talk about Christmas trees without bringing in another Christmas movie; it is, of course, Charlie Brown Christmas. We know the story; Charlie Brown picked a scrawny little needle-shedding tree, and it (and he) was rejected by the Peanuts. But that’s not the end of the story; let’s watch how it ends:
[Charlie Brown Christmas]
Just like they never gave up on the tree, Jesus never gives up on us. But in order for the tree to fulfill its purpose, it takes a little love. It takes the gifts of ALL of the community of faith, working together, to make something beautiful. And if you care to see it, it takes the death of the tree (Charlie Brown: “I killed it.”) to bring about resurrection.
So bear fruit worthy of repentance; you are part of a spiritual tree that goes back a long, long way. You have received the love of Christ, and the love of the community. You have been resurrected to bring glory to God and to bear fruit for the Kingdom.
So this Advent season, as you see a Christmas tree, know that it represents Christ: Christ in our homes, Christ in our workplaces, Christ in our schools, Christ even in our shopping malls. And may our connection to the holy branches of faith’s family tree also allow us to see Christ in our hearts, as we bear fruit worthy of repentance, and glorifying to God. Amen.