Park Hill Congregational UCC
Rev. Dr. David Bahr
December 24, 2019 - Christmas Eve
Luke 6: 17-31 – New Revised Standard Version
(Note: order of verses altered in the form of a litany)
17 Jesus came down with a great multitude of people and stood on a level place. 20 Then he looked up them and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God
24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation
21 “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled.
25 “Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry.
“Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
“Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep.
22 “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man.
23 Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.
26 “Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.
27 “But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who hurt you.
29 If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt.
30 Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again.
31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
I invited some friends to join us here tonight. Do you know who they are? There’s:
You know the song:
When all the other reindeer, used to laugh and call him names,
They never let poor Rudolph, join in any reindeer games.
All of my friends have been the object of ridicule. Laughed at.
I knew Hermy’s struggles because I was the boy who liked to play music instead of play football. I could relate when Hermy and Rudolph sang together:
We’re not daffy and dilly.
Seems to us kinda silly that we don’t fit in.
We’re a couple of misfits.
What’s the matter with misfits?
That’s where we fit in.
Have you ever felt like a misfit? Excluded. But haven’t we all felt like we’re unwanted in some way? Bullies are good at finding that one thing about which we have some insecurity and making it a big deal – through taunts and tweets. They shine a light on what makes us different and try to make us feel bad about ourselves.
But Jesus had something to say about people who do that:
Jesus has some pretty strong words in the Gospel of Luke:
An upside-down world turned right-side up. Jesus called that the Kingdom of God. A world where misfits rule! His birth rejoices in misfit-ness. Because did you know, the characters at the manger were misfits too?
Let’s look: Jesus was born among cows and donkeys and sheep because his family was excluded from the inn.
Who else? Shepherds. Shepherds were a very smelly, rowdy bunch, not usually welcome in polite society. And yet, the angels told good news to the shepherds, not the supposedly important people. One example of those blessings and woes. Upside-down to right-side up.
Who else was at the manger? Joseph the dreamer. Joseph, not only believed in dreams, he followed them. Even if it could bring him ridicule. Misfits are often very, very brave. What would his friends have said behind his back? Joseph could have easily dismissed Mary when he discovered that she was pregnant, but instead he took responsibility for a child not his own.
But then, of course, there is Mary. The bravest of them all. She was open and willing to do anything God asked, even though God had an absolutely ridiculous and terrifying idea for her. Yet, Mary actually believed that she had a part to play to change the world. From upside-down to right-side up, so that the poor and hungry and those who are sad now will one day laugh and be full.
There’s one more character that doesn’t show up in the manger, but who is a very important part of the story. In those days there was a very paranoid king named Herod – a frightened little man who took pleasure in cruelty. He was so afraid that someone might plot against him that, after Jesus was born, he ordered the death of all the boys under the age of two in and around Bethlehem. This bully forced Mary, Joseph and the baby to flee to Egypt, to live for several years as refugees. Thank God the Egyptians let this family cross the border. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have Christmas!
And how did King Herod learn about Mary’s child? The last of our friends at the manger. Zoroastrian astrologers, maybe three. These were people who literally walked around with their heads in the stars, but these misfits wise enough – misfits usually are very wise – not to spill any secrets to the paranoid king.
But, back to Mary. Again, Mary believed that she had a part to play to change the world and turn it from upside-down to right side-up, so that the poor and hungry and those who are sad now will one day laugh and be full. To me, that means Mary believed the Kingdom of God ultimately belongs to the misfits.
She believed in that day when:
But here’s my final thought: The misfit toys were not satisfied with knowing that someone loved them. They weren’t looking for an island to keep them safe from cruelty or a special place of honor. They didn’t need to be wanted as much as they wanted to fill a need.
I would like that for us too. But that means we have to embrace our misfit-ness, not fear it.
Your unique and perhaps unusual strengths can be a force for good to turn our upside-down world right side-up – a world where it’s no longer acceptable to be cruel to refugees and people who are hungry. Or anyone else.
In a world where misfits rule, people are open-minded, they include everybody, are fair to everybody, and everyone acts with kindness and caring.
You know that when our hands are turned upside down, we can use them to shoo people away. But when our hands up turned right-side up, we can offer love to one another. Would you do it with me?
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My three loves are being the Pastor of Park Hill UCC in Denver, Hiking in the Colorado Foothills and Mountains, and Travelling around the world