Park Hill Congregational UCC
Rev. Dr. David Bahr
“To Show Us the Way”
Christmas Eve 2020
What is Christmas about? We heard Matthias, Aidan, and Kian read the story of Jesus’ birth from the Gospel of Luke. We know the Gospel of Matthew tells a slightly different story, one that includes three wise people who followed a star in the East, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Mark’s Gospel says nothing. And John says nothing except, “And the Word became flesh and lived among us.” That’s the story I want to fill in. Why did God do that? Why did God become flesh, human, to live among us? Listen to this story:
One Christmas Eve, Samantha looked out her window at the snow swirling down and listened to the frosty wind whistle through the cracks in the window frame.
She was home alone. Her family was at church for the Christmas Eve service, but as usual, Sam chose not to go. For many reasons and no reason in particular, church just wasn’t her thing.
Suddenly, she realized, "The barn! Oh, my goodness, I forgot all about the animals! What in the world’s wrong with me?" She quickly put on her boots and coat and opened the back door to a blast of frigid air. She carefully walked down the icy steps and across the yard. With a big pull on the wooden barn door, it creaked open and Sam walked inside.
It was almost as cold inside as out. Her breath hung in white clouds in front of her. She struck a match and began lighting the heaters and stood around one of them, rubbing her hands together. The animals welcomed the warmth and light too. Sam fed them and soon they were warm and full.
When Sam walked back outside, snowflakes danced around her head and she remembered when she was a girl running around in the snow trying to catch them on her tongue. She had the idea to try it again, except that Mrs. Crowder, their neighbor, would probably see her out the window and have some juicy news to share the next day.
It was so cold, the snow crunched under her feet. She looked up and noticed some sparrows perched on the bare limbs of a pear tree. The bitter wind ruffled their feathers. They seemed almost frozen to the limb. Some of them had fallen to the ground and were flopping around.
"Poor little sparrows," she said out loud. Sam knew that without shelter, they might soon freeze to death, so she tried, again and again, to shoo them toward the barn, but as she moved toward them, they flopped away. They were afraid of this giant creature. They didn’t understand she was only trying to help.
Frustrated, she thought, "If only I could become a sparrow, I could help them. They could follow me and wouldn’t be afraid."
At that moment in the distance, Sam heard the bells ring from the church steeple. She stood up to listen. It was midnight. Christmas. When she looked back down, she had an idea.
She got a sack of seed from the barn and threw some onto the snow. Slowly, one sparrow after another moved toward the seed and began to eat. Sam made a path of seed that led them right into the barn. She closed the big wooden door and looked through a crack. The birds were frightened and confused at first, but soon they soared to the barn rafters and perched there, safe and warm. And Samantha smiled.
One of the ways Sam thought she could help the sparrows was by becoming one of them. In a very simple way, that’s the idea of Christmas. The angels kept saying, to Mary, to the shepherds, to everyone: “Do not fear.” God is becoming one of us to save us and show us a better way of life – a life of service and generosity and kindness and sacrificial love. Just as the gospels explain the life of Jesus.
“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” to show us the way of justice and compassion. Not merely for ourselves, for that wouldn’t be very Christ-like, but with families at the border, with the mass incarcerated and wrongly imprisoned, with those on death row and in Covid wards tonight alone. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us for them. And for us. To show us compassion, for us to be compassion. That’s why God did it.
And that is what will bring us all a Merry Christmas.
 Sam & the Sparrows by Bass Mitchell, adapted
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