Christmas sermons reflect our times
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone went to their own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
Luke 2: 1-20, Holy Bible, New International Version
EAGLE COUNTY — The story of Christmas, the birth of the Christian Messiah, is constant. But the world changes as the story remains.
This is Christmas Day, but a handful of local ministers made time before the holiday to talk about the messages they were preparing for their congregations on Christmas Eve. In Vail and Beaver Creek, those are among the largest gatherings off the ski mountains. More than 5,000 people were expected at each of the interfaith chapels in Vail and Beaver Creek.
Those worshipers are spread between five different Christian denominations: Catholic, Episcopalian, Baptist, Lutheran and Presbyterian. With each of those congregations bringing in the faithful, it’s important to keep to a schedule.
The Rev. Tim Wilbanks, of Covenant Presbyterian Church, said his congregation’s service was scheduled from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.
“That means 6:30 (p.m.),” Wilbanks said. “The Baptists start at 7 (p.m.).”
Wilbanks’ message this year focused on the greatest gift Jesus provided, aside from the promise of eternal life for the faithful: humility.
“Humility is in short supply, and it’s a treasure people would welcome,” Wilbanks said.
“One of the misconceptions is that people think humility is a weakness,” he added. “But true humility comes from a place of great strength, so we can serve, and minister to others.”
Service to others was a cornerstone of the message the Rev. Brooks Keith was working on for the congregations at the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration, which worships at the interfaith chapels in Vail, Beaver Creek and Edwards.
Open your Hearts
Keith said given the year that 2016 has been, his sermon focused on the internal, rather than external lives of believers.
The foundation of that sermon was based on a mission trip Keith and others took to a part of Texas that been devastated by flooding. The team from Vail took on the challenge of repairing a home occupied by a young couple and their 6-year-old daughter. The home was in rough shape, with a broken front door and overgrowth starting to consume the house. The family was nearly bereft of hope.
In a letter to the mission team, the family wrote that “Angels fell out of the sky with tools in their hands … it gave us hope we could be a family again.”
The point, Keith said, is that “God can do amazing things with something that looks overgrown and dilapidated … There are some people’s lives that look and sound like that house … That babe in the manger can take all those weeds and overgrown bushes and chop them back. He can put a new door on that house in our hearts and open it.”
Ugly First Christmas
The faithful at Gracious Savior Lutheran Church in Edwards also heard a message of transformation.
The Rev. Jason Haynes decided to get into the topic by talking about the ugly Christmas sweater.
“The first Christmas was ugly,” Haynes said. “Mary and Joseph were broke, there were temporarily homeless and they were lying next to animal feces,” Haynes said.
The message of Jesus, it the transformation of the ugly to the divine.
The sweater analogy is the way “to share a savior who understands tough times,” Haynes said.
‘Walk without fear’
The gospels mention tough times, as well as fear. The Rev. Rob Wilson, of Eagle River Presbyterian Church, said one of the recurring themes in the gospels that surround the Christmas story is “be not afraid.”
Wilson is working on a series of sermons about “the Abundant Life.” That’s something “we cannot obtain if we’re obsessed with fear.”
That fear can be from the worries of day-to-day life. Focusing too much on that can prompt fear.
“We’re asking people to focus on the bigger story — what God has done for us in Christ,” Wilson said. If we focus on that, we can walk without fear.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, email@example.com and @scottnmiller.
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In Eagle County, the most commonly reported dead bird has been the Wilson’s warbler, which is yellow. Dead yellow-rumped warblers have also been a common sight.