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You Better Watch Out

Luke 2: 1 – 20

Delivered by Rev. Ron Coughlin at Christmas Carol Service                                                                                                                    

Saturday, December 11, 2010  7:30 p.m.

Don’t you love all the special music which we hear at Christmas time?  But you know, as a child, there was one song I hated.  You probably know what that song is called.  The song I hated was Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.  You know how it goes.

O, you better watch out, you better not cry

You better not pout, I’m telling you why,

Santa Claus is coming to town.

He knows when you are sleeping

He knows when you’re awake,

He knows if you’ve been bad or good

So be good for goodness sake.

He’s making a list and checking it twice

Gonna find out who’s naughty or nice.

Santa Claus is coming to town.

Let me tell you something – when I was a young boy, I hated that song.  I could have done without it.  For me this song was not good news.  I may have been young, but I was not dumb.  I knew myself well enough and some words in that song struck terror in my heart.

He knows when you are sleeping

He knows when you’re awake,

He knows if you’ve been bad or good…

He knows. He knows.  That seemingly innocent child’s song transformed the jolly old elf of The Night Before Christmas into a red-eyed name-taker.

He’s making a list and checking it twice

Gonna find out who’s naughty or nice.

Checking it twice!  I could not survive even once.  I could not fake it for the whole month of December, let alone all year.  I knew what list I was on.  And if that song were the truth, I had no hope.

You see, the song was saying that you have to earn Santa’s love and Santa’s gifts by working harder and being better.  But you see, this is not the message of Christmas, nor is it the message of the Gospel.  God’s love is not dependent on being perfect.

The message of Christmas is that you do not have to earn God’s love.  God’s love is given freely.  You just need to accept it.  The message of Christmas is one of rejoicing.  Rejoice that God sent Jesus to be for us a light in the darkness of our world.

You see, the Christmas Story is a story of the unexpected happening.  It has become so familiar we don’t catch the note of surprise.  When it was first told it caught people off guard.  You see everywhere else in the bible when an angel comes to announce the birth of a child, the angel comes to an older person, usually a man to make the announcement.

When Isaac was born, Sarah and Abraham were 100 years old, and the angel told Abraham that he would have a son.  When John the Baptist was born, Zechariah and Elizabeth were very old and the angel told Zechariah that he would have a son.

But I think Luke has a mischievous grin on his face as he writes about the birth of Jesus, it begins with an angel visiting a woman.  Already the unexpected has happened.  Angels do not visit women.  Everybody knows that.  Remember all those earlier stories in the Bible.  The angel came to Abraham, not Sarah; to Zechariah, not Elizabeth.  But here the angel comes to Mary.  This story is going to be different.  You better watch out!

And that’s not all.  Mary is not old.  She is a young teen-ager, engaged, but not yet married.  Of course, the angel makes the same announcement he always makes.  He has done it so many times, he has it memorized.  “Do not be afraid, you have found favor with God.”

He waits for her response.  The response is always the same.  The angel has heard it before. “How can this be?”  Only this time here is the irony, the humour. Everyone else has said, “How can this be? I am too old.”  But Mary says, “How can this be?  I am too young. I have no husband.”  And the angel responds with his prepared reply, “Nothing is impossible with God.”

Don’t ever say that this is the wrong time or the wrong place, or the wrong person.  God loves it when the world sets things up that way and says, “Oh, it’s never going to happen; or it cannot happen here; or it has never been done before. It cannot happen.”  It’s then that God cannot resist pulling the rug out from under us.

You see, the great events of his world are not battles or elections or earthquakes – they are babies.  For each child comes with a message that God has not given up on humanity.  God is still expecting goodwill, justice and peace to come to life in each human life.

This can give you hope and ought to encourage you.  If you are praying for peace in this world, if you are working to bring about reconciliation, then Christmas can give you hope.  If you are working for justice in this world, then Christmas can give you hope.  If you are working for compassion for the hungry or the homeless, then Christmas can give you hope.

If you are struggling with your own problems, battling an illness, an addiction, a family feud, then Christmas can give you hope.  If you struggle with your own grief and loss of a loved one, or a job or your own abilities, then Christmas can give you hope.

You better watch out.  Nothing is impossible with God!

In light of this reflection let us listen to the closing song  – “The Work of Christmas Begins”

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