Last Sunday evening we watched a bit of the movie The Preacher's Wife with Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston. I remember us liking that movie a lot when it came out in 1996 and we watched it numerous times as a family. We own a copy of the movie on VHS but haven't watched it in years. So when I came across it on TV, we watched for a while. But after about twenty minutes we turned it off because now the movie seems shallow to me, a little too cute; too sugary sweet.
I wonder if something like that is what happens to some who find themselves wandering back to church around Christmas time. Like our watching of that old movie, perhaps that person is reaching back to something mostly forgotten, hoping it would generate the same sense of wonder that it did before. But if they hear only a shallow retelling of shepherds and wise men, angels and stars, and an impossibly sanitized barn, maybe that's why they don't come back the rest of the year. Perhaps they conclude it has nothing to do with their real life. Perhaps they further conclude, it seems like God has abandoned me, that God has abandoned the world, and so I'm going to abandon God and his church.
I've heard my share of Christmas sermons and Christmas musicals, and I've led and preached my share. Some of them may have come off about as appetizing as warmed over turkey five days after Thanksgiving. No wonder sometimes people say, "I'm going to look for something else to eat."
If we isolate the barest details of the first Christmas night and retell them over and over, we fail to recognize that the Christmas story is couched in the grandest story of all. That's like watching a scene from a great movie over and over so that we eventually wrench it out of the larger story that makes the small story great in the first place. In the interest of working to tell a part of that bigger story, this Christmas I'm going to preach through part of the backstory of Christmas. It will help us see that far from a syrupy sweet story that ignores the gaping hurt in the world, the coming of Jesus was for the very purpose of offering hope in the midst of the world's greatest pain.
To do this we are going to trace the story of one of the shortest books of the Old Testament. The book tells the story of how a young outcast, despised by many ended up in Jesus' family tree. The story shows how God was working, long before stories of shepherds and wise men to welcome outcasts like you and me to himself.
Here's the schedule: I hope to see you here
Not Abandoned: Christmas Backstory
December 14, 11:00 AM: Facing Despair, Ruth 1
December 21, 11:00 AM: Finding Hope, Ruth 2
December 24, 5:00 PM: Daring Boldly, Ruth 3
December 28, 11:00 AM: Checkmate: Ruth 4