966) Speak Softly, and Carry a Big Stick (c)

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     (…continued)  God would much rather deal with us by speaking softly than with a stick, and how could this be made more clear than in the Christmas story?  Nowhere else in the Bible does God speak more directly or more clearly than when he comes to earth himself in the person of Jesus.  Imagine it, this all mighty and all powerful God–Creator of the whole universe and everything in it, makes himself small enough to visit his own creation, indeed, even being born as a baby.  God could have come as an adult.  God could have even come as a giant.  Use your imagination– there are all kinds of great and impressive and overpowering and magnificent ways God could have come.  But he chose to make his arrival in the same way you arrived– as a baby– a fragile, helpless, little baby.

      Remember, God knows how to get the stick out, and that is a frightening thing to contemplate.  In Exodus 19 when God appeared before Moses and the people of Israel at Mt. Sinai, they were all ‘terrified’ at his power and glory.  When Isaiah got a glimpse of the glory of God in the Temple, he said he was ‘struck with fear.’  Job (chapter 23) said, “God has made my heart faint, the Almighty has terrified me.”  Many more similar verses could be listed.  This is what you would expect from an encounter with God, especially when you think about what we, his children, do to each other.  But at Christmas, God does the unexpected.

     Think about what it means that GOD came to earth, to his disobedient children on this little speck of dust in his great universe; and chose to do so as a baby.  There is other no way God could have found to come to us that would speak more softly.  That is the miracle of Christmas– God, here with us, as a bawling, burping, baby.  When God does his most important intervention in this world, he comes not to threaten, not to condemn, and not to judge, but as an infant.  Infants do not threaten, judge, or condemn.  They can’t do any of that.  What can babies do?  Nothing much.  They usually just lay there.  

     Babies can’t do much for us, but they can do something to us.  They get our attention– all of it!  They make us think about the gift and miracle of life.  They teach us to be grateful for life.  They gain our love and teach us to love– to love them, and to love each other more.  They soften our hearts.  They get our minds off ourselves and our own needs, and make us focus on them.  At the same time, they make us think deeper about ourselves, and our own life.  They make us remember that we too started out as a baby, and they make us think about God who gave us and them this life.

     Babies are wonderful– and they make us full of wonder– and they open us up to God.  God came to us as a baby, not to threaten us, but to win our hearts and to teach us to love; and we know babies can do that.

     That is the wonder of the Christmas story.  Take away all the hype, all the shopping and all the decorating, all the busy-ness and all the traditions (nice as they are); take away all the controversy as to whether you should say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays or be irritated with those who don’t say it right, take away all the cards and gifts and food; take away all of that, and what you have is that most wonderful event of life, the birth of a baby– a particular baby in whom is somehow present, the All mighty and All powerful God.  And in that baby God comes to us speaking softly and tenderly, saying, “I am here for you.  I came for you.  Believe in me, and be baptized, and you shall be saved, and you will live, now and forever, even after the end of the world.”

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Luke 2:6-14  —  So it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.  And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.  And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.   And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.  And the angel said unto them, “Fear not:  for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.  And this shall be a sign unto you;  Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

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Away in a Manger

Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head.

The stars in the sky looked down where he lay,
The little Lord Jesus asleep in the hay.

The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes,
But little Lord Jesus no crying he makes.

I love Thee, Lord Jesus, look down from the sky
And stay by my cradle til morning is nigh.

Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever, and love me, I pray.

Bless all the dear children in thy tender care,
And take us to heaven, to live with Thee there.

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This song appears to have originated among German Lutherans in the early 1880’s.  The first known publishing of the song was in the May 1884 issue of The Myrtle.  It has often been attributed to Martin Luther, but there is no evidence for this.  The music was composed by William Kirkpatrick in 1895.
Sung by Susan Boyle at:
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