Christmas Eve Sermon 2019: “The Cat-mas Gospel”
So. Does anyone want a cat?
She’s 10 years old.
Sweet, affectionate, and purrs like there’s no tomorrow.
She has one tiny problem.
She really likes climbing up Christmas trees.
I’m talking about our cat Daisy.
Our other cat, Violet, Daisy’s sister is afraid of heights.
Ever since we put up our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving, Daisy keeps climbing the tree.
When she first did it, we were scared the ornaments would fall off, or at worst topple the whole tree over.
So I would get her out,
And tell her “Don’t do that again.”
Because talking to Cats is always the right thing to do.
And it worked.
For 5 minutes,
and then she was back up the tree again.
So for the next day, the family would have to get her down from the tree 5-10 times a day.
By the end of that second day,
We just quit.
We said, “Ok, Daisy. You win.
You can climb.
You can stay.
You can leap to your cat tree.
Just watch for the ornaments.”
Of course, THAT she understood.
But she was so determined to get back to the tree.
And now I think I know why:
The kids can’t get to her.
Violet can’t get to her.
The tree is where she feels safe.
That need to feel safe…
It gets me thinking about us who are here tonight.
How many of you are tired?
Not just tired from shopping for all the things that go into Christmas.
But overall tired?
I’ll admit it.
When my alarm goes off in the morning,
I pray to the Good Lord to give me an extra 5…9…HOURS of sleep and I will be good to go!
It is no fun waking up tired, and your day is only minutes old.
And I know it’s not just me:
Back in 2017, the National Safety Council released a report where almost half of the people surveyed admitted they do not get enough sleep to perform their jobs.
81% of those surveyed had jobs that were high risks for fatigue
And 97% of them said that they have at least one risk factor that led to fatigue:
Working at night or early in the morning
Long shift without regular breaks
Working more than 50 hours a week
So we ARE tired.
We ARE overwhelmed.
And when we are tired and overwhelmed, we find ourselves questioning our purpose, our identity.
So what do we do when we feel this way?
Where do we go?
We find our safe place.
I don’t mean running up the nearest Christmas tree,
I mean we run back to…
Every Christmas Eve,
We run back to the place
And to the person that offers us
For it is on this night that we celebrate the moment and the place when God became one of us.
In a place that was built for farm animals, but on this night, was the home for the one person that would change the world.
The manger certainly was a place of rest and peace after Joseph and Mary had traveled some distance from Nazareth to Bethlehem.
Only to find no room in the town and the inn,
And Mary ready to give birth…
The manger was a place of safety for the shepherds,
The shepherds were not in a place of power or influence in society
They were not thought of highly, nor respected
Pastor Matt Miofsky gave a great illustration: in a game of kickball, when choosing sides, the shepherds would be picked last.
It is the manger where the Shepherds find a safe place where they can be themselves as they are.
And it is the place where they receive a new identity.
Instead of being last, they are the FIRST to witness God coming to us and they are the FIRST to share this news…this GOOD news…
Tonight, the manger is our safe place.
So whatever stresses us, makes us tired, makes us fret,
We can bring it to the manger.
All that weighs us down,
And drop it.
Right there on the floor.
And God will pick it up.
That rest comes in many forms:
A day off.
A trip to see family.
Family or friends who make the trip to see you.
A song that brings joy in your heart
It can also come in the form of:
You ringing the bell for the Salvation Army
You making and serving a hot meal on Christmas day here at 4 PM to our homeless brothers and sisters
You checking in on someone who is grieving over a lost loved one
Or it can come in the form of a cat who spends all day climbing a Christmas tree and then at night comes and sleeps beside you making sure she’s as close and snug as possible.
That is rest as well.
That is peace.
And in that rest, we can understand the full meaning of Emmanuel.
“God with us.”
God. With. Us.
And not just at the manger, but in all we do and everywhere we go.
Jesus…God…does not stay in the manger.
Jesus…God…goes with us.
Which is the best present we could ask for this year.
And it is a present that God is happy to give us.
As Jesus would say later on in his ministry:
28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”