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Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church ~ Munising, Michigan

Famous Child, No Paparazzi - 12/24/2015

I have a confession to make – I am one of those people who is absolutely fascinated by the royal family of Britain.

I cannot seem to help it. I'll be working along, writing a sermon or getting ready for a meeting and something will catch my eye on the Internet about the Royal family – an article about how the spirit of Princess Diana lives on in her sons William and Harry, or a photo essay that “proves” how Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, and Queen Elizabeth really feel about each other. Lately, the news has been centered on the growing family of Prince William and Kate. Just the other day, I caught myself looking at a sweet little photo shoot of Prince George and his new little sister Princess Charlotte. The photos had been taken by their mother Kate herself and put out on her own social media channels. Like any new mom, I'm sure she's excited to share pictures of her adorable children. Plus, by doing this herself, she steals the thunder from the relentless and always-present paparazzi.

As I looked at the photos, I chastised myself once again … I had work to do. What was so fascinating about these people, anyway? Why was I so intrigued by the fact that Kate had taken these pictures herself and posted them online... that's no different than the parents and grandparents of cute babies anywhere in the western world. I needed to get back to work … and I did, after I looked at all the photos and read the cutlines to see if the paparazzi were upset that the Duchess was undermining the stir they typically cause and the bucks they rake in when they release their unauthorized photos of people like the royals.

It's a guilty pleasure that I'm a little embarrassed to share with you … I mean I really have no connection to these royals and I try to avoid gossip column type stuff, but I just cannot seem to help being sucked into headlines about these far away and famous people.

As embarrassed as I may be, however, I do take some comfort in the fact that I know it's not just me. This fascination with the rich and famous of the world, and particularly their offspring, is not new. Just consider all the attention that has been given to children of the White House, Ozzy Osbourne, the Lindbergh baby. We are intrigued, there's no doubt.

We can actually trace this fascination with the children of the rich and famous back thousands of years. It's evident in the reading we have today from the Isaiah – a message prepared for the Hebrew exiles some 2,700 years ago.  From our contemporary and often Christian-centered perspective, we read “For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace,” and it points directly to Jesus.

But for those exiles Isaiah was talking to, and regardless if they would have recognized Jesus as the Messiah, this was not about Jesus. The people hearing the prophet Isaiah's words were waiting for a messiah, yes, but Jesus would not be born for another 35 generations of the people. The possibility that Isaiah's words could point to Jesus simply didn't exist.

What these people were wrestling with in their relationship with God was that they had put all their trust in a human king who did not worship their one true God … God who had rescued them from slavery in Egypt, made a covenant with them and stuck by them when they repeatedly dropped the ball on their end of the covenant. This king they had chosen to trust worshiped other gods, a sin which had led, they believed, to their defeat and exile by the Assyrian armies who took over Jerusalem and ran the Hebrews out. But the despite all of this gloom and doom, the people believed their God would come to their rescue, perhaps through a better king and the child born to him. “For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders,” probably refers to the birth of a prince to the new king the people were sure would save them from their Assyrian enemies.

So you see, our fascination with the offspring of royals and what they do goes back a long, long way.

In contrast, however, look at what God has done that draws us together here on this holy night. What does this night tell us about our God and how God wants to relate to the world … to each of us?

What does it mean to us that in a world where we still can't seem to stop ourselves from being fascinated by the lives of the rich and famous, we come to celebrate the birth of a baby boy who is brown and poor and born into the dangerous and difficult situation of being a homeless refugee. There's no royal herald from the king's palace, no national announcement of the birth. There's no paparazzi.

What does it tell us about this God who comes to us through parents who are not married to one another in a customary or expected way? Parents who are not rich or famous or powerful in any worldly way. A young family of great faith and little else just trying to survive.

What does it mean to us that the first people told about this extraordinary and earth-changing event are the shepherds? … Hired hands holding down one of the least desired jobs of the day. Common people – often with unsavory reputations – who see and hear these angels and end up abandoning their posts to fall on their knees and worship a baby wrapped in rags and sleeping in a farm animal's feeding trough.

And what do we make of the fact that all these thousands of years later, we continue to come together to recall this most unlikely birth? That no matter what brokenness and missteps, joys and sorrows we come from in this life, we are still welcomed around this table, forgiven our sins and nourished by the body and blood of our Savior?

Well, I believe it means that we too are people of great faith and that God knew and knows exactly what what kind of Savior we people need –  we people like the shepherds among us, the poor and forgotten, those of us who don't feel particularly close to God, those of us who feel they've been forced to be here tonight, everyday people just working to make ends meet and trying to make a difference in their communities and even the rich and famous among us. Emmanuel – God with us – came to redeem all of creation and show us once and for all that despite our sometimes dodgy choices, despite our wonder over the sparkly lives of the rich and famous, despite the fact that we often wander away from God, we are always welcomed at the table. And we are recipients of the greatest gift of all time, eternal life with God freed from the bondage of sin in this life and in the life to come.

And so we sing out loud and strong and confident with the Psalmist tonight as we receive this gift called Jesus – the Messiah, the One who can truly uphold the roles of  Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

… we sing with the Psalmist … “O sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples.”

Amen.

Pastor Ann Gonyea

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Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church ~ Munising Michigan ~ An ELCA, Northern Great Lakes Synod Congregation
P.O. Box 360 ~ 1150 West M-28 ~ Munising, MI 49862 ~ 1-906-387-2520 ~ contact@edenonthebay.org

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