From The Pulpit

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By TOM MERCER

Tom Mercer is Pastor of Hickory United Methodist Church. He is a native of Chesapeake and a graduate of Indian River High School, Atlantic Christian College (now Barton College) and Duke University.

“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:11 (NIV)

I am teaching a study entitled Christmas Is Not Your Birthday by Mike Slaughter. Think about that title for just a minute. Now think about how you and I are celebrating this wonderful time. What do the gifts under our tree say we are celebrating? Was Christmas ever meant to be simply about our giving and receiving gifts? Should it not be a celebration of God’s sacrificial gift of Jesus? The author challenges his readers to give as much this Christmas to the missionary work of sharing the love of Christ with those in need as you give in gifts and Christmas celebration. Perhaps this seems radical to some until we stop and realize that Jesus is the Reason for the Season.

One of my favorite movies during Christmas is the 1947 film “The Bishop’s Wife.” It stars Cary Grant as an angel named Dudley. He is sent in answer to the prayers for guidance in building a cathedral to Bishop Henry Brougham played by David Niven. The bishop’s wife, Julia, is played by Loretta Young. The bishop’s life is so consumed by building this cathedral on a hill that he neglects that which really matters – faith and family. In the end the cathedral is not built and the bishop accuses Dudley of being of no help. Dudley reminds him that his prayer was not for the cathedral but for guidance. On Christmas Eve, Bishop Brougham has written a sermon but when he enters the pulpit the message before him is not that sermon but one written by the angel Dudley.

He reads:  “Tonight I want to tell you the story of an empty stocking. Once upon a midnight clear, there was a child’s cry, a blazing star hung over a stable, and wise men came with birthday gifts. We haven’t forgotten that night down through the centuries. We celebrate it with stars on Christmas trees, with the sound of bells, and with gifts, but especially with gifts. You give me a book, I give you a tie. Aunt Martha has always wanted an orange squeezer and Uncle Henry can do with a new pipe. For we forget no one, adult or child. All the stockings are filled, all that is, except one. And we have even forgotten to hang it up. The stocking is for the child born in a manger. It’s his birthday we’re celebrating. Don’t let us ever forget that. Let us ask ourselves what He would wish for most. And then, let each put in his share, loving kindness, warm hearts, and a stretched out hand of tolerance. All the shining gifts that make peace on earth.”

Merry Christmas!

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