Christmas Day (C)

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A sermon preached by Pastor Robert Schaefer

Spring Creek Lutheran Church

Christmas Day – December 25, 2003

Texts: Isaiah 52:10, Psalm 98:3

Friends in Christ, Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Two winters ago in Salt Lake City, the eyes of the world were focused on one young skater. Sarah Hughes, the up-and-coming sixteen year old from Great Neck, New York, had just taken the ice for the long program, and a hush had fallen over the arena.

The night before, Sarah had faltered on her short program, drawing low marks. Facing stiff competition from teammates Michelle Kwan and Sasha Cohen, as well as the Russian skater Irina Slutskya, Sarah’s poor showing seemed to have sealed her fate: Short of a miracle, she would not be taking the podium at the 2002 Olympics.

But something very like a miracle was happening the night of February 21. Each of the three leaders had slipped up at some point in their otherwise solid long programs, leaving the door open, however slightly, to Sarah Hughes. Skating last, she knew – along with the world – that a good, solid performance could land her on the podium. But if she could produce brilliance, for just those few minutes, the gold medal could be hers.

It would take the performance of a lifetime. And with all eyes on her, Sarah Hughes delivered.

Sarah’s performance became an instant classic, placing her in video compendiums alongside Torvell and Dean, Dorothy Hamill, and Scott Hamilton. Against all odds, under the pressure of the world’s gaze, the grace and athleticism of Sarah Hughes’ achievement was just the medicine for an America still shell-shocked by the destruction of the World Trade Center. America loves an underdog, and Sarah had come through superbly.

It was a tremendous victory.

Sarah’s victory reminds me of that other great victory, the one you and I are here to celebrate this morning. Because our God has triumphed before the eyes of the world, too, and he has achieved it through a breathtakingly beautiful and daring performance. Publicly, for all the world to see, the deed was done one Christmas Day so many years ago.

You might be surprised to think of God as an underdog, but after centuries of sin and death, hate and war, who would have thought that God had any more aces up his sleeve? To many folks then it must have seemed as though God had tried everything to vanquish sin, but had come up short in the end. What more could God do, what could he possibly do that would win him the victory now?

And so God took the ice, calm before the eyes of the world, and gave the performance of a lifetime. And it was a tremendous victory.

Isaiah sings, “All the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God!”

The psalmist cries out, “All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God!”

God’s great act of salvation was done publicly, before the eyes of the entire world. But, as John’s gospel reminds us, the eyes of many in this world were then and still are shut today. Though they have seen the victory and salvation of God born in a manger stall, they do not realize yet the true nature of what they have seen. They don’t recognize God’s great virtuoso performance, don’t know yet to jump to their feet in applause.

But the day is coming.

The psalmist cries out, “All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God!”

Isaiah sings, “All the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God!”

And so we who have seen already gather together again this year. Our Christmas celebration gives glory to God for his marvelous victory in the deep mystery of the Incarnation. But in gathering, we also tell the story again and again, so that those who haven’t yet seen and understood might share in our joy.

In coffee shops and around water coolers, many mouths recounted the story of Sarah Hughes’ achievement to those who had not been watching that night. Just so, we gather this morning as a witness to the world that one day God’s triumph in Jesus Christ will be seen by one and all. What God did before the eyes of the world will finally be seen and understood, and there will be no doubt that what our God has done is truly wonderful in our sight.

Praise God for the chances he has taken, the risks he has ventured in order to save us! Praise him for succeeding so brilliantly! Praise him for the remarkable salvation that all the world will see! Amen.

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