Sunday, December 27, 2020

Sermon: "Expectations Defied: Flip It!" (Christmas Eve Message--December 24, 2020)

(This is the final sermon in our Advent series about our expectations around the holiday season. The others can be found here, herehere, and here.)


All throughout Advent, we here at Boone Church have been talking about the ways that God defies our expectations this time of year. At a time when many of us try our best to recreate our memories of holidays past, God urges us to look towards the future instead. At a time when we’re busy compiling our wish lists for Santa, God reminds us of the joy—and importance—of using the gifts that God has given to us. At a time when we’re craving the serenity and coziness of home, God encourages us to welcome Jesus wherever we are. At a time when we just want everyone to get along, God turns the world upside down.

And now here we are, worshiping on Christmas Eve in a way that none of us expected, at the beginning of this year, to be worshiping. It may feel like Christmas is the absolute WORST possible time for our expectations to disrupted, because we treasure the familiarity and comfort of our festive traditions. But God has ALWAYS been defying our expectations, from creating an entire religion out of a promise to one man, to impossibly leading the Israelites to freedom across the Red Sea, to arriving as an infant king who would redeem the whole world. Maybe this Christmas, one where so many of our cherished expectations have been turned on their heads, is an important reminder of who’s really in charge…as well as a reminder of what’s really important.

We spent the month before Advent naming the disappointments that we anticipated this season, the things that we normally would’ve expected to be doing that we knew we’d have to forgo this year. Some of the items listed were relatable on a pretty universal level—“large family gatherings”, “travel”, “singing together”—while others were very specific to personal experiences—“annual family bowling tournament” and “cioppino at my sister’s house” are two that come to mind. Some were repeated several times, and some only appeared on our display once. We named these things to acknowledge their importance to us and to allow ourselves to feel the pain of their absence in our lives.

But then at the end of November, we shifted our focus to the places we saw God show up that we definitely DIDN’T expect to see God….in retail workers being able to stay home on Thanksgiving, in extra time with grandkids due to quarantine requirements, in the patience of musicians doing take after take for this Christmas Eve video, in people willing to brave the cold to worship God on Sunday morning…the list goes on and on.

We weren’t any less sad about the things that we’d lost. But we found that Christmas—not just the day, but the spirit—happened anyway. God appeared anyway. Christ is born anyway. God is with us, in us, for us, anyway. God didn’t erase our disappointed expectations, but God added new things, things that we DIDN’T expect, things that we hadn’t even imagined. God flipped our expectations on their head, 
and used them to show us, once again, God’s incredible love for us. Nothing, not life, nor death, nor things present, nor things to come, nor disappointed expectations, nor Christmas Eve outside of the church building, can separate us from the God’s love. 

THAT’S what Christmas is all about. THAT’S why we celebrate Jesus’ birth. Not because it was what we expected or wanted, but because it was—and is—God showing us that love doesn’t follow the rules. It emerges anywhere and everywhere that we seek connection with each other and with the divine. It often comes in places we expect it—gatherings of loved ones, acts of compassion, moments of selflessness—but it just as often appears when we don’t. So friends, keep your eyes open, because God is STILL MOVING…even when we least expect it. Thanks be to God. Amen.

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