Saturday, December 24, 2016

Away In A Manger

Those who were in the congregation that morning said that it was one of the most moving events they had ever experienced.

Fifteen year old Davion Only, wearing a black suit he borrower and a clip on tie, stood before the church packed with three hundred people asking for someone to adopt him.

Born in jail to a cocaine addicted mother, Davion spent his life moving from one foster home to another. Angry at his mother for abandoning him and feeling unwanted, he struggled in school to study and keep his emotions under control. Unable to take it anymore, he began to search for his birth mother in hopes that she would take him into her home only to find out that she had died several weeks earlier.

It then became clear to him that no one was going to come and rescue him. So he started to get his life in order. He worked harder at his grades and at controlling his temper. To give him comfort and courage he also started reading the Bible. One day, someone told him that God helps those who help themselves. It was then that he had the idea of going to church and asking someone to adopt him.

With all the courage he could muster, he stood up after the sermon and told the congregation, “My name is Davion and I’ve been in foster care since I was born. I know God hasn’t given up on me. So I’m not giving up either.” His message was simple. He was just looking for a family that would love him. “I’ll take anyone,” he said. “And I would be really appreciative. The best I could be.”

It is hard to hear Davion’s story and not get choked up by it. Here is a boy who has experienced in fifteen years more rejection, more loneliness and more problems than many people see in a lifetime reaching out his arms and asking for nothing more than a stable home in which he can be loved.

On this night, Davion’s story rings with even stronger tones because it is also the story of our God. We celebrate nothing else except a God who came to earth as a baby asking for nothing else than to be loved. In a real way, Jesus came to earth so that He could be adopted by the human race, so that He could find a home within our hearts, so that He could be loved. He came among us as a child with his arms wide open asking that we take him into our own arms, cradle him gently and hold him dearly against our hearts.

On this Christmas night the love of God appears in our midst. He does not come as a warrior to destroy us. He does not come as a judge to condemn us. He does not come as a dictator to rule over us. Rather He comes as a child to find a place in our hearts and in our homes.

Only one family can adopt young Davion no matter how many may want to. However, all of us are called to and are able to adopt the Baby Jesus who is born for us this day. He makes His plea to each one of us in this church tonight to open our hearts and to make room for Him there. He begs us to open our homes to Him, to make Him the center of our family life and to let His light shine in whatever darkness we might be experiencing. The gift of God is offered to each one of us here today - young and old, rich and poor, sinner and saint.

In the sight of the choir of angels glorifying God, in the presence of Mary and Joseph who lay Him in a manger and under the star which leads wise men from the East to the stable in Bethlehem, we have a decision to make. Will we join in with the heavenly host who sing, “Glory to God in the highest”? Will we join with the shepherds who stream to the stable to see for themselves the grace of God which has appeared? Will we make any room in our hearts and in our homes for the baby who is born for us today?

And how will our lives be different? Will we look for Jesus in the face of everyone we meet, especially the poor and lonely? Will we become grateful for God’s many blessings in our lives rather than being envious of what other people have? Will we turn away from sin and live in the power of God who trains us “to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly and devoutly”? What are we willing to change so that the light of Christ which comes into the world on this cold night can shine more brightly through us and reach out to those who continue to dwell in darkness?

Each of us here, without exception, is offered the hand of friendship with God through Jesus Christ. The more plunged in darkness you might be, the more God wants to shine His light on you. The more steeped in sin you might be, the more God wants to save you. The more lost you may feel, the more God wants to find you. We know this to be true because He sent His Son not only to be born for us but to die “to deliver us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for himself a people as his own, eager to do what is good.”

If you have never welcomed Jesus into your heart, there is no better night to do so than on this holy night. It is as simple as saying, “Jesus, come into my heart. Be the Lord of my life.” He is waiting for you with arms outstretched and is longing to hear you say those words. Then this Christmas will be what God meant it to be. Not the remembrance of an event in the past, but a living reality in the presence - the reality of a God who comes to save us and wants nothing in return except our love.

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