December 19 – Christmas With All The Background

GabrielMy favorite picture tool in the newer versions of Microsoft Power Point is the “remove background” tool.  I use it all the time.

This Sunday’s sermon at LPC will be our fourth banner sermon and we’ll be looking at the banner that depicts Mary and the Angel.  In addition to the banner, we’ll be considering several other depictions of the annunciation, including Caravagio’s and Rubens’. We’ll focus on Caravagio’s pensive Mary and, on a peripheral point, we’ll pause briefly at Rubens’ Gabriel (and wonder if “Wonderful Life’s” Clarence might be more biblically accurate). I love Ruben’s Gabriel, but am not so taken by his Mary.  Sorry, but Mary is going to be removed from the background. Thank you, Power Point.

Join us Sunday.

Christmas can be one of the times when we wish we had a “remove background” tool for life.

For some of us the memories conjured up by the Ghost of Christmas Past are not pleasant. The ache of loss is deeper than at any other time of the year. The pain of being forgotten or neglected throbs like it does not throb in other seasons. Regrets haunt us; old offenses send us spiraling down into despair like an infection from an unhealed wound that wracks our entire body.  If only we could remove the background of Christmas past.

For some of us the background we wish we could remove will be from Christmas present.  The same old family tensions and awkward relationships will show up this year as they do every year. The brother-in-law who always says something inappropriate is bound to say something inappropriate this year. The aunt who acts as if she owns our kitchen will insist on managing the meal once again. Someone is sure to pout about the present they did or did not receive. If only we could remove the background of Christmas present.

Like Scrooge, some of us fear most the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. “You are about to show me shadows of the things that have not happened, but will happen in the time before us,” Scrooge says, knowing the task of the phantom who has appeared to him. We wonder if our marriage will last another year or if our loved one will live to see next Christmas. What toll will addiction take in a son’s or a daughter’s, a mother’s or a father’s life? Will the financial problems, sour work relationships, sense of hopelessness that festered throughout 2014 continue unabated in 2015? In only we could remove the fear of the future that hovers in the background of our present.

Not heard in the background of a sanitized tableau of the Virgin and the angel is the soon-to-come slander and gossip of the village scandalmongers. Not seen in the background of a kind Christmas card inn keeper showing the young couple to his stable is the oppressive presence of a Roman occupation army.  Not visible in the scene of adoring shepherds are those who wonder why “those people” are here. Not noticed in the little town of Bethlehem are the mad rants of the tyrant king in Jerusalem against the babe in the manger.

The Father could have removed all that background and more when he sent the Beloved Son to come among us.  But he didn’t.  Immanuel is God with us in all things, at all times, though all situations.  He comes to redeem all of life.

Some of us will say of this particular Christmas season, “It is a wonderful life.” Blessings on all who do.  But some of us will be haunted by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come. For us there is no “remove” tool.  But there is Jesus in whom and by whom all things are made new.

See you Sunday!