Below is a copy of the sermon I preached on Sunday, January 1, in Cove Presbyterian Church, Weirton, West Virginia. You can find a podcast of this sermon on the Cove Podbean page. You might also want to visit the congregational website (covepresbyterian.org) for more church information.
If you find this sermon meaningful, please consider supporting this ministry by sending an offering to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.
Then Herod, when he saw that he'd been tricked by the magi, was very angry. And he sent and murdered all the children in Bethlehem and in all the surrounding country who were two years old and under, according to the time he'd learned from the magi. Then the word from Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled when he said, A voice in Rama was heard weeping and loud lamenting Rachel is weeping for her children, and she didn't want comfort, because they were no more.
And when Herod ended, behold an angel of the Lord appeared through a dream to Joseph in Egypt saying, "Arise, take the child and his mother and go into the land of Israel. For the one who sought the life of the child has ended." And after he arose, he took the child and his mother and went into the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was king of Judea in the place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned through a dream, he went away into the region of Galilee. And when he went, he settled in a town called Nazareth. Thus the word through the prophet was fulfilled that he will be called a Nazorene.
But this morning, well, I’m impressed for a very different reason. Now I recognize that I’m talking to a bunch of Presbyterians, and as I’ve said before, we’re a people who believe we can do anything we want, we just can’t enjoy it. Therefore, I’m confident in saying that, as Presbyterians, we’d never do what our heathen neighbors were doing on New Years eve, and I’m not talking about watching football, although I’m not sure you could call the Ohio State game football. No, I’m sure that the reason y’all are here is that, last night, no one “got his or her swerve on” or “booted and rallied” or “crossfaded”, and just in case you haven’t read The Online Slang Dictionary, all those terms refer to drinking alcohol, you know, hooch, fire water, demon rum.
And I’ll tell you, for that reason, I don’t think any of ya’ll need to hear some of the ways I ran across for sobering up. Now, I found them online, not from experience, because we all know I’m a Presbyterian. No, these are ideas people suggested would work if you needed to sober up fast. Of course, most of them involved stuff I already knew, you know, like eating something or drinking a lot of coffee or getting some rest. But I did find something offered by a person with the handle “amethyst” interesting. She wrote, “I know a trick that worked for me every time when I was starting to get tipsy and needed to sober up quickly. As strange as this might sound, I used to look at myself in a mirror and tell myself over and over that I am sober. I did that for about 15 to 20 minutes, until I had no doubt anymore about my sobriety. And even though the alcohol was still affecting my body, it's effect on my mind was considerably weakened, and by all means, I was sober again.” Now, that’s really interesting, isn’t it? Of course, I assume “amethyst” must be pretty good looking, because if I tried it... But of course, I’d never need to, because I am a Presbyterian.
And I’ve got to tell you, for this kind of sobriety, I don’t think there’s anything better than reading and then maybe rereading this quaint little tale from Matthew. And although I really hate to say this about something in the Bible, but man, this is one horrible story, isn’t it? I mean, according to Matthew, the birth of Jesus has already happened and although he didn’t mention anything about mangers and shepherds and angelic hosts, he did write about the star and the Magi and the three gifts. As a matter of fact, I think if you compare this to what Luke wrote, Matthew’s account is actually more exalted, even cosmic.
And I’ll tell you, I think that’s why it’s important for us to talk about it, you know, as we reenter our world realistically and objectively and soberly. You see, in this story I think there are two realities that we need to keep in mind as we live in the world as it is and not as we’d like it to be.
And as a result, Jesus would eventually offer humanity a new way to live. And he would die on a cross to break the power of sin and would be raised to lock in our future. And of course, he would end up, after the resurrection, standing on a mountain and promising to be with us always, even to the end of the age. You see, according to God’s will, Jesus Christ became the savior, the redeemer of the world, including all those children and parents from Bethlehem. As Paul said so well in Romans, God’s will is always mercy and compassion. And in the midst of all the violence, I think we can see it reflected in this story.