Sermon for Christmas Day -
The Rev. Eric Christopher Shafer. -
As some of you know, I spent nearly fourteen years on the staff of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America at our churchwide offices in Chicago.
Each Christmas at the churchwide office there is a Christmas gathering, usually involving worship and food. The first Christmas I was there the worship service was held in the main lobby of the churchwide offices, the atrium entryway to the 11 story Lutheran Center.
This was a wonderful location for worship – the lobby is large with lots of marble and tile. Sound rings throughout the entry atrium area. When we gathered that day for Christmas worship in the Lutheran Center lobby, we filled the area and even blocked the outside doors and anyone’s access to the elevators. We followed the Kings College Christmas service of readings and carols. The singing was wonderful. Various churchwide staff accompanied the singing on all sorts of unusual musical instruments. Lessons were read in English and Spanish by staff members of all races, men and women. It was a grand celebration and, especially because it was my first Christmas at the churchwide offices, I enjoyed it immensely.
However, the service planners forgot that several floors of the churchwide offices are rented out to other tenants, other non-profit groups, folks who do not work for the ELCA and would not be involved in our Christmas celebration. These people had to get in and out of the front doors and up and down the elevators while we filled the lobby with more than 300 ELCA staff members. And, our worship took place over the lunch hour, right before we all went upstairs to eat together, so there was a lot of coming and going in the lobby, coming and going that we made difficult by our numbers.
At one point during a rather solemn part of the service, a pizza delivery man arrived with a stack of hot pizzas for delivery to one of our tenants. I could see him squeeze into the lobby through the outside glass doors. He looks at the crowd. Not knowing exactly what was happening and taking advantage of this rather quiet time in the service, the delivery man shouted, “Pizza, comin’ through” and charged through the crowd toward the elevators. Several people gasped and even shushed him. I think we were in the midst of a time of silent prayer. No matter, “pizza, comin’ through” rang out in the midst of our Christmas celebration.
I thought of this incident as I prepared for today’s sermon. That pizza delivery man barging through our rather solemn service is similar to much of our lives, at least it is to my life. In the midst of solemn times, of well-laid plans, come the intrusions of everyday life. “Pizza, comin’ through!”
“And the Word became flesh and lived among us …. full of grace and truth.” These words from St. John’s Gospel, chapter 1, verse 14, part of today’s Gospel Lesson, these words are familiar ones, especially at Christmas time. Jesus, too, came into our world. Like that pizza delivery man, Jesus interrupted things; Jesus changed the lives of those whom he touched.
At lunch after the Christmas party that day, I shared my idea to do a sermon from the “Pizza, comin’ through” incident during our Christmas worship that day. A colleague said she liked the idea and added another image. She noted that the crowd of ELCA staffers in the lobby, a crowd which forced others who wished to go to and from the elevators to wind their way through our service, that crowd was much like the church, at least as we might hope the church would be. Crowded in among the people. Giving witness to our faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior in the midst of this world. Celebrating each day the coming anew of Jesus into this world and into our lives.
This Christmas Day Jesus comes into our lives again. “The word became flesh and lived among us … full of grace and truth.” Jesus comes quietly and unexpectedly, a baby born in the stable in a small town. Probably more like that pizza delivery man than our image of the very Son of the Lord God.
Jesus comes anew this day and every day. Jesus is present among the people of this congregation, this community, this nation and world. We respond by giving witness, this day and every day, to the love of Jesus in our lives.
It is all rather simple. Like pizza for Christmas.
And the word became flesh and lived among us … full of grace and truth.
The Rev. Eric Christopher Shafer
Senior Pastor - Mt. Olive Lutheran Church
Santa Monica, California
Pizza, Comin’ Through
Sermon for Christmas Day
Written by Rev. Eric Christopher Shafer.
December 25, 2014
Mt. Olive Lutheran, Santa Monica