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Christmas Day  2008
Luke 2:1-14
 
It is interesting what memories the word "Christmas" brings to mind. One memory that has been dear to my heart for the past 30 years is of a friend of mine at college trying to make some cash before he went home for the holidays.
 
This friend, we will call him "Bob" , had a sister who owned a little home business making and selling handmade chocolates. For the holidays, she had shipped Bob several cartons of chocolate to sell.
 
The merchandise consisted of a gaily wrapped box, each having four huge letters made from milk chocolate showing through a cellophane front: it totaled 1 lb. The letters spelled out N, O, E, L: Noel: with a nice little red poinsettia on the N.
 
Bob set up a card table near the university commons and waited patiently for customers. He sold maybe one or two: but for all intents and purposes, no one was buying NOEL candy for Christmas.
 
Then Bob had a clever, if somewhat turned about, marketing idea. Bob opened the boxes, switched the letters, and promoted his wares as "LEON candy: An anagram for the holidays". He sold out in 2 days.
 
I am telling you this story, not because I think it is precious (though it is), I am telling you this story so you will have a mental picture to burn into your brain; because all too often, modern/educated people seem to turn the Christmas story around as well. Just as Bob turned NOEL into LEON (and made a lot of money), some people are turning the God-centered story of the Holy Scriptures into a human-centered story that is pleasing to our sentimentalities. It sells to the fallen human psyche, flatters our ego..
 
The modern, "enlightened" Christmas story goes like this: 2000 years ago a baby was born who, later as a man would change the world. This baby, Jesus, grew into a teacher of great wisdom. His teachings shattered the status quo of his day. He taught us to care for the less fortunate. He taught us humility and love. His love for others was so great he is called the "Prince of Peace". This man, Jesus, totally and perfectly developed that spark of God that exists in every one of us. That's why he is called the Son of God. If we dare to follow his teachings, we too can inflame that holy spark within us.
 
LEON. This is Christmas completely backwards. The L.E.O.N. story starts with a man who eventually develops the Godhead potential that is in all human beings. Jesus did it, and has shown how we can do it too. We can make this a better world by following the teachings of this man Jesus. LEON. Burn that visual image in and watch for it.
 
But…
 
"The first Noel, the angels did say, was to certain poor shepherds in fields where they lay"…great hymn. We will sing it in this parish in a few weeks as Christmas turns into the Epiphany season. The first Noel: Noel, coming from an Old French word for birth.
 
In today's Gospel, we hear what kind of birth, Whose birth the angels heralded. Verse 11: "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord".
 
This baby isn't just a guy who will grow into a great teacher; rather, this baby is the long-awaited Christ, the Messiah, the anointed one.
 
He isn't going to grow in goodness and eventually be anointed by God. The words are clear. This baby IS the anointed one, IS the Christ. This baby isn't going to grow up to where he can shatter the status quo; He IS the Saviour, His very existence already has shattered the status quo. From a complete reading of the Gospel of St. Luke, in this baby, God, Himself, has come to dwell among us, as us, for us.
 
This baby is not a mere human who will develop his godlike potential. This is God, the Almighty condescending to become man. This baby is a not going to be a mere teacher; He IS, already since the foundations of the world, the Savior of humankind (John 1:1-18).
 
The Savior of humankind: How so?
 
At that first Noel hear what the angels say; "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men"
 
This is not peace among nations brought about by the good teachings of a great guru. This is not people experiencing inner harmony as we become attuned to the God-spark within ourselves.
 
No, the words of this passage in the original Greek suggest: this baby, this "Prince of Peace" brings the animosity between a justly-wrathful God and His rebellious creation to an end.
 
The Savior of humankind saves us from ourselves. He loves us despite our human-centered natures. He comes to us despite our rebellion. He offers the means by which we can be with Him forever, if only we look to Him, and not ourselves.
 
How self-centered humankind has become: To think that the "Prince of Peace" came to reconcile humans with one another, rather than to reconcile humankind with God.
 
How self-centered humankind has become: To think that through Jesus we can enflame that God spark within us (making us powerful, self-actualized), rather than embracing a Savior who will reshape us into human fullness. A human fullness which includes our being God's beloved, and loving and obeying Him in return (1 John 4:9-11, 19).
 
I hope every time you see the word NOEL or hear that great hymn you will recall the story of the chocolate LEON box, and when you do, remember that Christmas is all about the Almighty condescending to become man because we, pitifully corrupted, can not rise ourselves to the level of God. It's a wonderful, joyous message. Unfortunately, fallen humankind finds it all too easy to buy the backwards message.
 
NOEL, or LEON? For me, I'll take the real deal, as the Creator intended it.
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