Here’s last word in three days to keep Christmas Holy and Healthy. SACERDOTAL. Understand the ministry of Mary. Luke 2:14-19
Sacerdotal means priestly, representing God. It’s the same root word from which we get Sacrament. When we take the sacraments, the bread and wine of communion that represent God to us. So the sacerdotal function of the priest it to represent God to the people. Christmas is about angels singing, “Today in the town of Bethlehem a Savior has been born to you.” It is about the prophet saying, “Unto us a Child is born, unto us a child is given. And the government shall be upon His shoulders. And He shall be called Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” It is about John the Baptist saying, “Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.” And it is about me and you saying, “Jesus is the answer for the world today, above Him there’s no other. Jesus is the way.” (for those of you that go way back.)
The last verses of the Christmas story are some of the most beautiful and meaning in scripture. There is this amazing scene of shepherds and angels joining together in reverential audience. There is the solemn contradiction of deity, God come down surrounded by the most common of earthly creatures, sheep and goats and cows and donkeys. And there is the vast complexity of Jehovah found in the pure innocence and simplicity of a young teen age, virgin girl. Luke 2:15-19 says “15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
We have been talking about how to have a holy, healthy holiday. I have encouraged you to keep the holiday as simple as the shepherds, to try to be as sacrificial as the Wise Men. What I hope you see is that staying healthy and holy is not about another to do list. It is a change of heart, a deep inside me paradigm shift that says this whole thing is not about me, It is about Him and it is about them. It is a simple yet spectacular celebration of a baby in a manger. It is a magnificent display of sacrifice. And it is an historic call of God on my life to take the message of the Savior to a hurting world, to be sacerdotal.
Last Thursday afternoon while I was finishing this part of this three part blog I got a one line text from Jacob, my youngest son. Jacob has befriended a musician guy, a brother really. His name is Race and Race was in the first band that Jacob ever toured with. Race has been a friend of our families for nearly 10 years now and has especially been close to Jacob. About a year ago Race found cancer in his throat and the last year has been a nightmare of surgeries, chemo, removed voice box, lost weight, more radiation, trips to MD Anderson Cancer hospital in Houston. We have prayed and cried and believed and been afraid. We have walked this pretty dark path with Race but none of us as closely or as lovingly as Jacob. Race went back down to Houston this week for a test. Some complications have come up. Bleeding. Can’t swallow. So while I am working on this sermon about a healthy holy holiday I get a one line text from Jacob, “Tumor’s back.”
What do you do with that? What do you say? What in the world can you be that will make any difference to both of these men? SACERDOTAL. You just represent Jesus to them and let Jesus be enough, That’s what this manger stuff, this baby and angels is all about. It is about Jesus coming into our most difficult places and being enough. And it is about me being the one very often that brings Him there.
In the early days of the church, when there was just one church and it was centered in Rome and all of the services were in Latin a name rose up for Mary, Mater Dei, Mother of God. It described who she was and her special place as the young woman who literally carried the God baby in her womb. But after a while that Mater Dei began to take on more meaning than part of the church was comfortable with. She began to be drawn in pictures with the same reverence and deity as Christ. She became God like. So the Eastern Orthodox Church began to look for a new term to describe Mary. They found the word they were looking for back in the early writings, back when the message of God was still primarily in the Greek. The word was THEOTOKOS, Theo–God and TOKOS–the one who carries, or the one who bears. So Mary became the first Theotokos, God bearer. But the really neat thing is that she was only the first in a 2000 year old line of God bearers that includes you and me. We are Theotokos. We are God bearers. And the way that we keep our holiday healthy and holy is, like Mary and Joseph, we carry Jesus into the darkest, dirtiest places that we know. We represent Him to Race, and to the homeless guy on the street, and to the lady that just got a divorce and to the drunk at the office party and to the man who lost his wife this year. We bear Jesus wherever we go during this holiday season and I promise you when we do that, it will be healthy and holy.