A Christmas Eve Sermon (if I was giving it)
One of the best parts of my job with Sorry Works! is presenting and teaching to live audiences....I always treasure the chance to stand in front of a room full of physicians, nurses, other front-line staff, medical and nursing students, etc. These disclosure talks always generate buzz from audiences, both collectively and individually. I especially love it when individual clinicians walk up afterwards -- sometimes with tears in their eyes -- to share their own stories of medical errors. So, I enjoy speaking and teaching. It never grows old, and I am truly thankful every time I'm given the opportunity.
Over the years I've mentioned to many friends that when my kids leave the house in 10 years or so, that I might consider a second career either as a Lutheran pastor or a lawyer. I believe both professions help people, and I am drawn to how these careers use written and spoken words to change the world.
Who knows if I will ever do it (become a pastor or lawyer), but I already have a Christmas Eve sermon in the can that I want to share today as my Christmas gift to you:
"Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ....Amen.
As kids unwrap presents this Christmas, the adults in their lives will try to get them to do two things: Read the card, and say "Thank you."
Well, cards are only interesting if cash or a check is stuffed inside, and even then the kids won't actually read the card, unless Mom demands, "Well, what does the card say?!," to which the child will quickly mumble through the Hallmark greeting before moving on to the nicely wrapped present.
Ah, the presents....what took Santa, Mom, or Grandma hours of wrapping can be reduced to a pile of confetti by little hands in mere seconds. And amid flying paper and new toys being proudly held high, adults will remind excited tikes to say, "Thank you" to Santa, Grandma, Auntie So and So, or whomever was responsible for providing the noisy, plastic gizmos. Most kids will utter the words -- "Thank you" -- but we know Christmas "Thank yous" are about as genuine as the "sorrys" that are forced out of children following bad behavior. Moreover, after the last present has been opened many kiddos will whine about the toys they didn't get. "Why didn't I get such and such? It was on MY LIST" will be the refrain from upset, quivering little voices. To which parents and Grandparents, sensing Christmas drama, will remind little Johnny or Suzie that they can use the money from their cards -- which they didn't read in the first place -- to purchase their unfilled Christmas wishes.
You know, we adults aren't much different! We often bypass or miss the important messages while digging for the bucks, we are not truly thankful for the gifts in our lives, and we are often yearning for things we don't have (and don't really need).
Tonight we can begin to fix this situation. We gather this Holy Night in the House of God to not only celebrate the birth of Christ, but also to say "Thank you!" to God for providing us with the greatest gift of all....his only Son, Jesus Christ. We say "Thank you!" for Jesus coming to live among us, to love us, to show how to love one another, and to ultimately die for our sins. In a few short months when the flowers are blooming (hopefully!), we will gather again to remember Christ's death, and say "Thank you!" for His sacrifice on the cross.
We don't, however, have to wait for Christmas and Easter to say "Thank you!" to God. In fact, we can live Christmas and Easter each and every day by saying "Thank you" to God.
I have a devotional reader that I try to read (not always successfully) on a daily basis, and a few days ago the text featured Psalm 113, vv 2-3: "Blessed be the name of the Lord....from the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the Lord is to be praised." Now, as most devotionals do, the author spends a paragraph or two expounding on the Bible verse of the day...my devotional told the story of how a youth pastor encouraged teenagers on a retreat to develop a gratitude journal...each morning the teenagers were asked to write 10 things they were thankful for in the journal, and repeat the process each evening. According to my devotional, the act of being aggressively thankful can replace feelings of worry, anxiety, self-criticism, greed, and so forth.
I believe it, and you should too.
Saying "Thank you" to God every day for our abundance literally changes your frame of mind. It makes you appreciate what you have, understand how loved and treasured you are, and will help you quit worrying about stuff you don't have (and don't really need). Ultimately, showing thanks to God every day literally changes your value system, and helps you focus on what's important.
Start with your life...."Thank you for another day, Lord." The older (and more fragile) we get, the more we realize every day is truly a gift. So, say "Thank you!" to God.
Every morning and evening give thanks to God for your family and friends, your talents, your possessions, your work, and Christ Himself. Just like those teenagers on retreat, you will quickly learn there is a never-ending list of things to be appreciative for, and the repeated process of giving thanks will change your attitude and outlook on this life.
You know, think about our society, our hurting world....how many people suffer from anxiety, worry, and self-doubt? How many souls unmercifully criticize themselves and those around them? And how many folks get into trouble -- sometimes serious trouble -- because of greed and selfishness? There is so much hurt in the world, but all of that hurt, pain, and suffering can be combatted with two little words: "Thank you."
My friends, celebrate Christmas and Easter every day by saying "Thank you" to God for everything in your lives. Say "Thank you" when you awake, thank you again in the evening, and during the quiet times of your hectic days utter quick prayers of thanks for the multitude of gifts we enjoy. It's a very simple thing to do but the impact on your life, and the lives around you, will be profound. You just have to believe.
Merry Christmas. May the Peace of the Lord be with you. Amen."
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to my readers....I truly appreciate your support through the years, and wish you and your family a blessed holiday season. May the Peace of the Lord be with you.