Christmas Lane's a Two Way Street

Just for your information… there really is a place called Christmas Lane! That won't come as news to some. We have members and friends who live on that wonderful little street in Gambrills. Others have lived there in days gone by. Oh, that old cowboy Gene Autry can still be heard singing about Santa Claus Lane on those All- Christmas-All-the-Time radio stations. But nobody's ever been there. Or lived there. Some of us can give you Bob Cratchit's address from memory. But nothing that happened in that storied place really changed the world. And I guess there are a bunch of other addresses that seem special to the season, particularly if their post office is the North Pole. But today, I hope we'll only have eyes for that little Lane in Gambrills. Some would say the coolest thing about the place is its name. Not me. No, for me the coolest thing is: Christmas Lane's a two way street! And so is the Christmas for which it's named. In one direction, Christmas says to the non-believer, the doubter, the tired, the sick and the depressed, the lonely and the lost: Come and see! But when we look the other way, to the believing, the faithful, the trusting and the newly converted, it says: Go and tell.

Come and see. Get yourself going in the right direction in these days that take us to December 25th. To those who don't believe, who doubt; to the exhausted, the exasperated, the unwell and the depressed; to the lonely and the lost, the message is now what it was when Mary went to see Elizabeth, even in advance of Jesus' birth. The message is: come and see.

…He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his  arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts, he has put down the mighty from their thrones,  and exalted those of low degree; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity for ever." (Luke 1: 49-54)

If you doubt, come and see what God has done. Learn to look in the right direction. Maybe the most disheartening aspect of our Christmas these days is it encourages to look every which way but up! "We've got what you're looking for this Christmas!" the store ad trumpets. NOT! The frantic thing in the mall is not the buying. It's the looking. It's the seeking for the one gift that will really make the difference. The problem is… it's not available from the mall. It comes only from on high. And it comes already gift wrapped… in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Elizabeth believes exactly this. So even the child in her womb (we'll know him as John the Baptist) leaps for joy at the approach of Mary, pregnant with the Savior.

If you doubt, look at what this Jesus-to-be-born will do. He will come to those who have nobody else. If you are lonely, lost or depressed listen up. In a world that insists on playing favorites, God comes to those nobody else would, or will, pick. What shocks Mary beyond her conception is that God conceived to conceive with one so ordinary, unadvantaged, disadvantaged, low. If you doubt God because the world seems a mess, or at least your world does, consider this: Christmas is God building the world all over again: from the bottom up! Come and see: the high and the mighty are exposed as legends in their own minds. They just imagine they're untouchable, undeniable and in charge. Haven't our headlines been full of this of late? A caution here: remember this whenever you're feelin' high and mighty, or think the same of the people and causes you favor.

Mary tells Elizabeth. Jesus shows us. He will fill our hungers…with good things. Notice, it's not just things, but good things. There is no spiritual junk food here. You don't get cheap grace. Anything doesn't go in this life. You don't get sentimentalism as a substitute for deep love. We get the baby and the prophet in Jesus. It's not a palace birth, but a dirt floor nursery. It's not a free ticket to heaven. The cross is the key. There's no Sunday salvation without Friday's hillside. The beatitudes are here. But so is, "The last shall be first." Let McDonald's serve Happy Meals. Jesus offers us real bread when we're hungry. And real soul food when it's our spirits that are empty. So, as you need to, come on over to Christmas Lane this week. Come and see what the Lord has done!

But if you're a believer, go and tell too. Christmas Lane's a two way street! Mary is literally bursting to tell somebody about Jesus. When we are filled with him like she was, why, we have to do the same. Coming into Christmas turns us around and heads us in a new direction. All of us. The thing we're called to give away this Christmas… is Christmas! The only gift we need to give is the only one we couldn't possibly buy! Jesus. The only message we need to send in our cards and in our greetings is this: Christ the Savior is born. What Mary says to Elizabeth you and I still need to say to everyone who hasn't heard. "God has remembered his mercy," in this Jesus. We need to say it with our lips. Have you ever told anybody about Jesus? Surely this could be your week. We need to say it with our hands and feet. Our youth will do that in Guatemala this summer. We will do that in the Winter Homeless Shelter here. We need to let our embrace do our talking. There are plenty of mourners in need of a hug around here. A hug that comes from heaven through us. There are plenty of conflicts in our families and in our communities, even in the church family (the whole world 'round) that need us to be the instruments of reconciliation. One thing I can say for sure. Before this week is out somebody's gonna ask you, "So… what'd you get for Christmas?" Tell 'em. "Jesus." One other thing is sure. Somebody's gonna ask you. "What's the best gift you gave this year?" Tell 'em. Better, show 'em. Show and tell 'em, "Jesus!"

Well here we are friends. Sitting together at the head of Christmas Lane. And it's time to get goin'. Just remember. Christmas Lane's a two way street. Come and see as you have need. Then go and tell. It is a wonderful message. Scripture says, "No one's ever seen or heard anything like this, never so much as imagined anything quite like it – what God has arranged for those who love him (I Cor. 2: 9) Won't you be the bearer of such glad tidings?!

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