**sermon art: Rob’s cookies packaged for delivery
A sermon for Bless the Years worship for our eldest elders and their companions.
Caitlin Trussell with Augustana Lutheran Church on December 15, 2022
[sermon begins after the Bible readings from Isaiah and Luke]
Isaiah 9:2-6 The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
on them light has shined.
3You have multiplied the nation,
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as people exult when dividing plunder.
4For the yoke of their burden,
and the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
5For all the boots of the tramping warriors
and all the garments rolled in blood
shall be burned as fuel for the fire.
6For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Luke 2:1-20 In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3All went to their own towns to be registered. 4Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
8In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
14“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
My husband is arguably a contender for king of the chocolate chip cookie. I know, I know, it’s not the classic Christmas cookier per se. But Rob modified and remodified an old chocolate chip cookie recipe many years ago and began baking these monster cookies for his clients at Christmas. Don’t bother asking, he does not divulge his secrets. When our kids were small, he would take them along on the adventure of cookie delivery. There was a part of him that thought the pandemic would end the tradition, but his clients became even more set on receiving the home-baked, ooey-gooey, chocolatey goodness. The cravings started again this year and they began asking in early November. Again this year, our kitchen was a flurry of flour and chocolate turned into dough that’s scooped onto rotating cookie sheets for many hours before being served to clients. He’s out delivering them this week. Rob’s cookies are a bit like the Christmas story itself. There’s a whole heap of mystery involved. There’s breathless anticipation. And there are a lot of people giving rapt attention to the final creation.
For Jesus followers, Christmas engages our imaginations beyond the homespun and kitschy décor that we know and love. During Advent, our waiting, watching, and wondering is focused on John the Baptist’s earthy ministry and Mary’s expanding pregnant belly. Jesus second coming is so mysterious that we don’t spend a ton of time on it except to say that it will be a good thing when the Prince of Peace returns. For me, one of the miracles of Christmas is that we keep returning to the story of a very young woman, an adoptive father, and a baby asleep on the hay. Our return to this story is almost more mysterious than the mystery of God showing up in a baby. Perhaps it’s because he’s more than a baby. Part of the mystery of any baby is the blank slate that they seem to be contrasted with the person they already are right the second they’re born and the person they’re already developing into. At Jesus’ birth, the angel announced “good news of great joy for the all the people,” In the baby Jesus, the mystery of the good news unfolded through his adulthood right on through the next 2,022 years.
Isaiah wrote about a child who is wonderful, who counsels, who is everlasting, and who brings peace. That child sounds like someone worth waiting for and worth knowing. As it turns out, that child sounds like a Savior worth waiting for with breathless anticipation. Perhaps it’s because if you live long enough, it’s obvious we need some saving. We spoke our confession at the beginning of this worship service because we need saving. We need saving from ourselves and from the harm we inflict on one another. In the Gospel of Luke, the angels sang a starlit announcement to the shepherds who were ready to hear the good news of this child’s arrival and eager to see it for themselves. Maybe they needed to be saved from themselves and each other too. Their awe of the angel encounter inspired breathless anticipation. Who knows what they were expecting during their hasty run from the field to the manger side. I picture them turning up at the manger sweaty and out of breath. Words tumbling out as they talk over each other to tell the story about the angel in the field, and Mary and Joseph looking at the shepherds, the baby, and each other with wide amazed eyes, wondering what in heaven’s name is going on.
The angel told the shepherds that the sign of the Savior will be found in “a child, wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” Their anticipation and haste turned rapt attention towards this brand new little one. It fascinates me that the baby Jesus was wrapped in bands of cloth when he was born and the crucified Jesus was wrapped in linen cloth when he died. The bands of cloth around the baby tease our memory with what’s to come. I think that’s also why revisiting the Christmas story each year is worth another go round. It’s not just a convenient annual celebration. It’s a moment in time that draws our attention toward what this could possibly mean.
Like Mary, we treasure the story that the angels sang and the shepherds told and ponder the mystery in our hearts. The Christmas mystery prompts our anticipation, regardless of how breathless it may be, and draws our attention to this ancient story, making it new again each year. We’ve learned over the years to crave the hush and wonder of the Christmas story as we’re scooped into God’s timeless story and served into the world that God so loves. A world in need of a Savior who forgives and heals. A world in need of a Savior who brings peace.
Thanks be to God and amen.