- The Washington Times - Monday, December 9, 2002

Excerpts from a sermon given yesterday by the Rev. Ralph Goodman Jr. at Sterling United Methodist Church.
There's a feeling of holiness in our Christmas hymns today, and that is because God has kept His word. God has kept His word in the birth of this child, and this child, our Lord, always keeps His word. What I want all of us to do is catch the spirit of the promise. It has power because we can trust God. If we catch that spirit, all of us can be trusting people.
A pastor friend told me the story of a woman who could not trust her husband. He asked her, "How did that begin?" When she was little, her father and mother split up. But one day, she said, "My father called and said he was taking me and my sister to the movies." So their mother dressed them all up, and they stood by the window to wait. Their daddy never came.
Can't you feel that emotion they are waiting, but he doesn't come? God did not do that to us, and He never will. We celebrate at Christmas that God is with us now, and will be with us always. That's the promise that is kept.
In the early service, I told the story of the Rev. Alexander Crum, who started one of the first United Methodist churches in Estonia under the old Soviet Union. The church grew, so the Soviets took him off to jail. He stayed in jail for five years. The authorities thought that by putting him in jail the church would decline, but when he went back, it had grown fivefold while he was imprisoned.
"Why did that happen?" they asked him. "Because they believed the promise," he said. They understood that God was trustworthy, and they shared that with others. Each one of us, just like the people in Estonia, can share that fact of what God has done with us. We share it so others can know that God indeed keeps His word.
One of my favorite people is Mother Teresa. She stood before the government in Calcutta when they were trying to stop her work with the dying. She said, "I and my sisters are going to stay and take care of these people." Why could she do that? Because she believed in the promise. She understood. She lived the promise.
You may remember all the stories about the orphans in Romania? Mother Teresa went there too, and she walked into this dim room and could only see one bright color way in the back. There was a child, left by her mother a few years earlier, still clutching the doll her mother gave her. Mother Teresa and her sisters picked them all up and hugged them, and cared for them, and found homes for them. Why did she do it? She believed the promise. That's the power of that promise.
That power is lived out in each one of us. Once we catch the Christmas spirit, or know how much God loves us, then we share it with others. I know I say that a lot, but that's because I believe it's the center of the Christian faith. It is knowing how much God loves us, and then being able to take that love that God gives to us and carry out and share it with other people. I tell you, if that's not what Christmas is, what is Christmas? That's what we celebrate. We celebrate that God is always there for us, and therefore we take that gift and give it to other people.
There's a short story called "Random Hearts" about a World War I veteran who returned with amnesia. He settled in a veterans hospital not knowing where to go. Then these images began to come back, and finally a town. So he went there and walked around, until he found a familiar house. And as he walked up to the door he started to remember. He knocked, and his wife, who had not seen him in years, came to the door and they embraced. "Why did you stay around?" he asked her. "You didn't know where I was. Why were you faithful?" You know what she answered? "Because God is faithful to me. And when we got married, I said I would be faithful to you, no matter what."
That's what God says to us at Christmas. No matter what.
Next week: a sermon at a D.C. congregation


LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide