Matthew 9:2-7

And just then some people were carrying a paralyzed man lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” Then some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” But Jesus, perceiving their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” —he then said to the paralytic—’stand up, take your bed and go to your home.” And he stood up and went to his home.  Matthew 9:2-7

Kelley and I will spend Christmas Day with my daughter and her family at their house. The other day I found myself thinking about our first Christmas in Houston. Kate was 2 1/2. The Christmas season, my first in parish ministry, was brutal. But we were bound and determined to open our presents on Christmas Eve. Tradition!

Kate was exhausted. She kept falling asleep. And we kept waking her up to show her the presents she received. She didn’t have the energy to tear the paper much less play with the boxes. But we wanted pictures with her and the presents she received from her grandparents and nothing was going to get in our way.

We were exhausted too. But we were dedicated. We thought we were doing the right thing. After all, if we didn’t take those pictures, what kind of parents would we be? What kind of message would we be sending to our own parents about how they raised us if we didn’t help Katie express her gratitude? (HER gratitude…an exhausted 2 1/2 year old….)

So I thought about that night this week and I suddenly realized something that I had never realized before. And it took the kids in Peru to teach me. Left to her own devices, Kate would never connect a wrapped box from Toys R Us with the birth of Jesus. We had to TEACH her a value system wrapped up in the values of materialism. She didn’t need that to learn or even to appreciate the story of Jesus’ birth.

I learned a couple of years ago that cattle are naturally allergic to eating corn. It wreaks havoc in their system. Yes, it very quickly fattens them up and prepares them for market much sooner, but the only way that can happen is if feedlots add copious amounts of antibiotics to their diet, to fend off the disastrous effects of corn.

I wonder if we do something just as unnecessary and even dangerous in how we join in our culture’s annual tradition of rooting materialistic values into young lives – and using the birth of Jesus to do it?

So today’s Bible reading – of the wonders of the healing ministry of Jesus, the power to forgive us our brokenness, to restore us to life and health, working through friends who love us – which is really what Jesus is about, I hope brings us back down to earth. Back down to what really matters. Back down to what is available to us everyday, not just once a year. Back down to something really worth celebrating and feeling grateful for. The gift of God’s love poured out for us in the life, ministry, and on-going presence of Jesus in our lives.

Let us pray: Thank you, Lord, for showing up in our lives. Thank you for friends and family who love us, who support us, who lead us to you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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2 Responses to “Matthew 9:2-7”

  1. Carolee Groux Says:

    I really could relate to your story of your first Christmas in Houston. In the early years of raising a family I let “obligations” wear me out emotionally. Like you, I learned from those early Christmases that perhaps obligations to traditions aren’t all that important. New traditions can change things up; smaller, simpler celebrations can be even more meaningful. As I age I find it more and more true that less is more when it comes to celebrating Christ’s birth. The season should be a reminder that Jesus is present in our daily lives every day.
    Have a blessed Christmas, Pastor Kerry.
    And thank you for your online daily devotions.

  2. Mark Larson Says:

    Thank you for reminding us of what is really important during this season — a gift available to us all year long.

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