Please join us this 4th Sunday of Advent for Rev. Sherrie Connelly’s message on Love and the children’s mini-concert before-hand.
- We begin at 10:30 for church, but come early for Swedenborg study at 9:30, and refreshments at 10:15. Amen!
In the meantime, read this beautiful sermon you might have missed; delivered by Rev. Ron Brugler on the 2nd Sunday of Advent.
It might come as a surprise to you, but preparing a sermon for the Advent and Christmas season is a challenge for many ministers. After all, we know what this time of year is about. We know the songs that will be sung and the scripture lessons that will be read. Yes, we have unwrapped the meaning of Christmas many times before, and all ministers know that there is little that can be added to it.
But do we really know what the meaning of Christmas is? Please don’t be so quick to answer that question. Instead, leave room in your mind for a surprise as your unwrap its meaning for this year.
The importance of this became real to me back in 1966. As I have shared with you before, Christmas at the Brugler house was a time for countless unwrappings. With seven children in the family, three sets of grandparents, and numerous aunts and uncles, our tree on Christmas Eve was hidden in a mound of gifts. I can remember being in awe at their colours, shapes and sizes. One could not help but wonder what treasures would be revealed when they were opened on Christmas morning.
We kids would wake up at the crack of dawn, but under no circumstances was the unwrapping to begin until our parents had descended from on high. There was order in our house, you see, even on Christmas morning. My mother distributed the gifts, from youngest to oldest, from most useful to most anticipated. This meant that socks preceded shirts, and shirts preceded pants, and pants preceded the true desires of the heart. But in spite of the order my mother imposed, it still did not take long for the mound under the tree to disappear, and our attention would be focused on the treasures that those wrappings had hidden from our eyes. And the weeks of waiting and anticipation would be over for another year.
But in 1966, the weeks that led up to the big day seemed to be stretch on and on through eternity itself. Why? Because there was one gift underneath our tree that kept calling to me. I can still remember the golden bow, the shiny blue foil paper, and the nametag that stood out from all of the others. It said, “To Ronnie Paul, from Mom and Dad.”
Temptation was a real part of my life that year. Several times a day I could not resist it, and I would creep over to the tree, being sure to be unnoticed by anyone else in the family, and slowly and carefully I would pick up that package. I remember its weight — primarily because it was the heaviest gift that I had ever received. I also remember that my efforts at shaking it were in vain, for not one sound came from within that box. And I remember too that the gift of my dreams that year was something for which my very being ached. For I knew what I need to bring fulfillment and meaning to my life. I needed a Motorola A47 Reel to Reel to tape recorder — the newest model on the market — the one that had high fidelity sound.
We all know that Christmas is a season for miracles. And one miracle that took place that year was that I became the world’s greatest detective. And as though I became Sherlock Holmes himself, I vowed to go to any length that was necessary to unravel the mystery of what that box contained. And I waited for the perfect opportunity to begin my investigation.
At last it came when one Saturday morning my mother piled us kids into the station wagon and drove us into Bellefontaine so that she could do some last minute shopping. And as we drove along, I mapped out my strategy for solving the mystery. I put it into action as soon as we pulled into a parking place in front of Uhlman’s Clothing Store when I jumped out of the car with lightening speed.
First, I ran down the street to Murphey’s Five and Dime where I pushed my way through the throngs of shoppers, ignoring the perfume counter and women’s clothing. I headed to the back of the store where the music section was. But alas, a clerk informed me that they did not sell tape recorders. And so I headed down to JC Penneys. But no sooner had I walked in the doors when I saw my parents! I quickly hid behind a rack of girl’s dresses and waited for them to move on. Then I dashed out the side door and ran to the last store that might solve the mystery. It was Delong’s Music Store. And as I entered their front door, it was then and there that the word “Miracle” took on new meaning for me. For before my eyes was a display of the shiniest reel to reel Motorola Tape Recorders that I had ever seen. My heart lept for joy.
I walked over and stood in front of that display. I picked up one of the boxes. It was the perfect weight. It was the right size too, and to top it all off, not one sound came from the box when I gave it a shake. I had all of the proof that I needed. Yes, sometimes in life, the stars align to bring one a sense of complete certainty. Truth is fully known, totally absent of doubt and confusion. And that day was that kind of experience for me.
I went over to the tape section and began to ponder which ones would soon be in my possession. There would be the Beatles and, of course, the Rolling Stones. And as an expression of my appreciation to my parents, I would buy a recording of “When the Moon Comes Over the Mountain,” by Kate Smith. Yes, my tape recorder would be shared, for that is what is meant to be done with beautiful music, especially when the melodies had their genesis in the Christmas season.
Well, Christmas morning came at last, and I savored every moment. I remember opening the first gift that was passed my way — the one that cried out “new socks.” With anticipation mounting I tore into the boxes of shirts and pants. I even remember being pleased with a new Monopoly game. But at long last, there was nothing left to unwrap but my new reel to reel tape recorder with high fidelity sound. And so, slowly, ever so slowly, I untied the ribbon, and carefully removed the tape from the shiny blue paper. My Mom and Dad just looked at me, smiling, knowing that they had made my life complete.
I thought it rather odd that the box had the words, “Compliments of the Ford Motor Company” printed on the lid. But my dad was a car salesman, so in a way this made sense since he had probably gotten the box at work. But when I opened that box, my heart almost dropped through the floor. Somehow, my new Motorola A47 Reel to Reel tape recorder had become a Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary. I just looked at it, trying to sound pleased, but wanting to cry. I literally wanted to ask my parents if they had made a mistake. After all, it was my older brother who was heading off to college in the spring, and I was the one who would remain at home, with ears that longed to hear the Rolling Stones. But alas, there was no mistake. And from that moment on, I was the proud owner of a Wester’s 169th edition, Unabridged Dictionary, Compliments of the Ford Motor Company — the largest volume that had ever occupied space on a shelf in Logan County, Ohio.
Yet today I look back upon that Christmas, and nothing but joy is in my heart. I say this in complete honesty, because where a tape recorder would have long since broken down and been discarded, that dictionary has remained one of my life treasures. It has seen me through college and seminary and graduate school. It has sat on our table many Sunday afternoons while Val and I attempt to conquer the New York Times Crossword Puzzle. And I speak the truth when I tell you that I will never, ever part with it, even with the computer age having dawned.
But why have I shared this story with you? I have done so because it contains a message for all of us to consider this Christmas Season. For as each of us long to unwrap the meaning of our Lord’s birth, we may have convinced ourselves that we know what we are going to find. But we make a mistake if our expectations are reflections of our own hopes and dreams and desires. For in the end, our Lord comes anew to us, not to give us what earthly desires we long for, but what we need for our eternal welfare. And we can look in the book to learn what this means. The Good Book that is. And there we find, that he comes anew to us so that we might have life, life in all its fullness, a life that overflows with love and truth to guide us each and every day.
This is the greatest gift that we can unwrap this Christmas. And it is a gift that endures. And it is waiting for each of us. Amen.