Well, as is often the case, the text below is neither the sermon I preached at the early service NOR the sermon I preached at the later service.  It ended up being a preparation document/meditation for both sermons.  However, it is the only printed text that I have following Christmas Eve, and I was unable to record either service.  So… I’m going to post what I have and leave it at that!

Blessings All!

Allen

December 24, 2010 ~ Christmas Eve

Luke 2:8-14

“Find Your Way This Christmas”

Franklin Circle Christian Church

Rev. Allen V. Harris

 

To what, or to whom, do you hitch your wagon?  Odd question for Christmas Eve, I know, but I believe each and every one of us attaches ourselves to concepts, things, places, or people that advance our ideals or demonstrate our goals. Even the most staunchly independent person has some thing to which she or he lives in relation to which makes clear her or his priorities. And Christmas/New Years is the perfect season to ponder such weighty matters.

So I’ll ask it again, but in a different way: “What is your motivation in life?”  What compels you to do the things you do, from the way you dress to the places you go to the people you choose to be in your circle of friends and acquaintances?  What do you let influence the purchases you make, the books or magazines you read, the websites you go to, the foods you eat.

To what do you hitch your wagon?  Ah, perhaps you should “Hitch your wagon to a star!”  When Ralph Waldo Emerson, the great American philosopher of the 19th century, referenced this image, he was offering his awe and admiration at the amazing capability and imagination of human beings to harness the energy and possibilities of the natural world to do our bidding and make our lives better.  “The forces of steam, gravity, galvanism, light, magnets, wind, fire, serve us day by day, and cost us nothing.”  Last August Craig and I visited the Niagara Power Project on our way up to Canada.  It’s magnitude and output of energy stagger the imagination.  All that power from the simple truth of the force of nature: water runs downhill.

But the phrase, “Hitch your wagon to a star” has come to mean more than simply humanity’s ingenuity and our industrious nature.  Even Emerson took it to mean our ability, our fondness if you will, to aim our goals and our energies on lofty ideas and grand designs.  “But when [humanity] leans on a principle,” Emerson wrote, “when [humanity] is the vehicle of ideas, [the human being] borrows their omnipotence.”

Now, this sounds all lofty and noble, but you and I both know – and Emerson would agree, I suspect – that sometimes it is not something as dignified and lofty as a star to which we hitch our wagons.  Sometimes we are quite comfortable strapping the tongue of our wagon to almost any old idea that comes along and suits our fancy.  Sometimes, we hitch our wagons to very base, vulgar, and cheap ideals, so as to set the bar low and never risk disappointing others because we’ve already failed them.  Sometimes, we hitch our wagons to that which is the latest fad, the fastest and brightest and fanciest, so that we will impress others and make ourselves feel relevant or wanted.  Sometimes, we hitch our wagons to that which simply feels good and involves the least amount of work or expense or time, so that we can coast along and just get by.  And don’t be fooled, even anarchists and rebels, the most anti-social, fiercely independent, and seemingly autonomous persons have hitched their wagon to something, even if it’s the principles of being anti-social and independent!

Of course, the image of hitching your wagon to a star is another way of asking “To what do you give value?”  That which motivates you, that which best illustrates your goals, that to which you regularly reference your life exemplifies your principles and standards.

The characters of A Charlie Brown Christmas each one hitched their wagon to a particular star, and then lived and acted in reference to that value.  Lucy’s star was having life offered to her in a very particular way, and that way had to be the nicest, finest, and most expensive.  Linus hitched his wagon to having security in life, making sure things were familiar and manageable.  Schroeder hitched his wagon to his abilities, his singular talent of playing the piano.  Frieda hitched her wagon to her appearances, to her naturally curly hair.  Charlie Brown hitched his wagon to the hopes of being accepted by the others.  Snoopy hitched his wagon to… to…  well, Snoopy danced to the beat of a very different drummer.  I guess you can say he hitched his wagon to his individualism, his unique perspectives, being different.

But let’s not dismiss Charlie Brown too quickly.  He had some deeper understanding that there was something more important, more worthwhile than the particular star he had chosen, the values that he seemed compelled to live by.  He knew that there was a brighter star, higher values, a more nobler way of being in the world.  He knew instinctively that the commercialization and consumption that has accumulated around the celebration of Christmas wasn’t the right star upon which to hitch his wagon, even if he didn’t know exactly how to avoid such superficial stars.

Charlie Brown, like so many of us, had lost his way.  He knew enough to know that the values that were being fed to him by the world, and sometimes even by those closest to him, weren’t right, or good, or the best; but he just didn’t see a better way.  He had to find a brighter star, and more true star, a north star upon which to set his sites and guide his life.

And ultimately this star shone bright enough for even Charlie Brown to see it.  It came to light in several ways.  It appeared through Linus’ simple yet profound retelling of the story of Jesus’ birth.  It appeared through Charlie Brown’s willingness to risk failure in pursuit of his truer goals.  And it appeared, finally, through the involvement of community, friends and family and, perhaps, even strangers, who, together, saw his attempts at following a new way as a better way, a healthier way, a more just and meaningful way.  They wanted to follow that north star also, even if only for a night.

Tonight, I invite all of us to become away of the star to which we have hitched our wagons.  Does your star truly bring you joy?  Does my star truly enrich my life and the lives of those around me?  Does the star we follow withstand the tests of fortune and misfortune?  If not, then we should take a risk and look out into the beautiful blackness of the universe, and seek the star that brings ultimate value in life.  That star shines brightly through Holy Scripture.  That star will call us to risk being called fools.  And following that star will require the support and love of a whole host of people, our communities of faith, family, work, nurture, and play.

But whatever we do, we must follow that star, and we will find the way!

http://www.nypa.gov/facilities/niagara.htm

 

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