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Christmas Eve
December 24, 1982

First United Methodist Church of Modesto

We light candles, sing carols, remember past Christmases, warmly reflect on the present, praying for those who are absent in our families. Christmas Eve can bring tears, open the doors of sentimentality. But, there is more. We are not just participating in a sentimental exercise, wallowing in nostalgia.  There is a force, an energy, that can affect the world.  

Several years ago a county in Iowa prohibited the playing of Christmas carols in the courthouse because they noticed that the carols made the juries "soft" and it was difficult to get a guility verdict out of the juries. Think of the secret weapon we have at our disposal! The power of Christmas. Let's unleash this weapon on Congress, the Kremlin, the U. N. What a way to soften. We have long known that Christmas has that affect on people. Let's analyze it, capitalize on it, and spread it throughout the year. 

The gathering of like-minded people together in a common cause, a united exercise, focusing on love, the coming of the Savior, melts hearts to remember the needy, the hungry. There is a power, a force, an energy when we gather to worship, when we gather for good. I suggest that this force—let’s call it spirit, the biblical term—this spirit in connection with all other Christmas Eve services across the land tonight influences and affects humankind for good. We are not just being sentimental this evening. To the extent we get caught up in the spirit of Christ, to the extent we participate with our lives in the spirit of Christ, we are influencing human behavior for good.  Does this idea sound ridiculous or impossible? 

Turn it around. Would you deny the power of evil? Look at the power of hatred in the Nazi movement in Germany, and in present forms in this country today. Who would have believed that the Nazi spirit could have captured an entire nation like Germany—a civilized, intelligent, scientific, business-oriented nation like Germany. Yet that force, that energy, swept across that land. Look at what it did to youth. Young people were trained. They wore common uniforms.They marched, they cheered, they shouted in unison. They lost their individual identities. They intimidated. They even informed on their own families. Their loyalty was captivated by a force, an energy, that I call demonic. 

Therefore, if humans can lose themselves and their intentions in evil, why not in good? Why can't the love of people, the desire for peace, the feeding of the hungry, the concern for one another's relationship with God, why can't that be contagious, and spread throughout the world? Why can't peace and love sweep nations? Why can't it begin here on Christmas Eve?  

Not only human behavior, but we are interrelated with nature. Not only can human behavior be affected and influenced by this force, energy, spirit, but nature as well. We are only beginning to discover the interrelatedness of humans and nature. We smile at the primitives who attempted to placate nature with dances and prayers, as if they could influence the weather. But, they may have had a deeper understanding of life on this planet than we have had. We like to think of ourselves as independent, superior to animal and plant life. One of the reasons for the popularity of the creationism movement—the antagonism to the theory of evolution—is the revulsion that many feel to being identified with animal and plant life as if we are superior, and not related to the animals. 

But this attitude has had a drastic affect on nature. When we rape the land, we cause deserts. Who knows what happens when we tamper with the delicate balances of nature? We are one with the universe. 

The Christmas story illustrates this. It was a star that led the wise men. The sky cooperated. The shepherds witnessed a phenomenon in the sky—angels appeared. Animals came to the manger, all one family. Certainly a forest talks to the attuned ear. It can tell you what the weather will be like, whether winter will be early or late. The forest tells you when danger approaches. Listen to the birds. Some tell us that if you communicate with your plants, if you pray for your plants, they will grow stronger, healthier. 

Native Americans are clearer about the relationship we have with nature. The Hopi Indians have become so concerned about the planet, what we are doing to it and to our future, that in 1976, the Hopis sent a delegation to the United Nations and addressed the nations of the world with a warning—a concern and a warning. The essence of their message can be summarized, along with other Native American philosophies, "Walk in balance on the Earth Mother." "Stop the destruction of the land" was their cry. 

My point is this: the combined energies, desires, spirit of a people have an affect not only on human behavior, but on nature as well. We pray for rain in droughts because we believe that the combined energy of people united in prayer can affect nature. Also, the combined greed, ignorance, selfishness of people can have a negative affect. The continuation of testing of nuclear weapons can have a devastating affect on climate and the delicate balance upon which this planet depends. 

Let's unleash the energy of love and transform the world. What we do together as the people of God, what we do together in worship, what we do together this evening and in days to come, can have a transforming affect on the world. Let' s unleash love on this world and transform life. That's what Christmas is all about. That is what the power of Christmas is. The world can be transformed with a love for nature, a love for this planet, a love for people.  The power of God is without limit. 

You too can be transformed. You can get caught up in the worship, the adoration, the love of God. Do you love God? Do you love Christ? Do you get a thrill, a chill at the realization of how much God loves you? Open yourself to the Spirit of Christ which is present here right now in the midst of candles and carols. Open yourself, give yourself to Christ, let yourself go in the adoration of God. 

How did you come this evening? What kind of concerns did you bring? What was your attitude? Let them all go. Open your heart to Christ. Let Jesus save you. Let him redeem you. Confess your sin, your preoccupation with yourself, your participation in the spirit of evil, of greed, of selfishness, those things which are bringing destruction on our planet. 

Be part of God's spirit this evening. Let's join God's team. Let's participate in the force, the energy of love, spreading it wherever we go, worshipping regularly to get rejuvenated, spreading love throughout this community, peace throughout the world, cooperation with Earth Mother. Let's unleash the energy that the baby brought to this earth, and let the silent night, holy night, spread throughout the land, touching hearts. Think of the people you know who need to know Christ, who need his peace and love in their lives and homes. Let's unleash it. Pray work, hope, that Silent Night, Holy Night, might transform this world. 

© 1982 Douglas I. Norris