Christmas: it’s come back time. Time for people to come home and visit their parents and their relatives. Christmas is a time when happy thoughts of reconciliation bring two strange people together again. Christmas is a time when the faith that has withered is almost gone, it seems to be revived and the songs of hope fill you with joy again. Its Christmas! Christmas has come back again time.
I want to thank all of those at this church, hundreds of volunteers and many of you who worked all through the night hours to establish this for us to sit in, worship like we are tonight. Because Christmas last night was a play and it was different. Christmas is come back time. Oh, what a statement. We all go through set backs. That’s a part of living and they may be relational setbacks and the relationship isn’t what it used to be. And the spouse that’s missing leaves an empty hole. It may be financial setbacks. Losses were bigger than you expected and you don’t have it anymore. It may be physical setbacks and you have problems you never faced. The doctor says well its.. you’re getting older.
Setbacks. You know what a setback is? I’ll give you the sentence. A setback is a set up for a come back. And that’s what life’s all about. Come back. You know because all of us misjudge the powers we have within ourselves to come back. I’ll use the word you, but it applies to all of us. You have inner emotional powers that you haven’t tapped. And that’s why when people go through horrific tragedies and survive and they’ll say I never thought I had it in me, never knew I’d go through something like that but the Lord helped me. Yes, because the Lord is within you and He doesn’t display His powers continually.
One of the amazing come backs I experienced; you know this is our, maybe our 53rd Christmas Eve in my life, in this church, and I can tell you a lot of miracles but the one that stands out so much in my mind, it happened on a Christmas Eve candlelight service like this. And there was a lady sitting maybe eight pews from the front. Behind her were two women talking and she heard the one woman say well, I’m on my way to Hong Kong. I’m a United Airlines stewardess but I watch the Hour of Power, felt I could slip in early and catch one of these services and I’ll be on my way to the Orient. And my name is, I think she said Brenda. And the person to whom she was talking acknowledged the conversation.
But the woman in front of them who heard it, had a strange feeling. Very strange because she had a granddaughter whom she’d never met, had never seen because the grandmother’s, the grandchild’s mother was hostile to her mother and here is this grandmother who suddenly hears this woman say I’m a stewardess. She turns around and she says excuse me, you said your name is Brenda? Yes. I have a granddaughter about your age. Her name is Brenda but I’ve never met her. And she’s a stewardess, too. And then Brenda, eyes got large, mouth dropped open and said you wouldn’t be Laura? She said Laura? You’re my grandmother! And the two stood, almost tumbled as they hugged, held each other and cried.
Oh, Christmas is come back time and God has a way of connecting people who’ve been separated too long, too unfairly. Yes, that’s what Christmas is a miracle and the great miracle is the come back between God in heaven and you, a human being here on earth. For we are, by nature, drifting from God. But He came to earth in Jesus to bring us back to Himself.
How does that happen? Well I’ve lived long enough to hear lots of agnostics and atheists say I can’t believe in a God. And they named a god who they blamed for lots of things that isn’t God’s fault at all. God gets the blame for lots of things that aren’t His fault. And He doesn’t get credit for a lot of good things that happen in human life that He is responsible for.
So here we are and people, coming back to a relationship with God at Christmas time. That’s where you are and that’s why you’re here in this place. I was thinking, as I wrote these words, of the time when I was in Iowa for college vacation and the storm came up in the west and then it got black and then it looked dangerous. And then my dad said that could be a tornado and it was. And then it formed its strong funnel heading straight for us. We got to get out of here, dad said, and we ran to the car, raced and escaped it. But it didn’t miss our home and when we came back, there was no home. The house was gone. The barn was gone. All the buildings were gone. It looked like a new little shopping center was getting started. You could see foundations for buildings. That was all.
And my dad prayed, and I’ll never forget, he took his two arms and made fists. And I remember my father never did he raise his voice except for that time that I’ll never forget. He never shouted, not at my nor the children, nor at his wife. He was a soft spoken man, but in that moment with clenched fists, sitting in the car looking at nothing, he yelled “it’s all gone, Jenny!” It’s all gone! Jenny, its all gone.
Well we found the house. It had been dropped about a half a mile away of the farm. And I remember walking through the trash, it was just trash. One big piece was there, it was the hard wooden back of the piano. In our kitchen, we always had a sign made out of plaster and painted that said “keep looking to Jesus.” And there I saw it in the trash, only the top half of it had been broken in half, neat as could be, and all I could read were the words “keep looking.” Keep looking.
Come back time. How do you come back when you’ve had a bad set back? Keep looking. Looking through the trouble, looking through the trash, looking through the hardship. Keep looking. Yes, we had to do that because we had no insurance, or very little. Come back time. Why its Christmas. God comes down to earth in the worst of times, to give the worst of the hurting people hope again, faith again, keep at it again, go back for it and don’t give up. That’s been my life. That’s got to be your life! If you’re going through a setback, it’s a set up for a come back. Yes.
Where are you? Come back to God. Come back to prayer. Probably its been too long since you spoke out loud alone to the God you cannot see but must believe in. Come back to God, come back to the church. With all of its faults and its shortcomings, with all of the difficulties you have with a thing called church, forget it. Come on. Come back. Sit there. Be open. Come back to your family. Christmas is come back time! Come back to the telephone and call this person. How long has it been? Come back to Jesus, your Savior, who’s alive. Yes.
I Thank you, God, for that glorious comeback. And I thank You for those sitting here, silently listening, still struggling with something from which they wonder can they ever recover the grief, the hurt or rejection, a pain, fear? Oh God, this is the moment when You are doing Your miracles, and we thank You, Amen