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The First Congregational Church, Columbus Ohio
Christmas Eve, December 24, 2005, 7:30 p.m.
A sermon delivered by The Rev. Timothy Ahrens

Dedicated to Timothy E. Smith and the music ministry of First Church and always to God's glory!
Wandering
Luke 2:1-20; Matthew 1:1-25

There is something distinctive in the steps of those we see tonight. Each person on their way to Bethlehem follows God's light. Each person listens to the music of the soul. They hear something different than most of us. They walk in the way of God toward a destination called baby Jesus. Watch them, if you don't believe me. Each parent, each angel, each shepherd, each king comes on a path paved by God through the desert of destiny to the cattle trough in a barn in Bethlehem. Each person walks with distinction toward new life. Their pathways are paved with faith and hope and especially with love.

Have you ever wondered about those who are wandering this night? The Innkeeper doesn't know where he stands or which way his life is headed or why he says "no room" to a woman and her husband on the frozen edge of birth. King Herod paces the floors of his kingly mansion in circles, wondering who God is and why God would send a new king to replace this bitter old one. The midwife, the stable hand, the servant girl are all left out of the story entirely. But, God knows (and so do we) that it takes more than a miracle to birth a baby into this world. It takes midwives and stable hands, and servants girls. It takes a supporting cast of nameless people who wander into destiny's path. None of them know who this baby is, but each of them knows he is something extra special.

Have you ever found yourself wandering when (seemingly) everyone else around you was moving with the distinctive steps toward destiny's clear destination? Do your tracks in the snow have a circular quality? Or are your toes pointed toward an end goal? Let's be honest, most of wander in our wondering about God and God's meaning for our lives.

We have more focus and purpose when we cruise through Walmart, Best Buy and Target seeking deals than we walk through church. Our steps are clearer when pursuing discount than in seeking the Savior of the World. I have witnessed this firsthand. Although no one in this room despises shopping as much as I do, some of you know that one week ago tonight I spent 14 hours sitting outside Best Buy with my son Daniel (he spent 18 hours!). We had come to purchase the XBOX-360 - apparently the ultimate machine. Rumor has it that it even brushes your teeth. We were blessed with this opportunity because Daniel saved his money for one year through babysitting and umpiring to reach the sidewalk outside Best Buy of Easton. I am sure some of you may question my parenting. I ask that you show more mercy than judgment, but nevertheless if you must judge me, you may do so only if you have a teenage son (who is paying for his own XBOX-360) and you have clarified your own spiritual wandering - because I gained a lot of spiritual clarity last XBOX Eve.

As we sat out in the 20 degree weather, one thing was clear to me - these people knew exactly what they wanted and why they had come to Best Buy. They all had something in common. There was such certainty. This certainty and clarity is something I wish I saw more often on the walkways of faith. It turns out, we were 18th in line and only 32 people were able to purchase this item. After the purchase was complete, frozen and tired, we climbed into our van trying to warm-up so we could head home, shower, shave and make our final destination First Church.

I looked at my son somewhere on 270-West and asked Daniel, "if this were baby Jesus would you have waited all night to see him?" Without hesitating and with a heart filled with faith, Daniel answered, "Yes, dad." Then he smiled and added, "I only hope that he wouldn't have asked for my XBOX-360 for his birthday." Then one second later he added, "But if he did, I would have given it to him."

If you find yourself wandering or walking in circles on your journey of faith, come to Bethlehem, tonight. At least for this point in time, you will have found your way home. Amen.