Friending Jesus – Rev. Henry Brinton

Friending Jesus

December 24, 2009

Isaiah 9:2-7

If your last name is Christmas, you’ve got a problem. It’s not simply that your choices are limited when you have to choose a name for a baby girl — for example, it would be cruel to call her “Mary.”

Mary Christmas.

No, the bigger problem is that Facebook will not accept you.

That’s right. If you submit the last name “Christmas” on Facebook’s online form, you will probably receive an automated response rejecting you. The gatekeepers of this social networking site have decided that “Christmas” cannot possibly be real, as a last name.

Same for the Yodas, the Beers, the Supers, the Sixes, and the Batmans. According to The Washington Post (March 5, 2009), they have all been rejected by Facebook, simply because they have an unusual last name. “I’ve heard every Superman joke known to exist,” says Becky Super, a landscape designer. And a man named Tim Six complains, “Try making a reservation at restaurants: I’d like a table for Six at Five for Three.”

Super and Six. Both signed up to join Facebook. Both were rejected.

The prophet Isaiah tells us that a child has been born for us, a son given to us, “and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). These are certainly unusual names, and you have to wonder: Would they be accepted by Facebook?

More importantly, are we accepting them? Isaiah tells us that the child’s “authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom” (v. 7). Jesus is our newborn king, the Son of David, the Messiah, the Prince of Peace.

My question for you tonight is this: Are we friending him?

The great challenge of Christmas is to establish a strong connection with the baby born at Bethlehem. This begins by hearing a message from Isaiah that invites us to accept the child as a Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, and Prince of Peace. We don’t want to make the Facebook mistake of concluding that these names cannot possibly be real, and rejecting him.

So do you want to be friends with Jesus? That’s the question that Facebook would ask us. If you look at his profile, you see that he is a:

Wonderful Counselor. At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus passes through Samaria and meets a woman at a well. He speaks with her and tells her everything she has ever done. He reveals to her that he is the Messiah, and that the day is coming when “the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth” (John 4:23).

Jesus is our wonderful counselor — the one who knows us most fully, and loves us most deeply. He tells us the truth about ourselves, and invites us to follow him in a life of worshiping God in spirit and in truth.

So often, our success in life depends on the quality of our counselors. Think of recent presidents, and how they have been helped — or hurt — by their closest advisors. All of them have needed counselors who can tell them the truth about themselves, and keep them on the right path. Without good advisors, presidents tend to stumble. And so do we.

Next, Mighty God. When a friend of Jesus named Lazarus becomes ill and dies, Jesus travels to the man’s home in Bethany. One of the sisters of Lazarus meets him on the road, and says, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21).

Jesus answers her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live” (v. 25). Then Jesus goes to the tomb, cries, “Lazarus, come out,” and the dead man emerges (v. 44). He is given new life, and so are we — if we believe in Jesus, our Mighty God.

It’s no coincidence that many favorite Christmas stories contain a message of new life. Think of A Christmas Carol, which includes the transformation of the miser named Ebenezer Scrooge … It’s a Wonderful Life, with its dramatic discovery of what really matters … How the Grinch Stole Christmas, with the growth of the Grinch’s heart, which had once been “two sizes too small.” Christmas is all about moving from death to life, through the power of our Mighty God.

Finally, Prince of Peace. When Jesus is born in Bethlehem, most people are looking for a military messiah to drive the Romans out of Jerusalem. The prophet Isaiah captures this desire when he writes, “For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian” (9:4).

But Jesus comes not to be a military messiah, but a Prince of Peace. His endless peace is based on truth, justice and righteousness, not on the defeat of an oppressive empire. “My kingdom is not from this world,” says Jesus when he stands in front of the Roman governor Pontius Pilate. “For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice” (John 18, 36, 37).

For this I was born, says Jesus: To testify to the truth. And those of us who belong to the truth will listen to his voice, and follow him in the way of peace. “Peace is not the product of terror or fear,” said Archbishop Oscar Romero, who lost his life in service to Christ. Instead, peace is “the generous, tranquil contribution of all to the good of all. Peace is dynamism. Peace is generosity. It is right and it is duty.”

This is the way that Jesus wants us to live — making generous, tranquil contributions to the good of all. He challenges us to be dynamic in our peacemaking, not passive. Generous, not stingy. And dutiful — not reserving our efforts for holidays and other special times. The work of peace and reconciliation should be an everyday effort for all of us who follow Christ. After all, says the apostle Paul, God “reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18).

As ambassadors for Christ, our mission is to make peace with others, following the example of the one who came to earth to reconcile us to God. That’s why an important line in our mission statement here at FPC says that we are to “work for reconciliation among people of diverse perspectives.” We are to “friend” others, just as Jesus came to make us friends with God.

Jesus is our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Prince of Peace. On this Christmas Eve, let’s not be put off by these unusual names and reject him. Instead, let’s accept him and strengthen our connection to him. His names may be offbeat and unusual, but they reveal his true identity.

What a friend we have … in Jesus. Amen.

Sources:
Hesse, Monica. “Offbeat name? Then Facebook’s no friend,” The Washington Post, March 5, 2009, A1.
Lamar-Sterling, Sara. “Peace on earth,” Park Avenue Methodist Sermon, April 1, 2007, www.parkavemethodist.org.

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