Let the Sea Roar
A Short Sermon for Christmas Morning
Adoration of the Magi by Giovanni di Paolo (ca. 1450).
Some Christmas sermons tell you a story. Today’s Christmas sermon,
however, is going to tell you to do something. But first I must give you
a reason for doing it. The reason is a story.
Creation: A Good Thing
Quite a long time ago, there was a god who made a world. He was
nearly finished with it when he scooped up a handful of mud and shaped
it (like a potter will shape a pot) and made the figurine of a man, a
little clay man. God held the little man up to his mouth and went
“Puff!” and breathed into him the breath of life, and the little clay
man became a living being. God made a garden with all kinds of trees in
it and put the man down in the garden and told him to take care of it.
After a bit, God decided that something was wrong.
“It is not good,” God said, “that the man is alone.”
So he made all sorts of animals and brought them to the man to see
what he would make of them. The man thought they were fine, and he gave
them names. Cow. Goat. Rabbit. Hawk. Bear. Wolf. Eagle.
“But really,” the man said, “there is nothing here that quite does it
So God made the man go to sleep, and he took one of the man’s bones
and made a woman out of it.
When the man woke up, God brought the woman to him.
The man took one look at her and said—
Now here I have to be very careful. I want to give you the right
impression of what the man said. It is a big occasion. The first man
sees the first woman. Of course he wants to say the right thing. Well,
what would you say?
We are fortunate to have the man’s words recorded in ancient Hebrew,
and they sound like this: od ha-paam.
But what does od ha-paam mean? Not one translation in a
hundred gets it right. I must make my own translation for you.
The first man took the first look at the first woman, and he said,
Creation: Something Happened
Now all would be well with this story if I could end here. I would
like to say that the man and the woman felt right at home in the garden
and did what they were created to do. After all, everything else in
creation did what it was made to do. The trees grew and bore fruit, like
they were made to do. The waves of the sea splashed against the shore,
like they were made to do. The heavens rejoiced and praised God, like
they were made to do. All might have been well, if only the man and the
woman had done what they were created to do.
But sadly they did not. For some reason they wanted more. Their
children wanted more as well. Before you knew it there were murders,
crimes, revenge, abuse, and pride (although no one really had much to be
proud about any more).
God looked down from above and saw how terrible it had all become.
“I must do something about this,” God said.
The Story Goes On
The story of what God did about it is all in the Bible. My Bible has
1,564 pages in it, so you can see it is a long story. Abraham is in the
story, and Moses, and King David and King Solomon and so on, and
prophets—lots of prophets—Amos, Isaiah, Jeremiah, even Jonah, although
Jonah did not want to be.
Near the end of the story, God saw that the time was right. He would
have a child be born. This child would carry so much of God inside
himself that when you saw him, you would see God. Not only that, when
you saw him—and heard him teach and saw the things he did—you would know
what men and women were supposed to be like. Like the trees and the
ocean and the stars, this child come from God would do exactly what he
was created to do.
When the child was born, an angel appeared in the sky and said to
“Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy
which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in
the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be
a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and
lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly
host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on
earth peace, good will among men!”
That is not all the story. I have left out a great deal of it.
But that is the part of the story that we are thinking hardest about
this morning and on every Christmas morning. It is the part of the story
that tells about two men: Adam (who was of course the little clay man
who got us into our mess) and Christ (who was the child born in
Bethlehem who gets us out of it).
Your Part in the Story
You may not think the world looks much different after this story
than it did before. You know from the history books and from the news
magazines and from your own experience that there are still crimes and
revenge and injustice and abuse and pride (although we really do not
have all that much to be proud about). No, at first glance the world may
not look much different now than it did before. It is still in a mess.
I have two things to say about that.
First, I want to tell you the story is not quite over. The world is
still in a big mess, but ultimately—and I do mean ultimately—everything
will be all right.
Second, I want to tell you to do something. Be what God created you
to be, and do what God created you to do. That is what you must
do, if Christmas morning is to mean anything to you at all.
How are you to know what God created you to do?
The answer is easy. You can find it in the Ten Commandments and the
ethical code of the Hebrew Bible. You can find it in the Sermon on the
Mount and the parables of Jesus. You can find it in the Book of Micah
and the Letter of James. But here: let me paraphrase it for you from the
People worship many idols.
People worship many things as gods that are not God.
They worship power, greed, money, war, lies, revenge, and pride.
But none of these gods is God.
There is only one God who created us.
There is only one God who made a little man out of mud and breathed
into him the breath of life.
You are that man, or woman, or boy, or girl.
God created you to love him and to love other people and to love
God created you to live at peace with the rest of creation.
God created you to fill you with joy.
He created you to long for goodness.
He created you for honor and justice.
Therefore, because Messiah has come,
because Christmas is true,
say among the peoples, “God rules as king!
God brings justice and well-being to us.”
Let the heavens be glad,
and let the earth rejoice!
Let the sea roar,
and let the trees sing for joy!
God brings justice and well-being.
He brings justice to the messed-up world.
He brings righteousness and goodness.
He tells the truth.
That is your answer. That is just what you are to go do.
Tell the truth. This is what you were created to do.
Behave toward other people with justice and kindness. This is what
you were created to do.
Do not love power or greed. Do not love war or vengeance. But be
good. Be peaceable. This is what you were created to do.
Give away everything you can. Thus you will have no more than you
Be patient and forgiving, for everyone you meet is burdened with some
Love yourself. Love your fellow creatures. Love God. For this is what
you were created to do.
If you do all that, I fear that the world will still be in its mess,
for the end of the story has not yet come. But if you do all that, you
will belong already to God’s new world, and you will bring God’s new
world into your own little chimney corner, and when God’s new world
comes one day in perfection, you will be right at home there.
Join the rest of creation. Do what you were created to do.
Peace on earth. Good will among men!
Let the heavens be glad!
Let the earth rejoice!
Let the trees sing for joy!
Let the sea roar!