Sermons 2007
What's Missing? Christmas Eve, 24 December 2007, Luke 2:1-20

Home | In the Beginning was the Word, Christmas Day, 25 December 2007, John 1:1-14 | What's Missing? Christmas Eve, 24 December 2007, Luke 2:1-20 | Joseph, the Forgotten One, Advent 4A, 23 December 2007, Matthew 1:18-25 | Come with Joy, Advent 3A, 16 December 2007, Matthew 11:2-11 | Darkness or Light? Advent 1A, 2 December 2007, Matthew 24:37-44 | What Kind of King is He? Proper 29C, 25 November 2007, Luke 23:35-43 | Predictions and the Horseman of the Apocalypse, Proper 28C, 18 Nov 2007, Luke 31:5-19 | Just passing through? Proper 27C , 11 November 2007, Luke 20:20-38 | Not like others? Proper 25C, 28 October 2007, Luke 18:9-14 | "We are bold to say", Proper 24C, 21 October 2007, Luke 18:1-8a | "The ten lepers", Proper 23C, 14 October 2007, Luke 17:11-19 | Proper 22C and Holy Baptism, 7 October 2007 | A taste of cool water, Proper 21C, 30 September 2007, Luke 16:19-31 | We hear what we want to hear, Proper 20C, 23 September 2007, Luke 16:1-13 | "Lost -- but found!" Proper 19C, 16 September 2007, Luke 15:1-10 | "Who is coming to dinner?" Proper 17C, 2 September 2007, Luke 14:1, 7-14 | Doors and narrow gates, Proper 16C, 26 August 2007, Luke 13:22-30 | "Fire to the earth", Proper 15C, 19 August 2007, Luke 12:49-56 | "Do not be afraid, little flock', Proper 14C, 12 August 2007, Luke 12:32-40 | "How much is enough?" Proper 13C , 5 August 2007, Luke 12:13-21 | "Lord, teach us to pray" Proper 12C, 29 July 2007, Luke 11:1-13 | "The Better Part?" Proper 11C, 22 July 2007, Luke 10:38-42 | The Good Samaritan -- the Summary of the Law" Proper 10C, 15 July 2007, Luke 10:25-37 | "Travel Light!" Proper 9C, 8 July 2007, Luke 10:1-12, 16-20 | "Independence Day" Proper 8C, 1 July 2007, Luke 9:51-62 | "Three Questions", Proper 7C, 24 Jun 2007, Luke 9:18-24 | "In or Out?" Proper 6C, 17 June 2007, Luke 7:36-50 | "On Grace", Proper 5C, 10 June 2007, Luke 7:11-17 | Trinity C, 3 June 2007 | Pentecost C, 27 May 2007 | "Unity and Diversity" Easter 7C, 20 May 2007, John 17:20-26 | "Come, Holy Spirit, Come" Easter 6C, 13 May 2007, John 14:23-29 | "What is this thing called love?" Easter 5C, 6 May 2007, John 13:31-35 | "Numbers and Sheep", Easter 4C, 29 April 2007, John 10:22-30 | Virginia Tech, Easter 3C, 22 April 2007 Revelation 6:8-10 | Thomas Doubter and Believer, Easter 2C, 15 April 2007. John 20: 19-31 | ""Why do you look for the living among the dead?" Easter Sunday, 8 April 2007, Luke 24:1-10 | Good Friday 6 April 2007 | Maundy Thursday 5 April 2007 | Why are we not surprised? Palm/Passion Sunday C, 1 April 2007, Luke 22:39-23:50 | Party or Pout? Lent 4C, 18 March 2007, Luke 15:11-32 | To Stand on the Mountaintop, Lent 3C, 11 March 2007, Exodus 3:1-15 | "Ways Not Taken", Lent 2C, 4 March 2007. Luke 13:22-35 | "Liminal Thresholds and Lintels", Lent 1C, 25 February 2007, Luke 4:1-13 | Ash Wednesday Meditation 2007 | "Transfiguration and Transformation, Epiphany Last C, 18 February 2007, Luke 9:28-36 | "Weal and Woe", Epiphany 6C, 11 February 2007, Luke 6:17-26 | "Who, me?" Epiphany 5C, 4 February 2007, Luke 5:1-11 | "Filled with rage!" Epiphany 4C, 28 January 2007, Luke 4:21-32 | "The Spirit of the Lord is upon us," Epiphany 3C, 21 January 2007, Luke 4:14-21 | "Weddings and Miracles," Epiphany 2C, 14 January 2007, John 2:1-11 | Schism and Epiphany, Epiphany 1C, 7 Dec 2007, Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

Christmas Eve 2007 Luke 2:1-20
It didn’t strike me until this year, really, that the gospel stories on Jesus birth and descriptions of the manger scene are incomplete. Significantly lacking. Think about it – where are the rest of the animals – only sheep are mentioned in the gospels. But most of the larger manger scenes we set up for Christmas have all sorts of animals. After all, animals must have been part of that first Christmas scene.

We have songs about them: In “Away in the Manger, “the cattle are lowing” and in the “Little Drummer Boy,” “the ox and the lamb kept time.” And sheep appear in Go Tell it on the Mountain, O Come all ye Faithful, Angels from the Realms of Glory, and the First Noel. Cattle and donkeys appear in various other Christmas carols and hymns.

There is one carol that lumps together a lot of “The Friendly Beasts.”
Jesus, our brother, kind and good,
Was humbly born in a stable rude;
And the friendly beasts around Him stood.
Jesus, our brother, kind and good.
"I," said the Donkey, shaggy and brown,
"I carried His mother up hill and down;
I carried His mother to Bethlehem town."
"I," said the Donkey, shaggy and brown.
"I," said the Cow, all white and red,
"I gave Him my manger for His bed;
I gave Him my hay to pillow His head."
"I," said the Cow, all white and red.
"I," said the Sheep, with the curly horn,
"I gave Him my wool for His blanket warm;
He wore my coat on Christmas morn."
"I," said the Sheep, with the curly horn.
"I," said the Dove, from the rafters high,
"I cooed Him to sleep that He should not cry;
We cooed Him to sleep, my mate and I."
"I," said the Dove, from the rafters high.
Thus every beast by some glad spell,
In the stable dark was glad to tell
Of the gift he gave Emmanuel,
The gift he gave Emmanuel.

But none of them mention two animals which had to be nearby or in that stable manger. Can anyone guess which two? Where are the dogs and cats?

There is “Dog Theology” and there’s “Cat Theology.” Dog Theology is “You feed me. You pet me. You shelter me. You love me. You must be God!” But “Cat Theology is “You feed me. You pet me. You shelter me. You love me. I must be God.” In a Far Side cartoon a scientist announced a breakthrough in understanding cat language: “They say only two things: ‘Where’s my dinner?’ and ‘Everything here is mine.’”

Dogs and cats are the forgotten creatures of the manger scene in Luke’s gospel. But surely one or two of each were around that night when the angels sang and the stars danced in the sky. And surely, if they were there, they saw it all. After all can it be hard to believe that dogs and cats were nearby?

Some people love their dogs and cats so much that they believe that they are guardian angels sent by God to be their companions when needed, in sorrow and joy, ill health and good, when sad and lonely. Some people even want the ashes of their dogs and cats to be mixed with and buried with them, if you can believe that.

If you can believe that. Why not.? It’s probably easier for some people to believe that than to believe the main action in the manger scene and a whole bunch of angels singing to shepherds and giving them directions to the manger. That seems impossible unless you believe what happened on the night of the first Incarnation -- God so loved the world he sent the Christ child to us,

A popular college religion text, Zuckermann’s Invitation to the Sociology of Religion says that the truth claims of religion are “mind-boggling, implausible,” “fantastical,” “manifestly unbelievable.” In other words, impossible. So what. The whole category of “impossible” is God’s category. The impossible is the very definition of God. Only when we cross the border from the possible to the impossible are we in God’s territory. Faith does NOT stand to reason, nor does faith depend on reason. Faith is the art of the impossible. (1)

In fact, because what happened in that manger over 2000 years is so unreasonable we can understand it only because we believe it. No explanation necessary except that was God’s love, a love so great we can never explain it. We’re just wrapped in it all our days.


NOTE: Inspired by and parts of the above adapted from “In Life, Nothing Works but the Impossible, Collected Sermons, Leonard Sweet, ChristianGlobe Networks, 2007,

1. As quoted in the above.