“The Joy of Having the Memo?

Meditation Delivered By Rev. Dick Stetler – December 24, 2018

Centenary United Methodist Church

    Luke 2:1-20

Christmas Eve

    Tonight, we have gathered to celebrate the birth of a very well-known baby.  Yet, what are we really celebrating?  Have you ever thought of what all humanity would have if we removed the garment of Christianity from what that baby grew up to teach? 

    We would find a road map for living, applicable to every citizen who ever lived since the beginning of Jesus' teaching ministry.  Think of how many people pay little attention to Christmas other than a holiday that brings a massive economic infusion into our societies. Jesus never had the Christian religion in his mind during his ministry.  His stated mission and purpose were to teach key fundamentals for how to live in our material world.  (John 18:37) The theology about Jesus came after his crucifixion.  It did not come from anything that Jesus taught.

    We do not have to look too far to see the number of people who did not understand the memo on how to live.  This is really a shame. The Church has almost isolated Jesus as their property.  This stance has obscured his teachings by wide margins.  His message is everywhere and countless people do not seek it or recognize it as a result of what the Church has done.

    Even though some form of the Golden Rule is in every religion, how many people try to live with this frame of reference even for a week?  The Golden Rule is the sum total of his memo to the world.

    What if we put that quote in the corner of our mirror so that we can read it each morning before we begin our day.  Think of how it would program every response that we make in our relationships. We would be preparing ourselves to treat others the way we want to be treated.  Think of the difference it would make if every day we could bring that response in spite of the circumstances..

    Think of how Alexander the Great ruled the civilized world by the age of 23.  He commanded an army of 46,000 well-trained warriors and had brilliant generals who followed his leadership into one country after another. Seeing his military coming, other countries fell like dominoes.  He even cried when one of his generals told him that there were no more countries to conquer. Even though this young man ruled the world, he was empty and unfulfilled. (Matthew 16:26)

    In Babylon, Alexander met an enemy that he could not defeat. That enemy came in a bottle.  It was alcohol that finally defeated Alexander the Great 323 years before Jesus was born.  He did not have access to the memo.

    Much later Napoleon had the memo but he did not apply its teachings.  For him the memo contained great ideas but the Gospel was never applied to his own life.  He once wrote,

Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded great empires.  On what did our genius depend?  On force! Jesus of Nazareth founded His Kingdom on love and service and today millions continue to honor him.

    Napoleon had the memo but he never personalized its contents.

    A number of years ago, Kathy was a long-distance runner for North Carolina State University.  She broke the NCAA record for the 10,000-meter race.  She got straight A's all through school. The way she bundled her personality, skills, and talents made her an ideal role model for other students. 

    Like Alexander the Great, Caesar, Charlemagne, and Napoleon, she did not understand the memo that explained how to reverse her energy-flow from me to we.  On June 4, 1986, this high-spirited, brilliant, popular woman after finishing as a winner of a track and field event, ran out of the stadium to a bridge and jumped.  The 40-foot leap caused severe spinal injuries due to her body landing on the rocks below.

    What was it that made this young woman want to stop living?  She seemingly had everything going for her future.  We simply do not know what is going on inside of people.  Everyone was totally shocked by her act.

    We need to get ourselves off center stage.  Life is more than how we feel and think. Jesus talked about loving our neighbors, loving our enemies, and living among others as a person who is willing to serve the needs of others.  With our life's energy flowing away from us, we prevent ourselves from becoming self-absorbed.  Learning to personalize the contents of the memo does this for us.

    Many of us recall the time when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after it had been launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida.  After millions of dollars and years of technical research to assemble the shuttle craft, what failed was a nickel part called an O-ring. The freezing temperatures prevented that tiny part from functioning properly.  How many O-Rings do we have in our lives?

    Many times we have freezing temperatures occur during our lives. What we celebrate on Christmas is the birth of a pattern-for-life that actually immunizes us against life's freezing temperatures when we remain committed to applying the teachings of the memo.  

    We all have moments when we wish we had more patience, more power to let go of issues that offend us, more desire to bring kindness and compassion to life's numerous challenges.  We would give anything to be immune to insults, the betrayal of friends and colleagues, and having our peace stripped away from us by all the external influences that bombard our senses. 

     What is ironic about life is that all of us are equipped with these abilities.  They were part of our individual package when we were born. Knowing what is in the memo brings nothing new to life. What it does is teach us how to access and develop qualities that we already have but seldom use.  Some perceived gross injustice can be a tripwire for setting off an explosive knee-jerk response.  Suddenly our reaction to life becomes like one of our frozen O-Rings. 

    All that Jesus was teaching people to do was use to every episode of life to practice accessing and using the qualities of life that were in the memo. Now that we have the memo, we are facing an ideal time to refresh our memories and begin practicing what it said.  We have a New Year when all good intentions have a fresh start. The secret to a wonderful, fulfilling life is to make that good intention a permanent quality of the spirit by which we prefer to live.   Merry Christmas!



Eternal God, who of us can come into our worship experience this evening completely free from life’s numerous distractions.  We have found a place to sit knowing that other people sitting around us have life-concerns that loom as large as our own.  And while the title or label we give to our personalized concerns may change from person to person, all of us know uncertainty.  We know what it is like to be overcome by life’s unpredictable circumstances.  Yet, we also know what it feels like to be loved by you without any strings attached.

This Christmas Eve we are united in the celebration of that love.  There is no other community in the world like a congregation that stands on its hope and looks at adversity and our feelings of vulnerability in the face and declares, "There is nothing here that God and we cannot handle together."

You, O God, have expressed your love in a form that is very clear.  Through Jesus you have declared that there is nothing powerful enough, not our beliefs or disbeliefs, not our mistakes in judgment nor our attitudes or decisions, that will change or dilute the strength of that love.  If the scales of self-absorption cover our vision, cause them to fade.  Spare us from building barriers that prevent love from shining through the windowpanes of our lives.  May we not leave our church tonight as strangers to the peace that walking with you instills in us. We pray these thoughts through the spirit of Jesus, the Christ, who taught his followers to say when they prayed . . .