A CHRISTMAS EVE SERMON

Rick Sweeney
5 min readDec 18, 2020

WE MUST BE CRAZY

CHRISTMAS EVE, 2019

A father had two sons. One was an eternal pessimist. The other son was the eternal optimist. Dad decided to test their perspectives for Christmas. For the pessimist, he bought everything he could ever want and put them under the tree. For the optimist he filled the basement half full of manure. On Christmas morning, the pessimist got busy opening all the gifts under the tree while the optimist went to the basement. The pessimistic son complained. “I will never be able to use all of these things. The TV will probably break and the X box won’t work and I will get tired of playing with all of these toys.” The father then ran to the basement and asked his optimist son how it was going. He replied, “Great! With all of this manure, there must be a pony down here somewhere.”

To some extent, Christmas depends on our perspective going in. And I have to tell you that I think we might all be crazy to be here this evening. Especially since I plan to preach the whole Bible tonight, so settle in.

You would have to be crazy to believe that God created the universe and breathed life into humanity. There are a lot of scientists who believe that the universe is the result of a big bang and that human life is just the result of random biochemical changes. There is a scientist named Doctor George Church of all names. He is working on an RNA replacement process that would make all people completely immune to all viruses. (This sermon was written before Covid 19. His research was fundamental in developing the new vaccines.) He said in an interview that he is basically an engineer. But he said he is nothing and his work child’s play compared to the Prime engineer. Am I crazy to believe what he says?

We must be crazy to believe that prophets told us details about the birth, life and death of Jesus thousands of years before his coming. But there it is in the Old Testament; no matter how you try to explain it away.

We must be crazy to believe that the birth of a baby more than 2,000 years ago was any different than any other birth before or since. We really must be crazy to believe that the mother was a virgin.

And then to believe that the child grew up sinless and healed people and raised the dead. Then he was executed as a criminal while all of his followers abandoned him in his time of need, that is really crazy. Yet, John tells us that he watched Jesus die, he reported that “He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true. So says an eye witness.

And I must be crazy to even talk about crucifixion on Christmas Eve. As if that was the whole reason he was born. A couple got into a drunken fight. They had a young daughter who hid behind the couch in fear. During the fight, the father got a gun and shot his wife and then shot himself. The little girl was taken in by a new family that took her to church. She saw a crucifix and asked her new dad, “How did that man get down from there?” The dad said, “Sadly, he didn’t.” And the little girl said, “Yes he did. He was the one who sat next to me and held me during that fight.” We would have to be crazy to believe that, right?

We would have to be crazy to believe that a little band of weak and ignorant men would spread the word about this Jesus and that he would become the most influential person in all of human history; but here we are. Is it insanity to believe that his Spirit is still with us working constantly to make the world a place of hope and peace and joy and love? Are we nuts to expect that when this life ends a new life awaits us in a paradise?

Prudy and I watch It’s A Wonderful Life, every year. We always laugh at the line where George Bailey says, “You call this a happy home? Why do we have to have all these kids anyway?” We must be crazy to have 7 children. Well, OK, that is actually crazy. And yet they are a blessing and grandchildren are joy in the flesh.

Am I crazy to get tears in my eyes when we light the candles and sing Silent Night? Is it rational that I should feel the presence of my dad just as if he was standing beside me? Yet, it will happen.

Am I crazy to leave a church that I love with all my heart, again? Yet, it is because I love this church so much that I have to move on and make way for a new pastor and a new era. Back then I would have been crazy to think that a bunch of rascals in a youth group would grow up to be people of faith and leaders in the church. But here they are.

You might have noticed that I skipped a significant part of the Bible’s story. After they had executed Jesus they put him in a tomb and sealed it up. He was dead. And on Sunday morning he walked out of the tomb alive. There were dozens of witnesses who saw him and talked with him and ATE with him. Many of them died as martyrs standing up for that truth.

And because of that birth and that death and that resurrection, death is not the end of us. It is the beginning of a new us. Skeptics might say with Nicodemus, “How can these things be?” But those whose reality is only what they can see and explain are most to be pitied for their shallow existence.

You might think, “How do you know that all of this is true?” I had a breakdown about 30 years ago. I was hospitalized with severe depression. I sat at the barred window and looked out at the world and thought that there was no hope left. Then, though I as alone in the room, I felt arms around me. It wasn’t a dream. It wasn’t an illusion. This same Jesus who died for me held me in his arms. And said to me, “I know it sounds crazy, but everything is going to be all right.”

Born of a virgin, God in the flesh, with angels and shepherds and wise men, Jesus died and rose again from the dead. He is still with us. Maybe we would have to be crazy to NOT believe it.

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Rick Sweeney

The Reverend Dr. Richard Sweeney, Rick, is a retired Presbyterian pastor and author. Rick lives with his wife, Prudy, in Greensburg, PA.