This is the sermon I preached this morning for Christmas Day worship. The story is adapted from a wonderful story I found over at Luther Seminary, called "Christmas Moccasins", by Ray Buckley. The Hymn of the day was the "Huron Carol."
The night was cold and the moon was bright one Christmas eve, when a grandmother and her grandson started on a journey together.
They held hands as they walked. The grandmother’s moccasins made barely a sound in the soft snow.
She always wore moccasins.
While they walked along quietly, the grandson wondered why they were walking this way, and through these woods together.
He remembered – and he wondered if the trees remembered – what had happened here earlier in the winter –what had happened to his grandmother and him.
He wondered if the trees remembered how three drunken youths had stopped them as they walked along, how they had hit them, and knocked them down.
How they had stolen both of their coats, and his grandmother’s moccasins.
He wondered if the trees remembered that his grandmother had walked home barefoot in the snow, and that frostbite had taken two of his grandmother’s toes.
And he wondered why they were walking this way again, on Christmas eve.
When the boy and his grandmother had returned home that evening months before, they had not spoken to one another.
Grandmother had heated up water for drinking, and for washing, and they had washed their faces and soaked their feet.
Then she splashed water on her face, and she began to pray.
She took out small beads that evening, and she began to sew new moccasins.
She was a remarkable beader. It was an art.
She used the smallest, most beautiful, most colorful beads, and she began right away to sew new moccasins.
“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,” says the prophet Isaiah in the first reading today.
Today – Christmas Day – it is the message that we focus on – “Peace on earth, good will to all.”
That is the message of Christmas – and it's a joyful message.
Originally, the messenger brought news of the return of the exiles – and the good news was that the Lord was returning to dwell in Jerusalem.
It’s a joyful message, and I’ll confess to you, that when I’ve heard these words, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,” I’ve often thought of Julie Andrews, singing with all of her heart as she runs through the hills.
"The Hills are alive..."
“How beautiful on the mountains…..”
Today we focus on the message, the message of peace on earth, the message that God is dwelling among God’s people…..
But today, Christmas Day, I want to focus on – the feet.
Have you ever wondered about that? How beautiful are the FEET?
Why not how beautiful are the eyes? Or how beautiful is the mouth?
Or even, how beautiful are the hands? Why beautiful feet? Because when I think of the word “beautiful” I don’t often think of the word “feet”.
When I think of the word “feet” – I think more of how tired feet can be after a long day of working, I think of feet that are dirty after walking, I think of feet pounding the pavement, feet walking the malls searching for presents.
I think of feet that walk and pace with babies who need calming, feet that go out searching for lost dogs.
And I think of the feet of the long-distance runner. And then I think that the messenger’s feet must have been tired, after delivering such an important message, walking and running over valley and mountain, rivers and deserts.
“How beautiful are the feet…..,, not just the voice, and not just the eyes, and not just the hands, but how beautiful are the feet
– the feet that take you there, to Jerusalem, or to any place that needs peace, that needs to know that God is present.
How beautiful are the feet – because the feet walk the earth, the feet get tired, the feet go to the places that need healing hands and words of forgiveness.
“How beautiful are the feet….” Because it’s so important to go, it’s so important to be there, not just in Jerusalem, but here.
How beautiful are the feet that walk the halls of hospitals, and how beautiful are the feet of the ones who break bread with the hungry,
And how beautiful are the feet of the ones who hold hands with the dying, and how beautiful are the feet of the ones who shelter the homeless.
How beautiful are the feet of the one who announced, and who brought peace.
How beautiful are the feet of the one who walked this earth, healing us and feeding us and shedding tears and bending down and washing feet.
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and walked among us. How beautiful.
So the boy and the grandmother walked that Christmas eve.
They held hands, and they held gifts.
They held three pairs of moccasins. They were the moccasins that the grandmother had begun sewing earlier that winter, that very night when they were attacked. They were beautiful and finely beaded.
The grandmother had prayed all the while she beaded them.
And she did something rare and beautiful when she beaded those moccasins. She turned them over and she even beaded the bottoms.
Then she wrapped them up in paper. And she prayed. She splashed water on her own face, and she splashed water on her grandson’s face. It was how she prayed.
Then they put on their coats and stepped on into the snowflakes.
The grandmother paused at the top of a low hill, and she paused to pray again. The boy’s heart pounded. “Why are we here?” he asked. “Why are we going to see them? On Christmas eve?
The grandmother answered, “We are here to do the Creator’s work. We are here to do the Creator’s work.”
How beautiful are the feet……
The walk from the top of the hill to the house below seemed to take forever. Their steps grew slower as the snow swirled around them. But they finally reached the doorway.
The door was opened by a large man. Behind him was a tree covered with Christmas lights. “I have small presents for your sons,” grandmother said. “May I give them?” She handed each a package carefully wrapped, and she said to each, “I wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas. God bless you.”
The room was quiet. The three pair of moccasins lay in three sets of hands – they sparkled in the light, with red and blue, white and yellow. No one spoke.
How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the one who announces peace. How beautiful.
The moon shone down that evening on an old woman with a limp and a little boy holding onto her coat. They walked through the grove of trees and paused to touch each one.
And the word became flesh, and lived among us.
Full of grace and truth.
How beautiful are the feet of the One who came among us, announcing peace, bringing peace.
How beautiful are the feet of the One who set us free to love one another.