This sermon is part of the sermon series "The Big Picture of Christmas". See series.
As a 5th grader at Cornelia Elementary School in Edina, Minnesota, I always felt sorry for a fellow student named Gary. With his high squeaky voice, hyperactivity, social ineptness, and tall, skinny body, Gary was an easy target for grade school thugs. People teased Gary until he wouldas we called itspas-out.
I never actually participated in the teasing, but I certainly didn't stop it, either. That is, until one day in December, when we were on the playground during recess, and Gary was trapped on the top of a large snow hill. Six boys surrounded him and were taunting, teasing and flinging snow at him. As I watched, something snapped inside me. I raced toward the snow hill and dove sideways into the throng of boys, knocking down three of them. After I scampered up the snow hill and joined Gary at the top, I screamed at the thugs, "Hey, if you want to come after Gary, you'll have to go through me." After a moment of confusion, one of the bullies yelled, "Yeah, let's pound both of their faces into the snow." And so they proceeded to pummel both of us. But it was great! For the first time in my career as an elementary student, I actually cared about something beyond myself. I was a freedom fighter against oppression and injustice.
That day on an elementary school playground, my heart cracked wide open. I looked at the worldor at least Cornelia Elementaryand a voice whispered into my ear, "This isn't right. It's not supposed to be this way. Violence and injustice should not have the upper hand. There has to be better way." I have no idea where the voice came from, but it was loud and clear and obvious. Of course, if you go to any playground where children are playing, you'll eventually hear ...
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Matt Woodley serves as the Editor for PreachingToday.com and the Pastor of Compassion Ministries at Church of the Resurrection in Wheaton, Illinois. He is also the author of God With Us: The Gospel of Matthew (IVP).