By Verse : Luke 2:11,12 Topic :

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve has arrived, and I hope we are ready to celebrate this wonderful, unique day. We come out of the snow of the day, the cold of the night, all bundled up, into the warmth of the Sanctuary, but more importantly we come into the warmth of God’s Son, who we have come to worth and whose birth we celebrate. I hope we come with open minds, open hearts to hear afresh God’s story that we hear year after year. If you let it, it’s a life changing story for those who will receive it. Look at it this way. It’s a story that offers hope, and lights the path in middle of a darkened world or life. There is nothing new about the story, but what is new is how we perceive it, and how it is received and passed on by folks like you here tonight.
We’ve heard our choir sing two wonderful songs, “Child of Promise” and “Joseph’s Song.” One is about the one that was promised, and the other is Joseph’s feelings when he is about to become a dad, not just any ordinary dad, but the earthly father of God’s Son. There must have been lots of butterflies in Joseph’s stomach when he reached to bring God’s Son into the world. “One more push Mary. One more push” Joseph yelled. And Mary? There must have been much joy, even in those birth pains, as Joseph handed the baby she just delivered to her.
What an amazing story our choir told through music this Advent season, finishing with a message of hope and peace for our tomorrows. As the prophets had proclaimed, as God had promised at just the right time his Son would come to offer the world peace, hope, joy, and salvation. God’s people waited a long, long time for that to happen, just like some in the world wait today, maybe even someone here tonight who is waiting perhaps for answers to prayers, or for a new direction in ones’ life. The Scribes and religious leaders studied about it, they talked and wondered when it would happen. And on that night, something wonderful happened as Mary gave birth to God’s Holy Child, the Savior of the world. No fanfare! No trumpets, just angels singing to the shepherds who were watching their flocks. On that night, good news came for the world, and that good news lives on today.
So, here we are together on this night we celebrate Christ’s birth. We’ve joined millions of others who are, or have attended a Christmas Eve service some place. Reading Saturday’s paper, you got a glimpse of how some pastors will approach this night as they prepared their sermons, some struggling to find different passages then the story itself. What can be said? Hymns will help us be reminded of the story. But is that enough? Will you leave this place tonight with hope and joy? Or will everything be the same as you came in. You see, we come with different thoughts, don’t we? Some of you might be tired from shopping and baking and all the other stuff you’ve done. Perhaps there are a few who have rushed home from shopping, grabbed a quick bite to eat, changed clothes and here you are…. might I say warts and all. Some still need to wrap a few presents. Some are just plum tired and hope to get to bed a little early. Kids, on the other hand, come thinking about the gifts that will be under the tree. Adults come hoping they got the right sizes, the right gift for the right person, and hopefully each present is wrapped with the correct name on it.
But there is excitement in the air for many, knowing this is a special night, a night like no other night. For 4 weeks we have been preparing for this moment. Shopping, baking, planning, wrapping, cleaning, listening and sing Christmas carols, getting ready to celebrate another Christmas with family and friends. Some have waited to hear “Hark! The herald angel sing, glory to the new born king.” It’s the sounds of Christmas. It’s the sound of jubilation! Some thrill to hear the birth of Jesus once more, knowing that perhaps this year a new miracle will take place, especially in their lives.
Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to go back and be there when Mary gave birth? Would you have wanted to be a spectator? Maybe the cow. Maybe a sheep. Maybe the donkey Mary rode from Nazareth to Bethlehem. I bet if he could talk he would have a story that would warm all our hearts because he was there every minute of the journey and watched Mary deliver her little baby we know as Jesus. Can you imagine him telling his story about watching Joseph deliver Mary’s baby, and hearing angels sing, and words from above not to be afraid? He sure did have a story to tell to all the other burrows that he would share a stall with throughout his life. Have you ever wondered if that same donkey or one of its fold was the donkey Jesus road into Jerusalem on at Palm Sunday? From Jesus’ birth to his cross, what a story he could tell the world, if only he could talk. Could he have been there Jesus’ entire life? It’s possible.
Anyway, the next best thing to being there is being there through the Scriptures as they are read each year. In reality, it’s a simple story as we hear the story how Mary found favor with God. We hear the struggles of Joseph, and even tonight, we heard how he might have struggled with being the earthly father of God’s Son. Such a responsibility. What could he teach Jesus, after all he was just a carpenter? And Mary, his mother wondered perhaps the same. How could they as a couple guide this child that was not only a gift from God, but actually God’s Son, or should we say, “God in the flesh.” Isn’t that what John once said? That the Word became flesh and dwelt among us full of grace and God’s glory? And it came to pass. And when that baby was born God smiled, and maybe uttered to himself, or maybe even in the ear of Mary and Joseph, “My how wonderful he is. Watch over him Mary. Raise him and teach him the world’s way until the moment is right and he begins the mission I’ve asked him to do. Enjoy the moment. Enjoy his presence. Feast on every word he shares with you, and every miracle you see. For I have given a gift to the world that will transform many lives. This is just the beginning of the journey.” Oh, and by the way. I believe that’s the message he might be whispering in our ears tonight as we celebrate Jesus’ birth once again.
And Mary and Joseph smiled, as she nursed and held her baby’s fingers. And the world was calm on that night for the Prince of Peace was born.
It’s the same story every year, I know. But then it isn’t. By that I mean the facts never change, do they. Christ’s birth foretold, God picks Mary and Joseph, the baby is born in a manger, shepherds are told of his birth and they are told to go and see the Savior of the world that was born tonight. Later we have the wise men traveling with their gifts to give in adoration to the King that they knew was born by studying the stars and finding that new one that led them right to the place where Jesus was born.
We know the story well. Some of you perhaps as a child have been in many Christmas programs being a shepherd, or a wise man, or Mary or Joseph, or even one of the animals in the stable. In the 6th grade I was one of the Magi in our grammar school Christmas program. We three Kings of the Orient brought our gifts to give to the new born kind. I sang about the gift of Francene. I remember another year being in a live Nativity scene in Lombard Mennonite church outside of Chicago with Carole, her sister June and her husband Jim our kids and there’s. I must say, it was very humbling to be a shepherd, being part of that first Christmas with people coming to stare at us…. rather staring and worshipping the baby lying in the manger. Many Christmas cards show the birth of Christ as people share the good news with others. You’ve received them and perhaps have sent some to your friends and family. You’ve spread the message of the joy of Christmas. Christmas hymns are sung about his birth, about Mary, about baby Jesus. The last few weeks radio stations and TV have shown things about Christmas. Ads of course, want you to buy that special gift. Movies remind you that a Savior was born. Some will watch The Grinch that stole Christmas seeing how his heart is changed even though he stole all the gifts from the village, because the people in the village still worshiped the one Christmas was all about, not the gifts that were gone, for the greatest gift they received on Christmas was God’s Son. Watching from a safe place the Grinch could see the gifts didn’t make Christmas. It was something else, or as a Christian, as a preacher I would say it was someone else that they sang about and worshipped and with words of adoration, thanked him for many a blessing. And with a new heart, the Grinch, touched by what he saw, comes down the hill to Whoville with his sled full of the presents he stole to words of welcome, and the joy that Christmas lives on.
And we never rule out Scrooge, do we. What a transformation that happened in that story by Dickens. Like the Christmas story of Christ’s birth, this movie and a few others remind us of the truth of the good news that happened that night. A miracle came to pass as Scrooge’s heart is changed, and love rings out as with joy he shares his good fortune with Tiny Tim and his family. No more ‘Bah Humbug!’ but singing “Joy to the world, the Lord has come.”
They didn’t have newspapers. But they had the angelic choir proclaiming the birth of God’s Son to the shepherds. “Hark! The herald angels sing, glory be to the new born King.”
And here we are tonight, just like many of you have been doing year after year. I recognize some of you because this is my 12th Christmas Eve with you. But as always, there are new ones who come. Churches are often filled on this night. Choirs sing special songs about Christmas. It’s an amazing night. You hope the preachers message is short. Yet year after year you come on this particular night because something draws you to this moment to hear the Christmas story. It’s a life-changing story, if you let it penetrate to your heart. If you let the miracle of Christmas travel those 14 or so inches from your mind, to your heart where you can receive the One the message of Christmas is all about. This Child of Promise, is Christ the Lord, and the Prince of peace who is worshipped and adored on this day. When Christmas day is over, the true meaning of Christmas does not come to an end. It’s only the beginning as the journey of faith and believing continues. Into a world of darkness God sent his son to light the path to the future, to a world of hope and eternal life.
The magic of Christmas, the miracle of Christmas lives on, and is passed on year after year.
The facts never change. What changes is how we accept the story into our lives each year. For God so loved the world that at the right time, when the moment was right, God intervened in a world that was full of darkness and sent his Son to break the darkness of sin to light the pathway for those who had lost their way, those who were living in the darkness and needed the light. And it came to pass. And that light still shines tonight.
That’s why we celebrate the Christmas story every year because we are reminded that God’s Son was born so that we could find our way in the world. For unto us is born, not just in the town of Bethlehem, not just in the manger, but in our hearts as well, the Savior of the world and his name is Jesus.
May God touch each heart, each spirit with the miracle of the new birth and the joy, peace and hope of a wonderful journey of faith from Christ’s cradle to heavens doors.
Let us now join in singing “Joy to the World our Lord has come” as we prepare bring this night to an end letting our light, and the light of Jesus’ birth shine in the world of darkness, bring the good news that Jesus Christ is born.

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