Posted on Tue, Dec 27, 2011
Luke 2:1-20 (Christmas Eve 2011)
December 24, 2011
Christmas Eve Worship
Gospel Text: Luke 2:1-20
The Birth of Jesus
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3All went to their own towns to be registered. 4Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
The Shepherds and the Angels
8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, 14‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!’ 15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’ 16So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
“I Wonder as I Wander” (verses 1 & 3)
I wonder as I wander out under the sky
How Jesus the Savior did come for to die
For poor on'ry people like you and like I;
I wonder as I wander out under the sky.
If Jesus had wanted for any wee thing
Like a star in the sky, or a bird on the wing
Or all of God's angels in heav'n for to sing
Well, he surely could have had them, for he was their king
We have had such a wonderful Advent journey, but for me there was a hole in my Christmas preparations. We were on schedule with worship preparations, decorating, making posters, banners and getting the word out, but in my gut there was something missing. Then, as I was driving down the road after teaching Bible Study at the Hawaii Senior Care Community, from the radio came a wonderful old Christmas Carol, “I wonder as I Wander,” and it was the second line in the first verse and the last line of the third verse that helped fill the hole in my gut.
“I wonder as I wander out under the sky
How Jesus the Savior did come for to die”
“Well, he surely could have had them, for he was their king”
The hole in my heart was not yet connecting the message of Christmas to Easter. The hope and joy that we sing about at Christmas is not fulfilled or made known until Easter morning.
The whole Christmas story is about telling us how God thinks and acts. God is God and God can do anything God wants to do! But the story of Christmas proclaims to us in no uncertain terms, that God loves us, and wants to be a part of our lives so much, God will actually choose to enter our world, even it means entering our world on our human terms… and our human circumstances!
I really wonder what Mary was thinking after Gabriel gave her the news that ‘God had found favor with her,’ and she was chosen to be the mother of the Messiah, the Savior… I could just see her thinking to herself like any teenager, “Okay God, you can enter the world any way you like to… chariots of fire, burning winds over a mountain, waves crashing over the land… these kind of entries make the news… but you choose to come as a baby? … And you are including me? This is going to be messy and no fun for you, let alone how painful it is going to be for me! AND WHAT ABOUT JOSEPH?! I have no idea what to tell him about your plan here! He is a practical man, if you can talk to me through your messenger/angel Gabriel, YOU will have to talk to Joseph your omnipotent self! I am not even going there!”
Thankfully God did intervene and have a little chat with Joseph… and like Mary he may not have totally understood what God was up to, but Joseph was faithful and they were off to Bethlehem.
But through the connection of Christmas and Easter, we learn the true heart of God. In order to defeat the fear of death and the dreadful thought of being separated from God and all loved ones, God had to enter our world on human terms.
And yes, I am sure this whole plan that God had hatched with Mary and Joseph brought some real concern for this special couple, their willingness to go along with it, demonstrated an amazing faith and trust in God’s promise.
They knew they were now part of something much bigger than themselves and this was purely a “God Thing.”
Through their own study of the Torah in their community, they too had hope in the promises given to the prophets and people of God through the ages. Through the stories of the people of God held in the scriptures they could see God active and alive, full of the desire to bless and restore those who were lost. They also knew that at the heart of all these stories, prophecies, hymns and prayers there was a proclamation of the faithfulness of God! And when they hold onto the faithfulness of God, they have hope!
Now, through faith, they must have realized that they two were becoming a part of this amazing story of salvation.
However, one thing they couldn’t know about was the cross or the suffering this beautiful babe would have to endure in order to fulfill God’s promise of our salvation. No parent would go along with any plan that demanded that kind of suffering to his or her child… They only knew that God was faithful and that God would accomplish everything that was promised through this child sleeping in the crib.
From this humble crib, true and eternal hope would be accomplished!
But you and I know the full story. You and I know the story about the beautiful night in which our savior was born, plus we know about all the amazing things Jesus taught to so many people. We know about the people he healed or raised from the dead. We also know how he confronted injustices created by humankind and illuminated the world with the Truth of God. We also know that Jesus stepped out of the box and welcomed the rejected and even those who were considered ‘enemies.’ We also know that Jesus took quiet time to pray and center his own heart and mind. We also know that he suffered… mentally as well as physically… the pain of betrayal by his disciples I’m sure was worse than the pain inflicted from the scourging.
We know the complete story, the Hope and Joy of Christmas would be made known when we would again hear the words of Mary, but a much older and wiser Mary say to those disciples, “He is not dead, like you fear, He is alive! We have seen him!”
Jesus is alive! Jesus is born! Jesus is Here! From that little crib in that little town in Palestine known as Bethlehem… Sprung the greatest Hope the world will ever know.
May God bless us all, this Holy Night.
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