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Christmas Eve

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Let us pray. Lord God, we thank you for this Holy night. We thank You for Your presence with us. We thank You for Your love. We thank You that we can joyfully celebrate Your birth, the birth that makes all the difference for us and for the world. Thank you for Your loving us so. Amen.

You know, as I was driving in this evening, I was listening to some Christmas carols. And one of the songs that I listened to was- do you remember the group The Royal Guardsman? They were from Florida and they did Snoopy Versus the Red Baron and them the sequel, Snoopy’s Christmas, which is actually a deeper song. Listen to that one sometime. The flip side of Snoopy’s Christmas– I got it when I was a kid, it was a 45- was called It Kind of Looks Like Christmas: a really great jingle, a really interesting song. It kind of looks like Christmas, wouldn’t you agree? Even if Bing would be disappointed it’s not white out there, it really looks like Christmas. All the candles, all the decorations, the lights, the poinsettias, the manger scene. Gosh, and not just in here but around the whole building. Your homes, the streets, businesses… it really does kind of look like Christmas. Everything is just so ornate. Everything is just lit up. Everything is just bright and very joyful looking. It all is. And yet, do we ever stop to think how this contrasts with the birth of Jesus? Which took place in a very humble, austere type of a way? Joseph and Mary make their way to Bethlehem. And what do they see on the inn sign? No vacancy. And then Jesus is born in a manger. It sounds almost romantic, right? But a manger is a feeding trough for cattle. Think about that. The Son of God, God incarnate, is coming into the world and instead of getting the red carpet treatment, he’s born in a feeding trough for cattle. It doesn’t get much more humble than that.

Sometimes I wonder, all the celebration we have, all the pomp and ceremony- and I’ll admit I like it, I like the way my wife engineers our home and we decorate everything there, I love looking at Christmas lights, luminaria, the whole nine yards- and that’s all okay, thats good. But it is interesting to contrast it with how Jesus’ advent into this world really occurred, what the setting was. And just so long as all this stuff doesn’t detract from the meaning of Christmas, from the birth of Jesus, its a good thing. It may just help us recall the joy that we has as our Lord’s servants. Pastor Andrew made a good point with our children today at the Children’s Chat at the 4:00 service. He said “Santa is cool.” Right? Santa is cool. But Jesus is even cooler. So let’s remember that, whether we’re adults or whether we’re children. So lets remember that that putting that into a good perspective. So did you like that nativity story that I read? Its one of the most beloved passages of the whole bible and yet, to be frank, theres a part of it that literally haunts me. Do you know what it is? That there was no place for them in the inn. No place for the Son of God in the inn. Is that the case today? Is it a case where in many and various ways we also hold up “no vacancy” signs to our Lord when we want to be the lords of our own lives, when we want to follow other persons, places, and things and Jesus is trying to push them down on our ladder of priorities? Is it the case when it can happen when we’re not even thinking much about it? Or when we get caught in an interesting situation. That happened to me the other day.

This past Wednesday, just a couple of days ago, I like to run our our Rail Trail- just a couple times a week, 2 or 3 times a week- and I was running on the trail. And as I was running, it was very desolate. I didn’t see anybody else that day. But as I’m running I saw a young woman running toward me. I’ve seen her before on the trail, maybe mid-30s. So what am I thinking as she’s running towards me? What I was thinking was “how do I greet her?” I mean, typically we would just say hi to each other and go our own ways. But I thought, “Well it’s a special week, a special holiday coming up, what do I say to her?”. “Merry Christmas” is what I want to say to her, right? But then the world kind of encroached on my thinking process, pastor or not. “Well, what if she’s Jewish? What if she’s a nonbeliever? She might feel that what I’m saying is silly or even possibly offensive. And I mull all this over and what do I say as I run by her? I got real conformist, politically correct, “Happy Holidays”. You know what she said to me? “Merry Christmas”! I atoned for it, a couple of days later, I was back on the trail. I didn’t see her, but somebody else came towards me and I saw loudly and clearly, “Merry Christmas!” And he did too.

So is it a case where we can forget- even on this night and tomorrow and the twelve great days of Christmas- is it a case where we can forget that this really is Jesus’ birthday? Its about Jesus. And all of our celebrations and things that we do kind of crowd Jesus out. There is that temptation. So we’re called to focus on our Lord. Yes, enjoy Santa and all the rest of it, but first and foremost remember whose birthday it is. And think about it. Think about that incredible proclamation in our gospel lesson for this evening. The shepherds are out there, they’re terrified. What does thy angel say to them? “Don’t be afraid guys, it’s okay. For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a savior who is the Messiah, the Lord.” There you have three titles for Jesus: Savior, Messiah or Christ, and Lord. That’s who has just come into the world. Into your world, into your lives. Messiah, Savior, and Lord. And the angelic chorus joins in on it and they sing “Glory to God in the highest heaven and peace among those with whom God favors.” What incredible good news amidst the difficulties of our lives, amidst the trials, tribulations, sadnesses, dissapointments, tension, anxieties, tragedies. In the midst of it all, to us was born a savior who makes all the difference. Who gets us through those tough times now and into eternal life where there is no more pain and suffering,

Let’s remember that and let’s celebrate that. That that is what God has done for us. Why? Well John 3, what’s it say? “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son. So everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life.” So as we gather together, as we congregate during these twelve great days of Christmas and throughout the whole year, may we remember this, this good news that we celebrate this evening, and the love of God for us that meant that God came as the incarnate once. And His Son comes into the world to make all of the difference in the world and in our lives, for us. So let’s continue to worship our Lord, not just this evening, but throughout the year. Throughout the days of our lives, may we be a praying, scripture-reading people. And may we heed that witness of the shepherds. The shepherds at the end of today’s text really become the prototypical Christian missionaries. They go and tell it on the mountain, as we sing in the great hymn. So let’s be about that, worshipping our Lord, sharing with each other, reaching out to the community and world, and witnessing to our faith, all the while living in those themes of Advent that we’ve been talking about: in peace, joy, hope, and love. Amen.