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Christmas Eve Sermonettes
A blessed Christmas to you! What’s your reaction to Christmas? What’s your reaction to the news of Jesus’ birth? What’s your reaction to the baby born in Bethlehem and placed in a manger? Tonight in our worship we’re going to focus on 4 different reactions to Christmas and see how they apply to our reaction to Christmas.
Rejected – Luke 2:6-7
Bethlehem wasn’t a very big city. In fact, it wasn’t much more than a town or a village. But now, thanks to Caesar Augustus, all the descendants of David had to make their way there in order to register for this census. If you were a person of means or were wealthy enough or fortunate enough you may have been able to secure your own guest room or private quarters somewhere. But most, however, probably had to share some sort of communal sleeping area with many other people. But even that’s no place to have a baby. The impression God gives us here is of Joseph and Mary going around trying to find a place to stay and over and over again being turned down- No room in the inn, no guest room, no vacancy.
So where do they end up going? A stable. A place for animals. And it’s there where Jesus is born. He’s laid in a manger, a small feeding trough, and even that has to be borrowed from animals. But who is this? Who is this little baby? Is this not the Lord? Is this not the Almighty God taking on human flesh? Is this not the one who “fills heaven and earth”? Is this not the one before whom every knee should bow in heaven and earth?
This is so reverse than how it should be, isn’t it? To a world that He made for himself, yet who defies Him with sins, rejects him with unbelief and insults him with indifference, HE should reject us, cast us away, have no room in heaven for us. But that’s not our God. Our God comes so low, so frail, so humbly, that his human creatures can refuse him room. Why so? Because God came not to destroy and reject us, but to save us. He came to lay aside His glory for a time to rescue us. He came not to frighten us with His power and majesty and might, but so small, so gentle, so lowly to woo us, to win us, to draw us to Himself with his amazing compassion, awesome grace, and forgiving love.
Don’t reject him, don’t shut him out of your heart, your life. “Let ev’ry heart prepare him room.” Why so? Because he came to prepare the best room for you. “In my Father’s house are many rooms, I’m going there to prepare a place for you.” He came to live without a room so you might have a room in heaven forever! Amen.
Terrified – Luke 2:8-12
Have you ever felt “gripped with fear”? Have you felt instant terror? Perhaps startled at some sounds in the night. Perhaps something surprised you suddenly. Perhaps someone or something jumped around the corner at you or you came within a hair’s width from death.
Well, try to imagine what it must have been like to be one of those shepherds on the night Jesus was born. There they were, doing their work, minding their own business, on a calm, still, quiet night…when all of a sudden, “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them”! And they were…terrified! Literally, the Greek says that they “Feared fear, GREAT!” Why did they react that way? Was it because they had been startled? Was it fear of the unknown? Perhaps, but mostly, it was the fear that sinners always feel when they are confronted by the sheer blinding holiness of God. Put yourself in their shoes, how would you have reacted? As that perfection of God surrounded you, what would have seen about yourself?
Perhaps there’s all kinds of things that cause us to be afraid. The world lives in constant fear of another war, another riot, another uprising. What will happen to your finances if the economy tanks? And then there’s a thousand little fears, the cares and anxieties that creep into daily life, how often we say, “I am afraid that…” But the greatest fear is what we see here. Confronted with the holiness and perfection of God, every person is gripped with fear. Why so? It began in the garden of Eden when Adam and Eve hid from God, why? “I was afraid, so I hid.” Fear is caused by sin. And so, imagine being one of those shepherds. Confronted with the perfect holiness of God, how do you and I look? We’re sinful, shameful thoughts, disgusting words that have come out of our mouths, we can’t reach perfection in anything. And so we would see our own sinfulness so clearly and we would have reacted just like those shepherds –terrified.
Which makes what the angel said, so, so beautiful. “Do not be afraid. I bring you GOOD news of GREAT joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” Notice what the angel didn’t say. He didn’t say, “Oh, you’re really not that sinful or as bad as you think.” Nor, “If you would just work harder at being good, then you wouldn’t be so afraid.” “Nor, “Oh, God’s kind of like an old grandfather who just thinks it’s so cute when his kids are naughty.” Nope.
What did the angel say? In essence, “Yep, you’re just as sinful as you think you are. You deserve to go to hell just as much as you think you deserve it, probably even more. But!! God has come to save you! Come to rescue you!
That message – the message that God has come to rescue us – is finally the ONLY message which can really drive fear and doubt out of our hearts and minds. That message – that Jesus has come and has paid for our sins in full – is the only message that can bring peace to our lives of fear. That baby born in Bethlehem is the Savior or your past. No atoned for sin can rise to frighten you-He paid for them all. He brings peace to your soul through the forgiveness of your sins. Joy replaces fear. That baby is the Savior of your present. All power is His. He rules all. Joy to the world the Savior reigns. He rules your whole life! And that baby is the Savior of your future. He is right now preparing a place for you in the mansions of heaven. Even death has lost its sting, grave its victory. Even in the face of death we too can depart in peace for our eyes have seen our salvation.
So what is it that fills you with fear this Christmas? Listen to the angel, see your God come to save you, and do not be afraid. Amen.
Glorify – Luke 2:13-18
I’ve broken quite a few buckets and boxes in my life. Want to know why? Because something will just be out of reach, I’ll need to stand on something, and instead of getting a step stool I’ll climb on whatever is available like a bucket or a box, but that’s not what that bucket or box was made for and I’ll end up crushing it under my weight. That ever happen to you?
What’s interesting is that this word “glory” in the Hebrew language has the connotation of “weight” to it, putting weight in something. We give glory, fame, recognition to things that can “carry the weight” so to speak. We give glory to sports teams who win, they could handle the weight, if you will. And so, in a way, every time you step on something to hold you, to hold your weight, in a way you’re giving glory to that object.
Here the angels are giving glory to God in the highest. What does that mean? They are ascribing all “weight” in God. He can handle the weight of always keeping His Word. He can handle the weight of all things with his infinite power. And He has the weight of all love because in His grace he came to save people.
But often we put our weight in the wrong things. We glorify the wrong things. How often do we put our weight, our glory in the stuff of this world instead of in God? We do that when we’re more interested, more excited about, more infatuated with something in this life instead of in God. But what’s the problem? It will fail us like a cardboard box trying to be step stool.
There’s only One who will never fail. There is only one on whom you can put all weight. There is only one who deserves all glory, fame, recognition and honor. That’s God. For He is the One who loves us so much He came to save us eternally. Glorify Him. And how do you do that? Trust in Him and do what the angels and shepherds did- spread abroad the good news of what our God did to save us!
Ponder – Luke 2:19
Mary didn’t let the events of Christmas simply leave her unchanged. She remembered, she pondered, she treasured up all these things. Here’s a question for you: What are you going to do with this Christmas message?
Can you really walk away from this evening and this message unchanged? Can you really ponder the mystery of God’s grace for you in this baby born to save you and then return to a life of selfishness, bitterness, envy?
God’s love seen in Mary’s Son our Savior moves us to redirect our lives off of self and on to God and when that happens our entire life focus shifts, life isn’t about me and my wants, it’s about God and what He wants. Life is about serving this God who has come to serve and save us. And how so? Christmas is a time of giving. People are often generously giving of their money for gifts or charity, but one of your most valuable possessions is time. You can get money back, but you can’t get time back.
May this Christmas message move each of us to use our time like Mary to ponder and treasure God’s grace by hearing His Word and may we use our time not to serve ourselves but to serve those people God places in our lives. May this message that we considered again this evening move each of us to react with ponder God’s incredible grace!