December 24, 2019 8 pm Service

December 24, 2019, 8:00 pm
The Rev. R. Allan McCaslin
Readings: Isaiah 9:2-7; Psalm 96; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-20

From the Gospel according to Luke, “The angel said to the shepherds, ‘Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people.’” I speak to you in the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

     A very Merry Christmas to you all! Tonight, with millions of Christians throughout the world, we have gathered to celebrate one of the greatest mysteries of our faith: that God would freely choose to become human flesh at Bethlehem and to dwell among us in the person of Jesus of Nazareth: Jesus the Christ.

And celebrate we do with gift-giving and feasting and probably far too much spiked eggnog. But it is time to celebrate. And yet, as our nation continues to be divided by politics, and communities and people argue about anything and everything, many people wonder if Christmas celebrations really make a lasting difference in anyone’s heart and mind. People seem more desperate than ever before to believe that Christmas matters, that it means something; they want to believe the angels who said to the shepherds, “Do not be afraid; … we bring good news of great joy for all people.”

    Our lessons from scripture this evening tell us that Christmas – the birth of Jesus - really is good news. Isaiah proclaims that in Jesus, in the Christ, we, who once walked in darkness – the darkness of our own sin and selfishness, are suddenly bathed in the redeeming and hope-filled light of God: that light of God that can pierce even the darkest of hearts and desires to show us a better way of living that is not marked by fear, but rather, by peace. The Psalmist calls the whole earth to sing praises to God for this mystery and miracle of God’s intervention in history, as well as God’s continuing presence in our daily lives: a presence that still desires to lighten all darkness. Titus invites us to walk in that light of God; to be steadfast in our faith in him who came to us at Bethlehem and still comes to us every day.

And in our reading from the Gospel according to Luke, we hear the story of Jesus’ birth: how God came to us at Bethlehem as a vulnerable child hungry and dependent upon others for warmth and safety. Jesus’ birth in humility and simplicity tells us that he is not simply God with us, he is one of us. And as one of us, he knows our fears, our struggles, our worries, and our hopes and dreams for peace and safety because God, in this person of Christ Jesus, will experience those same holy longings for God’s own self. Yes, this is, indeed, a night for celebration.

    Yet, for many Christmas has become so focused on the stress of shopping and gift giving, and trying to get the whole family together without arguing, that it is easy to miss the miraculous point of this night; to miss the lastingimpact of Christmas in and to the world. See, the mystery of this incarnation with its humble beginning, goes way beyond that manger in Bethlehem. It is about God bursting forth into this world – about God’s light piercing the darkness of human history and piercing it once and for all and for a reason: God comes in order to save us from ourselves, to redeem and make whole our everyday lives, so that we will choose to live differently and choose to carry God’s light into a world desperate for good news.  For the Christ came among us then and still comes to us; comes to show us another way to live, a more wholesome and life-giving way; a way that lightens darkness and puts fear to flight; a way that forgives and brings mercy and grace not just to us, but the whole world.     

And therein lies the challenge for us: because Christmas invites one and all to come and adore the Christ – not just with our words and carols, but in how we choose to live: to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, house the homeless, welcome and embrace the stranger, and comfort the sick. For the truth is, friends, to truly come and adore Jesus Christ means to allow God’s light to permeate our every word, thought, and deed, so deeply that we desire to become just like Jesus, and carry and show forth that light, God’s light, wherever we go.

    And when that happens Christmas becomes more than a story from the ancient past. It becomes that living, promised, good news of which the angels sang as we not only bring good news of great joy for all people, our very lives become that good news: the good news that God is with us today and always. In many ways, Christmas beginswith us and in us.

     May God help us to not only come and adore him, but choose to follow him and be just like him; follow Jesus Christ, our Lord, this night and forever. Amen.