Good News of Great Joy (Christmas Eve) – Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Tonight’s Readings:
Complementary Text – Psalm 95:1-7
Preaching Text – Luke 2:1-20

+ Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Amen. +

 On this holy night, we gather once again to call to mind the story of Jesus’ birth. In truth, this is a story that has become so familiar to many that it’s sometimes difficult for us to comprehend just how incredible it is. The story of a young couple relegated to the darkness of a stable, a child born among the animals and placed in a feeding trough, an angelic chorus announcing the birth to a group of shifty shepherds out in the field – the details are amazing enough. But what’s even more amazing about this timeless story is what it tells us about God and God’s desire for relationship with us. With that in mind, I’d like to suggest that there are three important truths for us to remember as we rejoice in the wonder of Christ’s birth.

The first truth is this: that Christ was born to us. That might seem obvious, but I think it’s easy for us to read this story in a vacuum and forget that God did not choose to take on flesh just for the sake of being human. God’s people had long been yearning for someone to save and redeem them, and the birth of Christ was a response to that yearning, an answer to generations of prayer and pleading. Jesus was born to a particular people in a particular time and place, and as inheritors of God’s promises to that people, we can claim that birth as a gift to us and the whole creation. Tonight we call to mind the birth of Christ to you and me, to our ancestors and our descendants, to all who continue to yearn for deliverance.

The second truth is this: that Christ was born for us! Martin Luther was fond of remarking that one of the most powerful realities we Christians can ponder is the idea that God’s love for the world includes both a general care for everything and a specific care for us as individuals. The story of the Incarnation – of God’s birth among us in Jesus – is a potent reminder of this reality. God looked down on our world, in all of its beauty and brokenness, and understood our need for salvation, renewal, and new life. God stooped to earth and became human for our sake, so that we would understand the depth of God’s love for us and everything that God made. That love was demonstrated in the life Christ lived among us, in his obedience, in his dying and rising to break the power of sin, death, and hell so that we might be free to live in him. Tonight, we call to mind the birth of Christ for you and me and all people, a birth through which God offers the good news of salvation for the whole world.

The final truth is this: that Christ is born among us. It’s important for us to remember that this celebration is not just of a birth that took place some two thousand years ago, but of God’s continuing presence in Jesus Christ. In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus is given another name – Emmanuel, which means God is with us. Though Luke doesn’t include this detail in his story, I think it’s still an important one for us to consider as we ponder the significance of Christ’s birth. As disciples of Jesus, those who have been called and claimed by God, we have been joined to Christ, and God has promised that Christ will continue to be present to us by the power of the Holy Spirit. When we gather to sing God’s praises and tell the good news of Jesus, Christ is with us. When we receive these gifts of bread and wine, blessed and broken for our sake, Christ is with us. When we give thanks for all the gifts that God has given us and call upon God for help in our time of need, Christ is with us. This Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Christ in our midst, not just in the past, but tonight and every day.

Brothers and sisters, it is such a joy to be gathered with you on this holy night to rejoice in God’s greatest gift to our world. As you go out from this place to continue your celebrations in the days to come, may you be comforted, strengthened, and encouraged by these great truths: that Christ is born to you, for you, and among you. Thanks be to God, and Merry Christmas! Amen.

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