Pastor Jay’s Christmas Eve Sermon based on Luke 2:1-20:
Did you hear it? Did you hear the message of Christmas? Not the silly secular “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” message we hear so often. Did you hear the message of the angels? Did you hear the reason why we gather here this evening by candlelight to worship the Christ? It was there. Every year, it’s there. And here we are again to hear it.
As I was preparing for Christmas this year, I spent a lot of time on Amazon. I was looking for just the right book for our earlier All-Ages Worship and for our worship tomorrow morning. I like reading Children’s Christmas books. There’s something to the simplicity. There’s something to the creativity of delivering the same message in so many ways. And really, that’s all I’m doing standing here to you this evening: delivering the same message the angels sang all those millennia ago, the same message that every good preacher has preached since that first night of waiting and watching and welcoming the Christ. The same message that was in each of those books stacked on my desk: and as I read them, I realized, there are so many ways to tell the same story. So many voices, points of view, ways of imagining just what that blessed night looked like. Some were really really good. Some…well, not so good. But inevitably, every book I read had one line, one sentence, one page, one part of the story that gave me goosebumps, brought tears to my eyes, stopped me in my tracks.
Maybe that sounds odd to you, it certainly caught me off guard: that I would get choked up by the same old story, the same. old. story. that I have heard for all of my 29 years…and that you have heard for all of yours. But I did. In every book, in every way of telling it. Every time the message got shared, it stopped me in my tracks. That’s the power of this message, that it still is so desperately needed, can stop us in our tracks, no matter how old the story may seem.
Because it is the same old story. It has been told for millennia in basically the same format we read it this evening, or Linus and his blanket tell us in his moment in the spotlight. And after over two thousand years we often miss the important message of Christmas. We often bury the angels singing, the sheep bleating, the baby crying within our memories of a silent night. But my friends the message of Christ still packs the wallop it packed for those shepherds in a field near Bethlehem. It still has the radical, awesome, and frankly crazy implications for our world as it did for first century Judea. It is still a powerful message.
So…did you hear it? Did you hear the message of Christmas?
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: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”
And there it is. Right where it’s always been buried at the heart of the story, the wallop-packing, tear inducing, life changing message of Christmas: to you is born a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. To you. YOU. To you is born the Savior. And what’s more, it doesn’t just mean to you shepherds in a field near Bethlehem. But it is a message of great joy for ALL PEOPLE. To you—all people—is born a Savior.
There it is. Seems simple, yeah? Almost too simple. We didn’t have to do anything, we didn’t even has to ask for it. There were no lines at the mall for it. No lists of naughty and nice. Frankly, as the Grinch finds out, there aren’t even packages, boxes, or bags. But there it is, the message of Christ, the reason for this night, wrapped in the rags torn for a new mother’s skirts and laid in a borrowed bed of straw.
But there it is, the message of Christmas.
And we may sing of the silence of this holy night, but let us remember what was so silent about this night. The silence of this night is the way in which God comes to us. God comes to us in the silence of an unknown couple, in a backwater town, in a run-down stable, almost unnoticed. That is the silence of this holy night.
But let us not for one minute think that the message of Christmas is anything about silence. There is nothing silent about the message of Christmas. Because it certainly wasn’t silent when the angels choirs sang over the shepherds. It could not possibly have been silent when all those ruddy, smelly shepherds and their sheep made it to one lonely little stable. It couldn’t have been silent as the Christ Child cried in the cold harsh world he entered.
The message of Christmas has never been silent. Not for my 29 years, not for all of yours, not for the over two millennia that this story has been told. And here, tonight, we tell it again. You’d think it would get old, but somehow it never does. It didn’t even get old for those shepherds:
Once the shepherds were told the story…as we have for all of our years of hearing this story…they rushed to see what wondrous thing had happened in Bethlehem. They needed the message to be told again to them, in a new way. And there in a stable wrapped in rags, they received the message again. And we, for having heard the same old story year after year still gather this night to receive the message again. To hear it, to sing it, to receive the message of God dwelling with us in our very hands and on our lips.
To you. YOU. EACH OF YOU. Is born this night a Savior.
To you is born a Savior.
It’s a simple message. And it has been told on this night for over two thousand years. And it has been retold in countless ways. It is a powerful and desperately needed message of our wounded and weary world. There is a savior…and he dwells among us.
May your hearts sing that message as it has been sung for all those years…the same old story. May our voices we joined with the song of the angels:
To you, each of you, is born a Savior. And we have seen him. And we have touched him. And we have shared in him. And his name is Jesus, Emmanuel, God-with-us.
Glory to the Newborn King. Amen.