Christmas Eve Service
Draw near to God this Christmas and celebrate the coming of the Christ, Immanuel, God with us, the bringer of light and life, AND HOPE
December 24, 2023
Luke 2:1-20 (focus on v. 14)
by Ben Caldwell
Merry Christmas!!! I hope you and your family are having a great Christmas season, and may today and tomorrow be great days for you. It just seems right that on Christmas eve, we would get together as believers. I mean Christmas is and has always been a celebration of the Christ coming into the world. And the traditional passage of scripture that is read at Christmas is from Luke chapter two, beginning in verse one. So I am going to read the Christmas story. If you want to look along, feel free to use the pew Bible there in the rack in front of you. Luke 2:1 is on page 1014 in that Bible. This is the story of Jesus (who is the Christ) being born. Luke 2:1 and following:
2:1 In those days, Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3. And everyone went to his own town to register. 4. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7. and she gave birth to their firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. LK 2:8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." LK 2:13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, LK 2:14 "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." 15 When the angels had left them and gone into heave, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
The angels proclaimed to the shepherds: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” The King James version of the Bible translates it like this: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” The idea here is that God should receive the highest praises. And that God has done an extraordinary work in order to bring peace and His good will toward humanity.
I imagine we are all familiar with the fictional story called “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. It is a ghost story based on a novella that Dickens published in 1843. I read on Wikipedia that it first went up for sale on December 19, 1843 and five days later, on Christmas eve, it was sold out. I believe that the story is a kind of Christian allegory.
The fictional character Ebenezer Scrooge spends Christmas eve examining his life: past, present, and future. And He is transformed on Christmas day into a person who has good will and peace in his heart toward men (doesn’t that sound like what the angels said?). The name Ebenezer comes from 1 Samuel 7. After a great victory where God enables his people to defeat their enemy (the Philistines), the prophet Samuel raises his Ebenezer (that is “stone of help”) and declares that on this spot God defeated the enemy. And he concludes “My help has come from God.” And the title of Dickens story is a Christmas Carol. A Carol is a hymn of praise sung to God during the Christmas season.
And right now, you are thinking, “So what?” “What has that got to do with anything?” Just this:
The angels proclaim to the shepherds:
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.
My point is that God has given us his great favor. Through Jesus.
Isaiah 9:2 says:
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.
In Isaiah 9, there is a kind of spiritual comparison between what went on in Israel in and what goes on in our hearts. In the book of Judges, Midian and it’s allies were so powerful, so numerous, that the scripture says these enemies would descend on the Israelites like locusts. Israel couldn’t keep cattle or crops. They didn’t have food or shelter. They had to hide in caves afraid for their lives. Until the people called out to God and he delivered them. God used a man named Gideon and a small group of soldiers to defeat this powerful army. In the same way, Isaiah contains this prophecy about Jesus is about how God would use HIM, just one person, Jesus, the God-man, to shatter the burden of our ultimate oppressor, death itself. AND THAT Brings us GREAT HOPE!
But you might say, “But Ben, my loved one still died. There are still problems. I was still abandoned. I was still abused. The cancer is still there. My response to that? Jesus brought his rule, his Kingdom, and His hope to our lives, but that doesn’t mean all the darkness is gone.
Max Lucado tells about this guy who had a problem with crowds. When he gets in a crowd of people, “his breath grows short, panic surfaces, and he begins to sweat [and I mean sweat] like a sumo wrestler in a sauna. He received some help, curiously, from a golfing buddy.
The two were at a movie theatre, waiting their turn to enter, when fear struck again. The crowd closed in like a forest. He wanted out and out fast. His buddy told him to take a few deep breaths. The he helped manage the crisis by reminded him of the golf course.
‘When you are hitting your ball out of the rough, and you are surrounded by trees, what do you do?’ ‘I look for an opening.’ ‘You don’t stare at the trees?’
‘Of course not. I find an opening and focus on hitting the ball through it.’
‘Do the same in the crowd. When you feel the panic, don’t focus on the people; focus on the opening.’ Good counsel in golf. Good counsel in life. Rather than focus on the fear [or the pain or the darkness], focus on the solution [the joy, the LIGHT, the HOPE that Jesus Brings].Max Lucado, Traveling Light, (Dallas, Texas; Word Publishing, 2001), 99-100.
Darkness is defined as “the absence of light.” What that little Christ Child in the manger means is that God has given us the opening between the trees. He brought us a way out of the panic, out of sin, out of guilt, and out of separation from GOD. We have been given a way to overcome the death, a way to get past the fear of loss, and the pain of separation. JESUS OFFERS US… HOPE, THE KIND THAT ONLY GOD CAN GIVE. Christmas is about God coming to us to give us a hope and a future.
SO WE OUT TO EXAMINE own lives (past, present, and future) and see if we are being transformed. Like Ebenezer Scrooge, is your life growing into a life that Praises God, a life that proclaims My help comes from the Lord?
Won’t you draw near to God this Christmas and celebrate the coming of the Christ, Immanuel, God with us, the bringer of light and life, AND HOPE?