Christmas Eve 2019
Christmas Eve - 2019
It’s appropriate that we are here tonight. It’s appropriate for a number of reasons. Not the least of which is celebrating the birth of our saviour, Jesus Christ. It is appropriate that we gather in the evening, when the sun has set to welcome the light of the world.
My son was recently at an overnight camp and they went for a night walk. He reflected to me how different everything looked at night when you were out walking on your own. This evening, though it may seem that we wander, we do not do so alone.
A major theme in scripture is one of Exile. Of being lost and then being found. It happens repeatedly in both the Old and New Testaments.
The ancient Israelites fled from Egypt and wandered the barren dessert for forty years. Yet, they were never alone.
During the Babylonian exile the people are sent from the land, only to return generations later, but God has not abandoned them.
Jesus tells the parable of the Lost Sheep. Of how one sheep is lost and the shepherd leaves the other ninety-nine behind to find the one.
The Prodigal Son tells us a story of a young man who has lost his way, returns home broken and is met with love.
Continuously throughout scripture people are lost and then they are found. Sometimes they are lost of their own doing, just as we are often lost of our own doing. But God is always searching. God’s light is always available to be seen. We wander as lost souls through the world, searching, searching.
The prophet Isaiah writes,
“The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.” (Isaiah 9:2)
I wonder as I wander out under the sky,
How Jesus the Savior did come for to die.
For poor on’ry people like you and like I…
I wonder as I wander out under the sky.
The Shepherds were surely as poor and ordinary as people could be. Shepherding, once the noble occupation held by King David, had become an unenviable job. Shepherds were from the lowest rung of society. Yet, it is to the Shepherds that the angels go. It is to these outcasts and sinners that they share the first message of the birth of the saviour. It is with poor ordinary people that the message is shared. That Jesus has come.
Do not be afraid is what they are told. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. But we know different. We know that not everyone reacted with joy. Herod didn’t, he was afraid, feared that he would lose his power.
As Jesus grew up others would receive him with less enthusiasm than joy. The Pharisees and Sadducees would despise him, question him and seek his death. Pilate was not happy to see him and as Jesus hung on the cross between two thieves, he was praised by one and mocked by the other. Not everyone received Jesus with great joy.
It was the poor ordinary people who did. They saw in Jesus freedom from oppression. They heard his teaching on love, justice, mercy all based on the values of the kingdom of God and they saw possibility.
Regrettably today much of the world does not receive the news of the birth of Jesus with great joy. Yet, there Jesus is, born in the humblest of settings, the source of good news and great joy for the world. Born of parents too young, not ready, as if any of us are, for what would come. But when he was born “[Mary] wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.” (Luke 2:7)
When Mary birthed Jesus ’twas in a cow’s stall,
With wise men and farmers and shepherds and all.
But high from God’s heaven a star’s light did fall,
And the promise of ages it then did recall.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)
This is the child that Luke writes of, our saviour Jesus Christ. Jesus is the promise of the ages. Born a baby this night to Mary and Joseph. This is the great joy of the nations that we await and whom we welcome into our lives. Jesus reminds us of the promises of God which are ours. That we are loved, treasured and welcomed. Jesus is the light that banishes the darkness.
In Andy Williams song The Most Wonderful Time of the Year he sings “And tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago.” This, the birth of Jesus Christ, is the glory of Christmases long, long ago. It is the story that is worth telling, repeatedly. It is the great joy of the nations.
Jesus is our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace. These are not empty words or platitudes. They are not meaningless titles that hold no value, they represent God’s values here on Earth. They speak to the majesty and power of God and of the kingdom that we participate in when we name ourselves as followers of Christ. As participants in the great joy of the nations.
Jesus is born this night, a baby. Destined to die so that all might live. If he had wanted for anything at all he could have had it. Yet, what he came and asked for was that we love one another just as we are also loved.
If Jesus had wanted for any wee thing,
A star in the sky, or a bird on the wing,
Or all of God’s angels in heav’n for to sing,
He surely could have it, ’cause he was the King.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever. (Isaiah)
Jesus is our king. Jesus is our Prince of Peace. Jesus is our Wonderful Counsellor. Jesus is Almighty God.
We welcome Jesus as a baby this night. In the Christ-child we see the promise of generations. As followers of Christ we believe in the promise that the kingdom of God holds. A kingdom built on the foundation of justice and righteousness. The coming of Jesus, of God-with-us, is life altering and world shaking. That God choose to rip through the fabric of reality and co-exist with us, suffer with us, experience joy with us is a radical event. It disrupts the status quo, it says that things as they were cannot remain the same.
God, through Jesus Christ, shows us a better way. A way of loving that is simple yet profound. A way of living that simplifies life while enriching it. But tonight, tonight we treasure the gift we have been given in the Christ-child. Tonight, we treasure the love we have for family and friend. Tonight, we do as Mary did, “[as she] treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke)
Perhaps it was a night like this. Quiet and still that the glories of Christmases long, long ago was first told. When baby Jesus was received into a world that wasn’t ready for him and didn’t know what to do with him. Yet still he came for the sake of us all, for Jesus is the good news and the joy of nations. Amen.
St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Cobourg is part of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The congregation was established in 1833 and continues to serve the community.