Christmas Day Service: Jesus is born! New life has entered the world. This will be a service filled with lots of singing and a reflection on the Christmas story as found in Luke 2:8-20, Love is Here!
Love is Here Luke 2:8-20; John 1:14
December 25, 2021
Today people all over the world will be sitting down to tables groaning with food and surrounded by family and friends, whether they believe in Christmas, or Jesus, or not. Today is a day of family and friends, of giving and receiving, and of joy and peace. Yet while we’re at our full tables, thousands will be spending Christmas more like Jesus did that first night; living in poverty wondering what the next couple of days hold for them and praying that God will provide for them. There’s no money for gifts, sometimes no family to be with, and little joy or peace, and yet people like these are the ones the capture God’s heart and who Jesus reached out to. They understand the glory of God; they understand what Saviour and Messiah means.
In the dark of the night, simple, humble and mostly penniless shepherds are in the fields working to put food on their families’ tables when they’re startled by an amazing sight, angels fill the sky, shining in the night and bringing news from God. A great light shines over them, offering new hope and probably more than a little fear as well. The glory of the Lord shines around them; God’s on the move, breaking into the world again, coming close to his people and offering good news of great joy, not only for Israel, but for all the people. Glory is all about God’s presence. God’s closeness radiates in the angel’s joy as they tell of a child who has just been born and is lying close by, close enough to visit and see, close enough to see whether the angel’s message that God is doing something special for his people is true. The angels don’t give the shepherds the baby’s name, but the angels guide these poor and yet strangely blessed peasants in the cold fields outside Bethlehem to a small stable in the town of Bethlehem where God’s love is on display in a tiny child.
“A saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” This is no ordinary child, but one anointed by God for a special calling, to be a saviour of his people and a child with power and authority from God himself. Yet what a strange place for God’s glory to be revealed: with a group of shepherds working in a field outside of a small, unimportant village, with a baby in a manger, and a poor couple who have a strange story to tell. The meeting place of God with his people is normally in the temple where the Glory of God, the presence of God is experienced in the Holy of Holies. But instead of meeting his people in the gorgeous temple that rivalled Solomon’s, or in the palace of the king of God’s people, or in the court of the great Roman emperor, we find ourselves going with the shepherds to a humble stable in this small village late at night. God continues to turn our expectations of the way things should be upside down. God’s glory and love are revealed in unexpected places.
When God comes, he doesn’t visit the emperor, he visits a group of peasants; not the rich, but the poor; not the important people, but the insignificant; not the powerful, but the weak; not the rulers, but the subjects; not the special, but the ordinary. If Jesus came today, would he be here in our church this morning, or in our homes filled with all the comforts of life, or downtown Red Deer with the homeless living in the shelters on Gaetz Avenue? Would the angels be singing “Glory to God in the highest,” over Lacombe, or over the slums of Mexico City or maybe Calcutta instead? Yet that’s part of the wonder of the glory of God, the love of God; that he sees the ones we don’t see, that he comes to the ones we stay away from, that he becomes one of the people that we don’t want to be. God with us, Immanuel, comes to the ones who need him to be with them the most.
The shepherds’ fear changes to joy with the angel’s message. The news is glorious; God has sent someone to save them. Anointed with God’s spirit to lead his people to freedom, that’s what they’ve been waiting for, for hundreds of years already. To show that their message is true, the angels give them a sign, they’ll find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. To show the shepherds that they share their joy, the angels praise God, saying, “Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests.” The response to God’s glory is praise and obedience. The angels get it, and they point to God and to his relationship with us. The Greek word for peace translates the Hebrew word shalom, which is peace, but so much more than peace, it’s about a right relationship with God, our relationships with others, it’s about health in our souls and hearts, it about experiencing fullness in our lives. What a blessing, what a gift God gives us by giving us his favour, showing us his love through Jesus. Jesus leaves his home and comes to a strange country to bring hope, peace, and the love of God, Immanuel, God with us.
What a gift of love we offer the world, by sharing how God has come to us. We can be like the angels offering good news of great joy, letting the world know that God has come close to us, that he loves us so much that he came to be with us, to experience our lives and offer us his strength and hope. We can share the good news that we’re never alone, that even when everyone else abandons us and we feel that no one sees us or cares, God does see us and he does care; enough to come to earth and be born, experience life and then die for us so our sins are forgiven.
We offer hope to the world in Jesus’ name by drawing close to the people too often ignored or overlooked by most people, by willing to be on the side of the hurting, the oppressed, the orphan, the widow and those who are unable to defend to take care of themselves. How have you offered joy and hope this week? How have you been the presence of Jesus is someone else’s life the last few days? Have you stopped to offer peace, shalom, stopped to praise God in the busyness of the season and shared the good news of great joy to someone who needed words of hope and joy?
The shepherds rush off to see the child, to confirm for themselves that the angel’s message is true. Then they go from there and share with whoever they meet the story of the angel’s message and the child in the manger. Everyone who hears the shepherds’ tale is amazed, after all it’s a fantastic tale, and if true, it’s a story of hope and wonder. But it’s the shepherds’ response that grabs our attention. They respond to God’s glory by going out and telling everyone they met about God’s love and what God is doing. Has God touched you this morning with his story of how he sent his Son here and then sent angels to share the glorious news with simple shepherds?
It may seem hard to see God’s glory today when we hear about wars, hunger, job losses, pandemics, injustice and abuse, and yet God is still breaking into our world today. Everywhere someone helps someone else in Jesus’ name; God is breaking through to that person, every time a church preaches the Gospel, God is breaking through; every time people dream new dreams of new ways of helping others and begin to work out ways to do them, God is breaking through. Finally, every time we open our hearts to the Holy Spirit and allow God to change our hearts, helping us to live out love, mercy, grace, patience, perseverance, obedience and more, God breaks through to us. With his Spirit living in us, God shows his desire to break into our lives regularly.
I invite you this wondrous Christmas day, to go from here and celebrate as the angels did, and as the shepherds did by going to the child in the manger, by going to meet Jesus. As we look to the child in the manger, see God’s glory shining through this child, this son of God and son of man. He came for you and for me; he came to draw us close once again to God. Glory to God in the highest and peace to you this day. Go from here this morning after experiencing and hearing of God’s glory and tell someone else about what God has done in Jesus and continues to do today.