Advent is a time of watching, preparation, and anticipation for the coming of our Lord. We celebrate the baby in the manger, Emmanuel, God with us, and He came down to live with us almost 2,000 years ago. Praise the Lord, Jesus died, was buried, and rose to ascend into heaven. Frankly, in my opinion that was what occurred, yet he is still with us here today, loving us. We are in essence right now in a second advent, for we believe He will come again. Let’s be watching, preparing and let us look forward in hopeful anticipation this Christmas morning.
So today, I am guessing many of you have had your Christmas gathering and celebration. How did it go? Well guess what? There has not been a Christmas, not even the first one, that went off exactly as everyone had planned. Can you say “manger”, “stable”? Probably not the plan of Joseph and Mary but there is no denying God came that night in human flesh. Heaven came down and glory filled the air.
We weren’t there, but we know the story and on this Christmas morning I want you to know that on this day, the factual story, the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ, is the greatest love story ever written! When you read the Gospels, the words of Jesus in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John please read Jesus’ words in that light. It’s a love story, a radical story, a life changing story, and it is the words of God. Experience the unending love of God. “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” The Birth of Christ, Christmas, is the classic love story.
In relationships where love exists, there must be that first meeting and this was it for our God relationship. I have wondered, “What if I had been born to another set of parents? What would my life have been like? Maybe in another place and time I would never have known the love of the parents that God gave me. Maybe I would never have known the joys of being the spoiled and empowered youngest child. “What if ” questions. “What if my Father wouldn’t have strongly encouraged me to go to college? What if I wouldn’t have chosen the jobs I did which got me to Jasper?
Different choices would have meant I might not have crossed paths with Bonnie. I remember that first meeting. Without all that I might never have known the love of a wonderful woman like Bonnie.” Christmas is a crossing of paths. Christmas is where we find the Christ of God intersecting with humanity. Christmas is our first best meeting with the God who has desired us and loved usfrom the very beginning.
If not for Christmas we might never have known the intensity of the love that God has for each one of us. (Pause) That is when love came down. Real love. Mary and Joseph, far from home, a peasant mother giving birth, they laid him in the manger and they watched his little face, and they listened for his breathing, just as every new parent does. Christ was born into our world completely possessing this love God has for us.
He loves us, not some of the time, not when it is convenient, but in every moment (Slow) of every single day. It is the birth of that love into our world that we celebrate this morning! That first Christmas, that first Noel. And this crossing of paths, this intersection of the divine and the human, took place in a remote, dust village called Bethlehem? Seriously? Yes.
In that time, and in that place, that little village, One would be born into our world that became the light of the world. On that night God sent out a love letter of cosmic proportions as
Christ entered the world fully God and fully man.
So this morning, we find that those gathered in his name, yes even us, each of us, fall within the arms of that love. (Pick up Bible) A love relationship that is so powerful and so deep that the Scriptures promise: “That neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39
He is Emanuel “God with us” and if you yield to him, surrender to Him, He will embrace you with his peace and Love. Peace. I met someone who was struggling recently. Life turned upside down, crazy. I asked if this person attended a church. “No” “When I am under stress, I sit down and read the bible, I pray, I speak scripture out loud, and I find peace.” Was the answer. This person has found the peace and love of Jesus. Fears had been diminished, inside, fear had subsided, God’s peace had come
Do you have that peace in your life? Does it seem like life’s answers are just out of reach, just over the next hill. This is the truth, THE truth, (Slow) you can find peace true peace in totally surrendering to Christ Jesus. 90% surrendered means 10% isn’t. Jesus came into our world, and he has brought a Peace that the world cannot give. A peace that passes all understanding.
A peace given to you by Emanuel, Christ himself who is with us. Remember our Lords words: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27 Jesus promises that if you will trust Him, accept him as both your Savior and the TOTAL Lord of your life. He will give you peace…. A peace that the world cannot give.
And the angels…. declared it on that Christmas Day ……”Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, good will toward men…” Luke 2:14
I would like close by telling you a story about a nativity pageant that much like life, did not go quite as planned. The youth group was doing the manger scene. Joseph, Mary, everyone, were ready and in their places. Everyone did their part very seriously and then it came time for the shepherds to enter. Dressed in flannel bathrobes and the head gear, the shepherds walked to the altar steps where Mary and Joseph looked with purpose at the straw in the manger.
They had placed a single light bulb in the straw that represented the glowing newborn Jesus.
With his back to the congregation, one of the shepherds said to the little boy playing Joseph,
In a very loud whisper for all the cast to hear, “Well, Joe, when you gonna pass out the cigars?”
The solemn spell was not simply broken, it exploded. Mary and Joseph’s cover was completely destroyed and it became impossible to hold back the bursts of laughter.
The chief angel, standing on a chair behind the manger shook so hard with laughter that she fell off her chair and took the curtain back drop and all the rest of the props down with her. She kept rolling around on the floor holding her stomach because she was laughing so hard. The whole set was in pieces. Amazingly, the only thing that did not go to pieces was that light bulb in the manger… (Slow) it never stopped shining.
This morning, you followers and believers in Jesus, that baby in the manger is the light of our world, even when our world is in shambles. In that baby the Divine and the human cross paths.
Jesus is our living, breathing sign of the immeasurable love that He has for each one of us.
Today, don’t forget that wonderful children’s song, “Jesus loves me this I know (Pick up the Bible) for the Bible tells me so.” Christmas is the living promise that we are never ever alone.
No matter where we are in life, no matter what condition we find ourselves, no matter how far we might stray, or how unfaithful we are, God in all his love, will continue to pursue you, chase after you, and love you!
It is a love …. It is a love ….and a Peace…..that never…..stops shining.
“For unto us ….is born this day ….in the city of David …a Savior,..who is …..Christ, the Lord.” (Luke 2:11)