Christmas Eve service – 7 pm
Christmas Eve 2017… and once again we are gathered to celebrate the birth of the Christ child. There’s just something about this night that brings us together—even those of us for whom church is not a regular part of our lives.
When I was a young man, just out of high school, I had stopped going to church for a year or two. I wasn’t sure which direction I was going to take so going to church had slipped from my weekly or even monthly routine, I felt rudderless and quite troubled, even somewhat depressed. But for some reason when Christmas would come around, I’d discover myself sitting in a pew, showered, shaved and wearing my church clothes. Somehow I think I knew inside that going to church was probably a good thing. But I think the main reason why I showed up was there was part of me that wanted to believe whatever all the people around me were singing and praying about. At that time I really needed to believe in the story of Hope.
We all need Hope, don’t we? Especially now when it seems the world is full of a fair amount of darkness, you need only read a few headlines to know the pain that exists all around the world. And not only the world in general but for you personally, I’m not sure what each of you are facing. I don’t know whether this year has been more down than up, or whether you have lost a loved one or are dealing with job loss, perhaps your are in the middle of a broken marital relationship or a friendship that is hurtful or challenging. Maybe you are facing illness or disease. Whatever your personal challenge, maybe you’re here tonight looking for a little light, a little hope.
The world that Jesus was born into on that night over 2000 years ago was full of darkness, too. It was a world full of violence, oppression of the poor and the weak. A world where the dominance of the Roman Empire seemed corrupt, and God seemed very, very silent.
Joseph and Mary found themselves as homeless refugees, forced by the government to comply with an empire-wide census, but with no place to stay, no family nearby and nothing but darkness enfolding them.
The stable where Jesus was born that night of nights was nothing more than a cave carved into the side of a hill. The shepherds that arrived that night were rough men, who smelled of sheep—and were not fit to even worship with decent people.
None of that mattered. The Light of the World had come, and all of those things, the roughness, the hopelessness, homelessness, fear and doubt all faded away. The Light was shining in the darkness.
But what is the big deal? Where’s the good news and what difference does it make to each of us today?
Well, here is where I think the good news is… God didn’t enter the world of fame, fortune, money, power, position or influence. He entered the world where there was need and love. God didn’t enter the world of perfection, but the world of imperfection and pain, and wrongdoing and problems…
God didn’t enter the world in the extraordinary, God entered the world in the ordinary. God sent the Christ child to live on earth; to lead, to teach and to be among the ordinary people.
And what it says to me is simply this. We can tend to focus on the painful headlines of this world or we can focus on the abundance of love that far outweighs the darkness. This is where God lives! God lives in you and me and all people who love their neighbours, who do good to others, who have children, who sacrifice for loved ones, who care for their parents, who work menial or ordinary jobs, those who are kind to animals, and those who love beauty and the arts, and to those who forgive others when they make mistakes. God lives in us and brings forth the good in us.
God is love. And for tonight and tomorrow, just think about who you love and who loves you, and know that is where Jesus lives. That is what Jesus was born into and lived and died for….people who love.
We can each be a light in this world that sometimes seems dark. Love overcomes hate. Darkness overcomes light. From the scriptures we just read, “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not overcome it.”
It’s no coincidence that on Christmas eve we symbolize our joy and hope by lighting candles. We are, after all, celebrating the light of the world. And so in just a few minutes we are going to be lighting our Christmas candles by passing the flame of the Christ Candle. And as that light spreads throughout the sanctuary, when you lift up your small part of the light of Christ, let it be more than just going through the motions. This year, as you lift your light, make a promise to yourself that you will lift that light all year long, and that you will be a part of the Christmas story.
The light of Christ will shine in this world because of you. Amen
Copyright 2017 – Heinrich Grosskopf, Minister of Dayspring Presbyterian Church
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