More Than Just A Baby

Luke 2:8-20          NIV, 1593               

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 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 that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” 15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, 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.

John 1:1-5   NIV, 1646

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Prayer: Lord God – open our hearts and minds to your Word that surrounds us in the peace of this Christmas season — create in us a new heart that resonates with love for all people — we ask this of you again and we are needy people – we need to experience and understand your love and grace for each of us — Amen

  1. Welcome to our Christmas Eve 2019 worship service. As you look around this sanctuary you can see many examples of the fact that this building – this sacred building has been hosting Christmas Eve services for 150 years.
    1. Look at the ceiling – original — walls – original – but have been repaired several times.
    1. Certainly, we have been fortunate to upgrade our facilities – we now have central heating and air conditioning. – but no bathrooms!
    1. Can you imagine – stoking the wood stove in the middle of the isle to be able to get adequate heat in a cold winter night. Change has been pervasive.
  2. Worship has been here for a very long time – countless generations – who have witnessed so much change in our community – our nation and our world.
  3. We like to worship in this historic church that has been in this same location for over 150 years.
    1. A church that has witnessed to the love of God through all of the dynamics of the past years. — wars, depressions, recessions, riots and droughts.
    1. A church that is a beacon of hope and light in the middle of a corn field surrounded by a cemetery that reminds us of the saints that have gone before us.
  4. We come to worship tonight for many reasons. – Maybe we need to be with our family, or maybe we need to see some of our friends and neighbors – or maybe – we are beginning to wonder about our future and how our life will unfold.
  5. Growing up, Christmas Eve was the one night of the year when I knew our family would always be together. No matter what had happened that year, no matter who in the family had just thrown the obligatory pre-Christmas melt down. On Christmas Eve we would all stand together as a family, sharing the same pew, singing the same songs, saying the same prayers.
    1. We long to hear again the Scriptures that call to us to the miraculous stories about how God intervened into this world in a dynamic and unexpected way – the stories about the birth of Jesus – the manger –the shepherds – the coming of the Wise men. Stories that we know so well.
    1. We long for the peace and calmness that seems to radiate from the Christmas cards that we receive and send out. Seems idyllic – doesn’t it – peace and quiet – the world in harmony — picturesque scenes that seem far removed from reality.
  6. Pause
  7. Take a moment and think about a newborn baby.
    1. There are few things in life more joyful than the birth of a baby: ten tiny fingers, ten tiny toes, little giggles and squirms, maybe even the crying, but definitely that soft sweet smell when you hold that little one close.
    1. Tonight, we celebrate the most important birth of our faith story and gather in the angelic glow around the manger once again, perhaps hoping to get a sense of the magic and wonder and holiness that just seems closer on this night.
    1. The story is familiar and warm, painted by Luke as new parents huddle in a stable around a baby in a manger. At the end of the gospel, we see Mary pondering all that is happening, letting the magnitude of this night sink in.
  8. The next step for new parents is often to share the news of their little one’s arrival.
    1. Some send text messages or post on Facebook; others connect with ShutterFly and send cards of pictures of the little baby.
  9. In the case of the birth of Jesus, the angels take this role with royal proclamations sung through the hillsides.
    1. Although they didn’t mention his weight and length or exact date of birth, they give a pretty good message.
    1. This is Savior and Messiah and Lord. This is no ordinary baby.
  10. Kelly just gave a rendition of the popular song asks “Mary, Did You Know?”, but for those of us who have read the story, we know the answer.
    1. Yes. Mary did. An angel came to her and explained everything that was going to happen.
    1. Similarly, one visited Joseph in a dream with a comparable message.
  11. Mary knew the significance of what was happening. And I wonder, as I hear Luke’s story again, if in these moments they were finally sinking in.
    1. If so, it makes sense that she was ushered into a stillness of contemplation and pondering as the promises of God resonated deeply within her heart.
    1. The greatness of her task was lying before her in the manger; the son of God and savior of the world, a vulnerable newborn who seeks to be nursed and probably doesn’t give many silent nights.
    1. What words could possibly be used to describe such a contrast?
    1. What could she possibly put on a birth announcement?
  12. On a night like tonight, the words of the Old Testament prophecy of Isaiah 9 that we just read provide richness appropriate for the coming of the Savior.
    1. The writer of Isaiah did not “predict” the exact circumstances of his birth in Bethlehem.
    1. But it is a powerful text, so much so that it has the power to surge beyond its original setting to illuminate and describe new situations.
  13. It is a text reheard in the gospels and to us today as a disclosure of Jesus’ ministry, speaking of a great reversal coming to the people of God. Isaiah’s words reflect the culmination of the hope of a people in the midst of despair; the coming of a long-awaited Messiah and King. One who would give God’s people a future beyond anything they have experienced or even imagined before.
  14. The words of Isaiah – Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace radiate from our hymns and Scripture.
  15. As for the church, we use these words to help us understand just who the baby Jesus will become— but there is so much to the story of a baby at Christmas time — more
  16. For many of us Christmas is a memorable observance in which we picture this beautiful baby boy lying in a manger.
    1. Christmas is a quiet time when we can escape the discord and conflict in our country, our world, our religious denominations, perhaps the discord and conflict that can happen within ourselves or our families.
    1. It truly is a beautiful escape. It certainly is a non-threatening escape, looking at an image or picture of a baby.
  17. But tonight, I want us to hear another message from God to us his people. It is message we often miss at Christmas. Let me repeat the words of the angel when he speaks to the shepherds.
    1. We hear: “Do not be afraid; for —I am bringing you good news of great joy for all people: to you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Messiah and Lord.”
  18. The titles Savior and Messiah reveal that this particular baby boy is more than just a baby boy.
    1. The titles Messiah and Savior reveal to us right at the beginning of his life that he is God.
    1. They further reveal that he will lay down his life so that we will have life abundantly.
  19. Look at the slide that shows the cradle and below it is the cross. This is the story of the baby whose birth we celebrate tonight.
  20. Quietly close your eyes and listen as we hear “God’s first Christmas Tree”
  21. Christmas is not just an announcement about the beginning of Jesus’ life.
    1. It is also a revelation of the end of his life. Hence the special meaning of the symbol here in the front of our Sanctuary.
    1. The manger signifies his birth.
    1. His birth only makes sense if we see his birth in the meaning of the cross, his death. And the empty cross which symbolizes Jesus’ resurrection also indicates that we too will rise from the dead at the end of time to live for all eternity with him.
  22. Jesus is our Savior. Many of our Christmas carols, including the ones we sing tonight refer to Jesus as our Savior.
    1. Listen to the words of O Holy Night, Silent Night, Joy to the World. All of which we will have sung tonight.
    1. These beautiful carols, while they refer to the birth of Jesus, also refer to his saving act.
  23. This might sound harsh, but Jesus did not save us by being born in a stable and lying in a manger.
    1. Our salvation comes through his death on a cross and resurrection from the dead.
    1. But we cannot discount his birth. God tells us in John’s Gospel that God gave us his one and only son so that whoever believes in him will not perish.
  24. What can we learn tonight about ourselves as a result of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus?
    1. I want to answer those questions in very personal, emotional terms.
    1. We learn just how loveable we are. We are loveable because God loves us. God loves us so much that God – through Jesus actually became one of us.
  25. Let me repeat the statement. God loves us so much that God – through Jesus actually became one of us.
  26. The message of Christmas is a message of immense, intense love of God for us.
    1. God not only tells us he loves us in the Scriptures and in other ways, God shows us he loves us not just in some historical facts that took place 2000 years ago, but in so many ways today.
    1. Reflect on the words of Scripture and our Carols. They don’t say Christ, the Savior has come. They speak in the present tense, Christ, the Savior is come. That is meant to signify to us that Jesus wasn’t once with us, but that he is continuously with us. The manger, the cross and the Resurrection are an everyday experience. Jesus is with us today.
  27. Prayer by Ed for conclusion.
  28. Finding the Meaning of a Candlelight Service
  29. The meaning of a candlelight service is different for everyone. When candles are lit, one by one, it is symbolic of spreading a message or support from one person to another. In this regard, it’s easy to see how groups with a message, such as religious groups or those with a specific cause, could use a candlelight service to spread their message. Candlelight services are also calming by nature. Surrounded by darkness and the glowing of candles, people have the opportunity to reflect on the reason for the gathering.