The Shaken World

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 2018 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.
    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. God was shaking up the status-quo more than 2000 years ago. A member of Pleasant Grove UMC said Sunday that we need to pray for the world because the world in the twenty-first century need shaking up also.
  7. Let’s take some time tonight to explore this thought and see how we fit into the eternal picture.
  8. Two thousand years ago the Creator of the universe, the eternal God, entered human society as a baby. 
    1. The Creator of the universe put on humanity.  The Lord of heaven came to live on earth. 
    1. On a night like every other night in Israel, with no fanfare, no celebration by anybody, a child was born. 
    1. It was a night like any other night, but it wasn’t a child like any other child. 
    1. This child was the Lord Jesus Christ, God and humanity fused together in indivisible oneness
  9. This birth was so monumental that it became the high point of history, the peak, the apex.  All history before this birth is B.C., Before Christ.  All history since is A.D., Anno Domini, Latin for “the year of our Lord.” The birth of God in human form then is the most important moment in all of history. 
  10. God was shaking the world at its foundations.
  11. Let me read to you again– which in plain, simple, and clear language describe this great event.
  12. “Now it came about in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth.  This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.  And all were proceeding to register for the census, everyone to his own city, and Joseph also went up from Galilee from or out of the city of Nazareth to Judea, the city of David, which is called Bethlehem because he was of the house and family of David in order to register, along with Mary who was engaged to him and was with child.  And it came about that while they were there the days were completed for her to give birth.  And she gave birth to her firstborn son and she wrapped Him in cloths and laid Him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn.”
  13. Very familiar words.  Behind these simple, straightforward, unembellished words of narrative offered with delicacy and reserve, unmistakable meaning and significance there is the profoundest event in the history of the world. 
  14. The story of Jesus is generally familiar to anybody who knows anything about Christianity and many people who know very little about Christianity. 
  15. Sadly, today – tonight — the worldwide celebration of the birth of Christ, which is called Christmas, has become so cluttered and so confused with paganism and personal indulgences as to obscure the simple, clear reality of the birth of God in human form. 
  16. In fact, it’s refreshing for me to ponder a Christmas message that also reflects upon the Christmas clutter that surrounds us every day.
    1. That is why our church sign out front is: Please remember: Christmas is about Jesus! 
  17. The world celebrates the birth of Jesus in December for all the wrong reasons, for the expression of self-indulgence, materialism, partying, social events of all kinds. 
    1. Now we have a variety of advertisements of new cars – mostly the color red — his and her trucks, big red bows on the cars – couples swinging each other with joy because they have given each other a new car — ever think how much that costs? Tens of thousands of dollars each – do you have that kind of money to spend is such a lavish way?  
  18. The real significance of the birth of God in human form is overlooked, treated trivially, overshadowed by everything else that’s going on.
  19. Pause
  20. Take a moment and think about everything that is happening in our world today. Our world as we have known it is being shaken to its core.
    1. I do not think there is any doubt that we are presently in one of those shaking times and have been for several years.
    1. We have entered one of those perilous times when all that we would normally have counted as strong and steady is being shaken and overthrown.
    1. Now we have a government shutdown over policy differences concerning immigration. And no one is talking to each other about what to do!
    1. Our stock market has been in freefall – affecting all of our 401K plans and investments – if we are fortunate to have them.
  21. Why are the things being shaken today?
  22. First, and probably most evident to us right now, is the great shaking occurring in people’s confidence in human government.
    1. Few of us have failed to see how the lack of confidence in government can stymie and prevent the proper functioning of government.
    1. Leaders, who were selected for high offices and who we were confident would make moral decisions, have proven to be untrustworthy. Yet everyone knows that these wrongful decisions were ones that they themselves might have made, had they been put in the same offices. This is the tension in which we live.
  23. We see ourselves in the grip of economic forces too vast to manipulate or to control. Even with the best of intentions and the widest of knowledge, leaders seem unable to reverse the trend of what is happening today.
  24. This represents a shaking of parts of our life which we thought to be solid and dependable.
  25. As you are well aware, a very definite shaking of our time is evidenced in the change in our moral standards. What we once thought were irrevocable, steadfast standards, by which any decent people would live, are now being challenged, overthrown, and cast out.
  26. We see a tremendous shaking in the very foundations of the nation, as more families are breaking up and the divorce rate is increasing — not only in those marriages of a few years’ standing, but increasingly in those which have endured more than twenty years.
    1. And we wonder what is happening to our family life as, more and more, the philosophy of the day is that marriage is not important at all.
    1. And sexual explicitness has come into the media, graphically portraying now what never would have been allowed in public even a few years ago.
  27. We see the shaking of the foundations in our world!
  28. This is Christmas time in 2018!
  29. Pause
  30. As a neighborhood community church, we know that Jesus has repeatedly said that we are “to love God with all of our being and to love our neighbor as ourselves”
    1. that commandment creates a simple mission for our congregation: we are to love and care for each other by creating a community where everyone matters.
    1. If we do this, if we create a community where everyone matters, we will shine a new light into this neighborhood.
    1. This is appropriate for tonight is a time to welcome each other and to share the light of the world.
  31. We miss the radical, revolutionary act that is at the center of Christmas. Christmas is about Jesus – not over-indulgence that our secular society applauds.
  32. God has shaken the world to its foundation!
    1. Christmas is about God preferring a weak, helpless baby and a working-class family to the family of an emperor, king, or high priest.
    1. Christmas is about God shaking up the status quo by giving Mary a leading part at a time when the rest of society focused on protecting patriarchal power.
    1. Christmas is about God making a miracle to show us how much God loves us. “God loves you more than you can ever imagine. God loves us even if we are poor, or live paycheck to paycheck, or aren’t powerful, or aren’t perfect, or are broken hearted, or hurting, or very much alone, or worked half to death.”
  33. I believe Christmas centers on God’s infinite love for each and every one of us.
    1. If you’ve ever held a new born baby in your arms and looked straight into their eyes, you have an idea of what I mean.
    1. This love is the light Christmas and it shines into our spiritual lives.
    1. It is the light God offers us as a way to see each other so we can create community.
    1. It is the light we together can shine out into this neighborhood and city.
  34. Tonight, we heard the ancient prophet Isaiah words: Isaiah said “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness on them light has shined.” He is speaking to us. Isaiah continues to say “Arise, shine, for your light has come.” He is calling us to a new way of living, one focused on love and community.
  35. Likewise, Jesus said, “I am the Light of the world” and “you are the light of the world.” That is a succinct summary of what it means to be a Christian right here and right now. “Christ is the Light of the world” and “you are the light of the world.”
  36. Jesus is the Light of the world for all. This light shines out into the darkness–of Afghanistan, Syria, Oakland California, Baltimore, Maryland, Jerusalem, and New York.
    1. This light enlightens us to the best and worst in our world.
    1. It illumines a spiritual path forward for each of us here tonight.
    1. It is not a path traveled in lock step uniformity, but a series of wandering ways that lead ultimately to the same truths.
    1. We are called to walk together, not judge another.
    1. We are asked to love each other in the context of a community where everyone matters. It is that simple.
  37. Medieval Christians told a wonderful legend about Christmas Eve.
    1. On this night, they said, the Christ Child wandered throughout the world looking for places where he would be welcomed.
    1. Those who loved him—and wanted Christ to find their homes—would place lighted candles in their window to invite him in.
    1. Of course, they never knew what Christ would look like when he came.
  38. Thus, on Christmas Day, devout Christians welcomed everyone who knocked on the door into their homes; for to turn anyone away may have meant rejecting the Christ Child in the flesh.
    1. Today, Jesus might look like the homeless person who stands at the corner begging for money or who is in line at Shepherd’s Staff for a warm free dinner.
    1. or Jesus might look like the young adult who lives on the street in Baltimore after being thrown out of their home for being gay.
    1. Or Jesus might be a lonely senior who never leaves their one room apartment,
    1. or a single parent struggling with raising a child in 21st century Westminster or Hampstead or Reisterstown.,
    1. or a newly arrived immigrant who lacks the proper papers and fears deportation.
  39. Tonight, let us welcome a Christ Child who is wandering our neighborhood seeking to stay warm, who is looking for homes who offer warmth and shelter.
  40. Will this Jesus find a place in our hearts and in our homes and in our lives?
  41. God is shaking up our personal world! Can you hear Christ knocking? Will you open the door and invite him in?
  42. Let us pray. God of all ages, in the birth of Christ your boundless love for your people shattered the power of darkness. Be born in us tonight with that same love and light, that our lives may reflect love out into the darkest night and illuminate a spiritual path toward peace and justice for all your children.
  43. Thanks be to God!