Christmas Eve 2021
A couple nights ago I laid in bed and thought about this night. I had been looking at the Christmas narratives in Matthew and Luke. I had been contemplating the stories concerning Jesus’ birth. I had started studying certain texts but did not seem to be gaining any traction.
As I was laying there I thought of a story that I had recently heard. It was a story that Peggy Murray had told me. Her family has often taken in foreign exchange students who have come to live with them from all around the world. It is obvious that the Murray family has made an impact upon these students because I often hear stories about how these students keep in touch with them and even travel long distances for the opportunity to get to be with them again.
A couple of weeks ago one of their former foreign exchange students flew from Stillwater, Oklahoma to Stevens Point, Wisconsin to spend some time with them. I asked Peggy if she had enjoyed their time with this person and she told me about what they did on one of the evenings as they sat around the dinner table.
Apparently, whenever Peggy and Dan would have a student come and stay with them they would take lots of pictures of the things that they did. Then they would get these pictures developed and put them in a shoe box and save it for the student to receive as a gift.
When this student came to visit Peggy pulled out that shoe box and they spent the evening sitting around the table looking at pictures, remembering special moments, telling stories and re-living many wonderful moments. Then after all the pictures had been looked at and after all the stories had been told the young man was able to take his box back home to enjoy.
As I contemplated these things I longed to have that same sort of moment with you this Christmas. I wanted this night to be a moment when we would all sit together and listen to the story of Christ’s birth and celebrate this special moment together. As we do this, I pray that the Holy Spirit would make these events very personal, very real, and very special to each and every one of us.
The Murray’s carefully collected that box of pictures and recorded those events so that they could be enjoyed years later and even passed down to future generations.
Similarly, we will turn to Luke's gospel tonight and we will see that he carefully compiled a narrative of the things that had happened. He recorded eyewitness accounts of these events. He investigated these stories and followed these events closely. He compiled all of these things together in a reliable letter and then he gave it to someone.
Luke gave it to a man named Theophilus who treasured it and kept it safe. As a result, we have a record of this letter today in our bibles. We too can enjoy this letter along with so many other generations of peoples from all over the world.
In a sense, Theophilus received a precious gift from Luke. I can almost envision Theophilus receiving it and sitting at the kitchen table as he read it with his family.
This is how John opens his gospel in Luke 1:1-4, “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all these things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.”
We also come to this letter tonight to read and celebrate this narrative that Luke has compiled.
We have come to celebrate the fact that God has sent His Son into the world.
This is a message of good news and great joy for all the people!
We celebrate the fact that in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the LORD, has been born.
As we consider these things our hearts say with the angels in heaven, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!”
We learned on Sunday that God can use sinful individuals to do many things; yet, the LORD cannot use a sinful man or woman to save themselves. Nor can God use a sinful man or woman to save others. As a result of this, the LORD had to send His Son into the world to save sinful people.
Throughout the Old Testament God promised to send…
the King who would rule righteously,
to send the Prophet who would speak the very words of God,
and who would be the Priest who could represent us before God in true holiness and righteousness.
This child would fulfill Genesis 3:15 in which God told Satan, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”
This child would fulfill Jacob’s words in Genesis 49: 8&10, “Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons shall bow down before you...The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.”
This child would fulfill Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the LORD Himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
Jesus would fulfill Micah 5:2, “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, who coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.”
Tonight we have the privilege of coming together and opening up our bibles and reading Luke’s Gospel account of the night the world received the greatest present that God could ever give to us.
26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
39 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, 40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”
46 And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50 And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 51 He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; 52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; 53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55 as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
56 And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home.
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
The Shepherds and the Angels
8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
This past Sunday in my Sunday School class the kids asked if I had brought them the special treats that I had said I would. Truth is, I forgot that I had made that promise. This disappointed the kids.
Tonight we remember that God has been faithful to fulfill his promises to send Jesus our LORD. If He was not faithful to do this we would be in a terrible situation. But because He has been faithful we can celebrate with great joy and peace.
Tonight we remember the angels words to Joseph when he said, “...for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
Then Matthew records these words, “All of this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel.’ (which means, God with us).”