Grace and peace to you from our God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
“And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not, for I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day a Savior Who is Christ, the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.’”
They expected this night to be like any other night. The shepherds had gathered the sheep together in the pen, and settled in for a quite, peaceful night. In the shepherding business, a “quiet” night meant that no predators or thieves were after their sheep. A quiet night was a good night. But God had a surprise in store for these guys. This night was about to be anything but quiet.
While most of Bethlehem was sleeping, an angel appeared to the shepherds with a startling announcement: “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day a Savior Who is Christ, the Lord.” That startling announcement and all that followed, is what we, and Christians all over the world, celebrate as “Christmas.”
Christmas celebrations have varied from time to time and from place to place. But here in Nebraska, Christmas usually includes school Christmas programs, church Christmas services, and school. Christmas concerts; Christmas cards, Christmas trees, Christmas lights, and Christmas presents; Advent calendars, family gatherings, and, of course, Christmas dinner. In one sense, It would be difficult to imagine Christmas without these seasonal pleasures.
But in another sense, Christmas is profoundly more meaningful than that. Christmas is about a person – the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Christmas is about the most incredible and miraculous birth our world has ever known, and the greatest gift God had to give us. When we focus on the birth of Jesus and what He means to us, it fills our hearts with joy. But when the focus is worldly and materialistic, Christmas becomes just another holiday from work and a good reason to party.
What is it that makes Christmas more than just a worldly and materialistic holiday? Believe it or not, the true meaning of Christmas goes back to the very beginning, back to the promise God made to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
Christmas goes back to the promise God made to Abraham. Christmas goes back to the promise God made to His people through the prophets down through the centuries. All of those promises were fulfilled in the year 3 BC on a cold December night in Bethlehem. The greatest gift God had to give, the gift of His Son, He gave to you. God’s long-promised Messiah, the Christ of God, had come to save you. There was no royal entourage, no grand display of God’s glory, majesty, or power. Just the angel, the shepherds, and the cry of a new-born baby. A baby in whom “all the fullness of the Godhead was pleased to dwell.”
The birth of Jesus fulfilled God’s promise of a Savior, but there was more, far more. Jesus healed the lame, gave sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf; He fed the hungry and taught people to live as God’s people. After all of that, He offered Himself up for death by crucifixion, sacrificing Himself so that you and I would be freed from our sins, death, and the power of the devil. There’s an old Christmas carol that asks, “What child is this, who laid to rest, on Mary’s lap is sleeping”…and then answers, “This, this is Christ the King, Whom shepherds watch and angels sing.” It continues with verse 2: “Nails, spear shall pierce Him through, The cross He bore for me, for you.”
God’s promise to Adam and Eve, to Abraham, and to the prophets was this: “God so loved the world, He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.”
At bloody Guadalcanal, a young Marine private was in combat for the first time.Several of his friends had been killed, and every day was a brutal life and death struggle. When the fight was on, there was no time to think. But at night, there was time to think. He wondered if he would make it home. He wondered what it would be like to die. It was at those times he would pull-out the one letter he had from his sweetheart back home. “Dear Tim, I’m counting the days until our wedding. Of course, I don’t know when that will be, so I’m counting up instead of down. I love you so much, and I know that each day brings us one day closer to each other.” With that in his mind and on his heart, the young Marine would sleep. The next day he was once again motivated to keep fighting, and to keep living.
Each day brings you one day closer to victory, to Jesus and your heavenly home. You have the letters God has written to you: Isaiah, Micah, Matthew, Luke, John, and more. And each time you pull-out one of those letters and read it, you’re strengthened and encouraged to keep fighting against the darkness of this world, and to keep living as the baptized child of God that you are! May God grant this to you for Jesus sake. Amen.