Readings for the day (Christmas Eve – Thursday, December 24, 2015):
Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Christmas is usually a joyous time of year will all of its decorations, the family time, the songs and carols, the story, the presents, the candles. But why? Why do we like Christmas so much? Maybe it is because of it’s familiar, it’s comfortable, and it’s our tradition.
But how much of Christmas do we really believe in? Do we believe the Christmas story? Does it really matter that Jesus was born to an ordinary teenage woman named Mary and a carpenter named Joseph? Does it really matter that our God took on flesh to live among us? Does it really matter that in faith the shepherds left their flocks to come and see the child that would save the world? I mean really, it isn’t like any of us have ever seen God. We haven’t had an angel come and visit us at work to give us an earth shattering message from God like the shepherds got.
So it is understandable that a growing number of people are not coming to church. And there are many who come only a couple times a year because of the tradition, and the carols, and the decorations. So why should we believe this story? It’s not like God is anywhere near us to help us out. We pray for God to heal our loved ones. We pray for God to help us pass a test. We pray for God to give our team a victory. And when our loved ones do get better, and we do get a good score on that test, and our team does win, then we say that the doctors did a good job thanks to modern medicine, that we studied really hard, and that we have a good team this year. We don’t give God any of the credit for what He has done. And when our loved ones don’t get better, when we don’t do well on that test, or our team doesn’t win, that’s then we blame God for hating us, ignoring us, or just not existing at all. God can never win.
For us, seeing IS believing! We can’t trust that something might actually be true unless we see it with our eyes or hear it with our ears. We need proof. We need physical proof. We need something that we can see, that we can touch, that we can hear. We need something that if we get audited by the IRS that we have a paper trail. Believing in God won’t give us this. We can’t get physical proof that God exists because God is invisible. And since God is invisible and appears absent most of the time, it becomes very easy to just ignore and forget someone who is invisible. If a friend told you that they bought a new vehicle, you might believe them, but you would certainly ask them for a text message with a picture of their new wheels. Why? Because you need to see it with your own eyes. Hearing it is just not good enough. For us, seeing IS believing!
The same is true with this Christmas story. We like the idea of celebrating the birth of a baby because who doesn’t like the sweet, cuteness of a baby. We like singing the Christmas carols of Away in Manger, O Little Town of Bethlehem, and Oh Come all Ye Faithful, and whatever your favorite Christmas carol is because they are familiar, they remind us of our childhood, and it is something that we can rely on that won’t change. But what if I told you that this Christmas story isn’t just something to warm your heart and give you familiarity in the midst of an ever changing world? What if I told you that this Christmas story is not only real, but life changing and life giving? What if I told you that this little “birthday party for Jesus” that you think we are doing tonight is actually a radically changing story that is not only terrifying but also extremely comforting. Our God meets you in the messiness of your life – to give you guidance, to give you hope, to give you life; forever.
Our God, the creator of the world and everything on it, who we can’t even begin to understand, decided to take on human flesh to see for Himself the mess that we live in every day. He came to not only see the sin and the brokenness, but to give a solution to the problem. That infant baby Jesus is not just some sweet, cuddly little child, but He is God. And He came for a purpose – to take your sins and the punishment for those sins away from you and in exchange give you His righteousness, His perfection. Because of this infant’s birth that you celebrate tonight, you are seen as perfect before God.
This is why it does matter that Jesus was born to an ordinary teenage woman named Mary and a carpenter named Joseph. Because our God did not come to save just the elite few, but to save everyone, including you. Jesus did not come born in a fancy palace, but rather in a manger, a feeding trough for cattle because that’s all what was available at that time. This story does matter because without Jesus there is no hope. And without hope, stories of crime, violence, and war is all that we have. But with God becoming flesh there is hope. There is hope that one day sin will be no more; sorrow and shame will be no more.
My friends, this Christmas story matters because of San Bernardino. This story matters because of the falling grain prices. This story matters because students go to school, get bullied all day and then contemplate suicide at night. This story matters because without God things will not improve, they will only continue to get worse. The only answer to all of the problems in your life and in the life of the world is Jesus! Jesus, born to a young virgin and a humble carpenter, came into this world as an infant in order to take on all of your problems, all of your sins and give you a free, peaceful life with God for all of eternity.
Seeing ISN’T believing. Believing is seeing. And when you believe that this story of Jesus being born in a stable and laying in a manger is much more than just a cute little story to warm your heart at Christmas time, then you will see that our God is real. Our God is alive. Our God is always with you, not to give you what you want, but to give you want you need the most – the forgiveness of every wrong that you have done and the promise that even though you will one day die, you will have life with God for all of eternity. This is why Christmas matters. This is why our involvement in the church throughout the entire year matters. This is why our worship and devotion to God matters. Because without Jesus we won’t have hope nor would we have a future beyond this life. This world will not remind us of this, but coming to church will remind us that Jesus is real. Jesus is born. Jesus is alive and therefore you too, as a baptized child of God have life in His name Because of Jesus you are forgiven, you do have hope, you do have a future, you have been given life. Amen. Merry Christmas!
© 2015 Anthony Christoffels. Used with permission.