Grace and Peace to you from God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Christmas Eve is not just another day! I am sure that each and everyone of us has some memory of Christmas Eve pasts, either good or unfortunately sometimes bad. This evening we are all together in one place for a time of worship and celebration.
Our reasons to be here may be varied. It may simply be out of the expectations of family, because this is what we do every year. It may be because Christmas is our favorite time of the year and Christmas Eve worship is the culmination of all of the waiting during Advent. It may be that we have come here to worship and give our praise and thanks to the newborn Christ, a Savior to the world.
I think we can all agree that the last few months have been tough. The mounting violence in our own country and around the world has shaken us. Our level of fear has most likely been ramped up! We fear that the violence may someday come much closer to us. We fear those that are different from us in many different ways, simply because we do not know them or have had an opportunity to meet them.
Fear is a natural human reaction to things that are out of our control. Fear can push us to do things that we would not normally do. Fear may also drive us into seclusion where we think we are much safer. To curb the fear we will quite often turn to something else that provides us comfort or a perceived security. Quite often as children we have a special blanket or stuff animal that we carried around that reminded us of home and provided a sense of comfort. I had both. A blanket that I carried around until it literally fell apart. A blue rabbit, handmade by my grandmother, that had to be repaired several times that eventually ended up missing an ear. These provided a sense of comfort to me.
As adults we often turn to other things to stem that fear. It could be an addiction that ends up leaving us dependent on something that pulls us away from living a full life. We turn to ways of protecting our family and ensuring their safety that at times can possibly ramp up our fears even more.
Fear is not a new thing. It is a natural human reaction. Fear is alive and present in the Bible and this evening, on Christmas Eve, we have an example of that fear. First, you can’t tell me that Mary and Joseph didn’t have at least a little bit of fear of waiting for the unexpected. Mary, an unwed mother, not knowing what the reactions of everyone they encountered would be. Joseph, possibly fearful of harm being done to Mary because she was pregnant and unwed.
We are told that the shepherds were terrified. They have encountered the unexpected. An angel of the Lord comes to them to bring them good news and they are truly terrified because they do not know what is going on. They are fearful of the unknown. The angel is quick to reassure them though, “Do not be afraid; for see–I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people.” It is in this that all fears are vanished.
One of my favorite Christmas specials is a Charlie Brown Christmas. I was reminded this past week of one part by a gentleman, Jason Sonoski, writing a blog post online that speaks directly to our fear. If you recall, Linus shares what the true meaning of Christmas is by reciting the story from our gospel lesson this evening. It is during his recitation of the scripture that he drops his security blanket, that bright blue blanket we always see him with, on the stage and speaks boldly when the angel instructs the shepherds to not be afraid.
It is in this simple little action and the words of the angel to the shepherds that we come to the realization that the birth of Jesus separates us from our fears. We are given the permission and encouraged to drop all of our false insecurities and fears because the love of God has entered this world in the form of a newborn Son. Yes, Mary gives birth to a newborn son in a lowly manger. The thing is though, He is not born just to her.
Once again we turn to the angel speaking to the shepherds and hear, “to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” This newborn Son, Jesus, is born not just to Mary and Joseph, but to the entire world! And how is this message celebrated? By inviting the least likely of guests!
First, Mary is an unwed teenage mother, and is the mother of the Savior! This in itself is good news. Next, the shepherds are invited to the party to celebrate the newborn King. Shepherds, who are out in the fields day in and day out caring for their flocks. They most likely do not smell the most pleasant and have little to account for. Yet, they are invited! Matthew shares with us in his gospel the visit of the three wise men, who most likely were practicing a different religion altogether.
Christ is born for the world! This evening we celebrate his birth and the in-breaking of God’s kingdom here on Earth. Jesus is born for you this day! And for you! And for you! Do you get the idea? Jesus is born for all of humanity. Jesus is born for each and everyone of us. We do not have to be anything special. We don’t have to do anything special. For it is in this gift of God in God’s Son, Jesus Christ, that we receive grace upon grace.
Now the question is, what are you going to do with that most precious of gifts? As we all come together this evening for various reasons, it is my hope that we all leave this evening glorifying and praising God for all that we have heard and celebrated. It is in Jesus’ birth that God tells us that we are loved: deeply, truly, and forever. “To you is born this day in the city of David a savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”