Pastor Michael Frye
I must have been about seven years old on that Christmas Eve when our family was hurriedly trying to make it to church before the service began.
There were seven of us crowded into that Chevy sedan shifting back and forth upon each other as the car took the curves on the winding road that led to the church.
Without warning, our father slammed on the brakes and brought the car to a screeching halt.
There, in the middle of the road, stood a man with blood streaming down his face.
It turns out that the man was intoxicated and somehow managed to fall out of his friend’s car.
For whatever reason, the friend kept driving and left him in the middle of the road.
Of course, we were all anxious to get to church, but my father patiently tended to the man’s wounds; walked to a neighbor’s house and called the police and an ambulance, and waited patiently until he was safely on his way to the hospital.
As we started on our way to the church, I remember mumbling something about how we were going to miss the best part.
Dad was silent for a moment, then he said:
“You know, I think the baby Jesus will understand our being late. I believe he would have done the same thing; don’t you?”
What can I say?
It was a valuable lesson learned by an impatient child who witnessed in my father’s act of kindness the Word made flesh through the baby Jesus.
When we got to church we marched right down the center aisle to our usual seat on the front row as the congregation was singing:
“Hark, The Herald Angels Sing, Glory to the New Born King.”
As I looked up at my father and mother as we sang those words, I felt a sense of peace and realized for the first time in my young life what this night is really all about.
All those people who surrounded Jesus around his manger on that first Christmas had to make sacrifices in order to honor the babe in a manger.
They did it unselfishly, because they realized that something greater than themselves was happening that would change things forever.
Kristen Largen writes:
“We come to church on Christmas Eve, sometimes happy, sometimes sad, sometimes stressed out, sometimes relaxed – and regardless of who we are or what burdens we carry with us, we sit down and hear this story of God’s amazing love for us and the whole world.
Over and over again, we ask God to tell us the story of God’s love for us; and over and over again, God delights to reply.”
God’s Word has come to us in the person of Jesus to set us free from sin so we are free to tell his story to all who will listen; and not only to tell the story, but to share Jesus’ amazing love and mercy through neighborly care and concern – even in the moments when we are least expecting the opportunity to arise.
While the message for the Christmas season in our western culture is telling us that we can buy and give love in nicely wrapped packages, and the more we buy, the better.
Christmas season in the church teaches us what it means to truly show love and care for someone.
When God gave us Jesus, God gave us himself; and that is what he asks of us as we celebrate this anniversary of Jesus’ birth.
Michael Vinson writes:
“Jesus is the gift of self. Here we have an image of worth and love coming not from power and wealth as the world speaks, but from giving oneself for someone….”
What better time than tonight is there to share with the world the message of a God who loves us and gives fully so that we can live in the light of Christ; a gospel message that “Christ takes onto himself all of our brokenness and and pain and makes us whole.
Tonight we celebrate a God who has set us free to be all that God has meant us to be.
No amount of special music, or singing of carols, or readings from scripture can even begin to glorify the magnificence of the Savior that we have come to celebrate this evening; but all these surroundings are our way of saying, Thank you, God for your Son; thank you Mary for bringing God’s Son into our world; thank you, Jesus, for being willing to place yourself into the hands of the world, knowing full-well that you must die to save us.
William W. How wrote these beautiful words in his nineteenth century hymn:
O word of God incarnate, O Wisdom from on high,
O Truth unchanged, unchanging, O Light of our dark sky:
We praise you for the radiance that from the hallowed page,
A lantern to our footsteps, shines on from age to age.
Oh, make your church, dear Savior, a lamp of burnished gold
To bear before the nations your true light, as of old;
Oh, teach your wand’ring pilgrims by this their path to trace,
Till, clouds and darkness ended, they see you face to face.
It certainly would be nice to be able to go back in a time machine and see that baby in a manger face to face; to experience the joy and exhilaration of knowing that this is someone special; this is someone who comes from God…..who is God in the flesh; and whose whole life is charted for the purpose of instilling hope and a sense of peace in the hearts and minds of people who have had little to hope for by offering forgiveness and salvation without asking anything in return except faithfulness and belief.
Our role as Christ’s disciples in the world today is to be God’s angels and shepherds, heralding the presence of God’s Son, and showing through the very lives that we lead that Christ can and does bring a lasting change in the world if only our hearts and minds are open to him and receptive to his radical message to love God with all our heart, soul and mind – and to love our neighbor as we want to be loved.
It is hard to believe, isn’t it, that one small child born in an out-of-the-way part of the world can make such an impact upon us and upon others.
However, we wouldn’t be here tonight if we didn’t believe that Jesus does make that kind of difference in our lives.
Jesus can do as much for others if the Word is broadcast so that the rest of the world is exposed to Christ’s brilliant light, and to the message of his sacrifice on the cross for the salvation of the world.
The best way we can reveal Christ’s love for the world is by the examples we ourselves can set in the way that we respect, love, and treat one another, knowing that all of us (regardless of race, religion, or background) are equal in the eyes of the one God who cherishes all of us enough to send his Son as a gift of peace, hope, love, and forgiveness.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
For God sent his Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that through him the world might be saved.” (John 3:16-17)