Scripture – Luke 2:8-20
What a great morning, no? I trust you found some gifts under a tree or something this morning. I also trust you are pleased with what your loved ones have considered as appropriate gifts for you, and that people are enjoying what you have considered for them.
I also trust you had a wonderful service last evening. At Carman we had our candle lighting and beautiful music. Isn’t it wonderful we have such great traditions in our churches to celebrate Christmas. While there’s a certain amount of energy as we celebrate, some of it nervous energy I suppose with all the extra people we see in our pews, making sure we get it all right for our guests… amongst all that energy and music, there is a peace which seems to permeate the whole service. Kind of like something special might be happening.
Of course there is something special happening, we are welcoming the Prince of peace into our midst. We are celebrating the gift, the most precious, most valuable, the unequaled, the one we can never match, the one we could never afford, the gift God has given… His Son as Saviour of the world.
We didn’t find it under a tree or in a stocking, this gift was wrapped in a blanket and found in an animal feeding trough 2000 years ago.
I have a few memorable gifts from over the years. One was a Vic-20 in the 1980s, does anyone remember them? The old computers. I used to spend lots of time on it playing games, which are pretty primitive compared to what we have now. I also learned to do some programming which took me down the path of studying computer science, where I met my wife, a biology student. So even while I’m not working in the technology industry any more, I guess I still enjoy some of the benefits of that time in my life.
There are other gifts of course, but what is it we most often remember about past Christmases? Is it the gifts? Does anyone remember what they got last year? Does anyone remember everything they got this morning?
What do we remember? We remember who we were with. We remember faces and stories. Those are the memories of Christmas, not so much the gifts, although some do carry special memories.
It’s kind of the same thing when we think about the birth of Jesus, is it not? We may not remember all the specific details around his birth, but we remember who was there.
Let’s have some fun. Let’s see how well we remember the details from the Bible around the birth of Jesus.
What animal did Mary ride to Bethlehem?
Actually we don’t know! The Bible doesn’t specify if they were on an animal or if they walked. I’m hoping Mary didn’t have to walk all that way 9 months pregnant though.
Ok, next question. What does the innkeeper say?
Nothing! According to our Bible there may not have even been an innkeeper! There is no mention of an innkeeper or if he actually said anything. Mary and Joseph may have just walked around town noticing there was no room and found the barn. We don’t know for sure.
How many wisemen came to the stable?
First, the wisemen came to see Jesus sometime in the first two years of his life, and the Bible says in Matthew 2 they came to the house. Secondly, there is no mention of how many came, it only mentions they had three gifts, not how many wise men brought the gifts.
Last question, what instrument did the little boy play?
Right a drum… except there is no mention of him anywhere in the Bible.
There are lots of things we’ve kind of added to the story, I suppose that’s a desire for us to visually place ourselves in the story. If we can “see” who’s around, then it makes us easier to picture ourselves as part of it. There’s nothing wrong with what we’ve added to the story over the years, as long as it isn’t taking away from the essential message, the one that God has sent His Son to the earth.
What is our response to hearing about his birth? How do you feel when you hear it or read it for yourself? Do you feel anything? Does it move you to do anything?
This morning we’ve read about the shepherds. These dirty, smelly men who live in the hills around Bethlehem. Shepherds aren’t very popular, probably because they are dirty and smelly, but that may not be the entire story. Regardless, they aren’t the types of fellows you’d invite to your Christmas party.
But after the birth of Jesus, who are the first ones invited to see him? It’s the shepherds.
And how are the invited? Did they get a text? An email? A Facebook invite?
No, they had a royal invitation from none other than God’s angels.
Imagine, your sitting on a hillside around a campfire and then sky lights up with an angel who says,
“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10-12)
And then, once he’s finished giving the invitation, an army of angels appear and they begin to sing! How amazing that must have been for them!
After the angels leave, the shepherds discuss among themselves what they have just seen. And they decide they must go and see it for themselves. “Let us go to Bethlehem and see…” they say.
Some translations say, “they went with haste” but I like the NIV version which says “So they hurried off…” They were excited and got to the manger as quickly as they could!
These men, with no connection to the family were chosen to be the first visitors. What is up with that? They wouldn’t have even been a welcome sight walking through the streets of Bethlehem.
Which is why I believe they were chosen.
Jesus could have been born in a palace, with a king as his father. He could have been born into a rich family with all the power and adoration he deserves. There could have been great celebrations, great parties with lots of food where the whole kingdom would come to greet and worship him.
But what would be the point of that? How could Jesus serve the people he served if he were a member of the elite society? How could he move freely through the countryside and mingle of he were royalty?
Jesus came to show God’s love for the world so that all people could know him personally. He didn’t come to be on the front pages of all the newspapers and be interviewed on all the talk shows. Jesus came to serve.
And the people he came to serve are those who were around him at the time of his birth.
He came to serve people like Mary and Joseph. Two young people from a small village. Mary still a young teenager. And because they weren’t married, they were shunned from their community. By law, Joseph should have had Mary stoned to death because of her perceived adultery and saved his own honour. But instead he chose to carry the shame with her, which left them alienated from their home and families.
He also came for the shepherds, another group of people who were marginalized, forced to live in the cold hillside outside of the village, since they were not welcome among the common-folk.
And when you think about it, Jesus even came for refugees as he himself was forced to flee to Egypt with his parents because of the threat of death as King Herod ordered the slaughter of children when he learned of this new king’s birth.
If you ever think you are unworthy of God’s love, if you think your sin is too great, if you think your life is not good enough, if you think that because you aren’t popular or liked by everyone, if you think these things can keep you from knowing Jesus in your life, then you need to take a good look at the story around his birth.
Jesus came for people just like you.
He came as a poor child so that people could see how rich he really is. So people could see God’s love uninhibited by glitz and glamour; so people could see him for who he really is, the Messiah, the Son of God.
What is your response to hearing the Christmas story?
The shepherds hurried off so they could see what the angels had told them about. They jumped up and ran into the village. They were so excited!
How excited are we for his birth?
Jesus Christ is the start of something new, his birth brought God into the world to change it.
Now if this were a one time event in the distant past, it may not mean much to us. But when we look at the life of Jesus, how he lived, what he did, the things he taught… and then we look at his death, and beyond that, his resurrection. When we look at the whole of his life and what he continues to do over the last 2000 years in the lives of those who love and follow him…
That’s when we realize his birth, his life is still relevant today. It still means something… it still impacts us this morning.
His birth is a gift. Not just his birth, but all him, his life, his death, his resurrection, his teachings, everything… it’s all a gift for you.
And like the shepherds, we are all invited to come and see.
To come and see God among us.
To come and see the richness of his love.
To come and see how no one is turned away when they humble themselves and accept what he has to offer.
To come and see the greatness of his peace, hope, joy and love which is offered to the world through his birth in the middle of no where, as a child of no one of any importance, surrounded by misfits…
This is the child born for you.
The King of the world, the Prince of peace, the one who has inspired countless songs, stories, poems, paintings…
He is born for you.
May you know his peace, hope, joy and love this Christmas and every day of your life.
Let us pray,
You have sent your Son into the world so that we may know you more. Sometimes we struggle with doubt that you would do such a thing, but yet, here we are 2000 years later celebrating his birth.
We thank you for your patience, your love, your grace and mercy, that even in our struggles, we know you are with us.
Help us to know this gift personally, help us to see the richness and blessings you offer to us through him. And help us to share it with those around us this Christmas time.
Bless us, bless our churches, our towns and our homes with the joy of knowing you.
We ask this in the name of the one we celebrate this morning, Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. Amen and amen.